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THE UKs LARGEST INDEPENDENT COMICS PUBLISHER Between 1984-1994 I worked freelance as a writer/artist/editor/agent in comics as well as comics journalism for MU Press,Blue Comet Press,Fantagraphic Books,Eros Comics,Dorne,Fleetway,IPC and others in the United States,UK and Europe. During this period I also produced large numbers of single panel gag cartoons for agencies in Germany such as Boiselle-Lohmann and Baaske Agency –these going to magazines and publications around Europe. I also worked as a freelance editor in comics and publications ranging from wildlife,astronomy and science fiction magazines. From 1984 to present I've been self publishing comics as well as publications on a wide variety of subjects under the Black Tower banner. I have also produced packages of work for companies in India,Hong Kong and China. I have also been working as an industry advisor for smaller companies in countries such as India,Canada,Singapore,China,Europe and the US. hoopercomicsuk@yahoo.com

Thursday, 24 April 2014

NO NO NO NO ....And NO! Again.

Have people really got their heads so far up their asses they do not read other peoples ('friends') postings on Face Book?  Or posts here on CBO that they "regularly visit"?

I've written that after 14 years I no longer support the Bristol Comic Expo and stated why. Hey, they don't want to show the slightest respect to one of the events biggest supporters for over a decade **** them. Never even got a response when I asked if a deal could be done on a small table for me to sell books on.

Three years of being slapped in the face by obviously ignorant new organisers is a big enough hint to me. I'll miss seeing you folk at the event but....

Now, next one asks "are you going to the Comic Expo?"/"How come no Expo news on CBO?"....warned.

Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 - Tickets

Charlie Adlard. Photo: Olivier Roller

 The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is pleased to announce that tickets will go on sale for its massive weekend of comic events in Kendal, Cumbria in October (17th – 19th October 2014) after Midnight on the 25th April.
In just its second year the Festival features an increasingly stellar line up of comics creators and designers encompassing a wide range of genres, including international guests such as artist Becky Cloonan (who, along with her many independently-created works, was the first female artist to draw the main Batman title for DC Comics), digital comics guru Scott McCloud, top comics writer Gail Simone, Junko Mizuno,  the award-winning Wilfried Lupano and Jeremie Moreau (creators of the acclaimed graphic novel The Hartlepool Monkey), Bone creator Jeff Smith and Dutch cartoonist Joost Swarte – plus a host of home-grown British artists, writers and illustrators.

Just a few of the many creators in this year’s line-up are the legendary Watchmen co-creator, artist Dave Gibbons, Sunday Times-featured artist Nick Abadzis, Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, Doctor Who artists Mark Buckingham and Mike Collins, 2014 Eisner award nominee creator Rob Davis, Marvel Comics artist Gary Erskine, top designer Rian Hughes, 2000AD and Batman artist Jock, leading independent artist Sean Phlllips, The Beano and VIZ artist Lew Stringer and many top independent comic creators, such as Luther Arkwright and Grandville creator Bryan Talbot and Vampire Academy artist Emma Vieceli.

(For further information on creator's works, visit the Festival's web site - www.comicartfestival.com).

The Festival features more than 50 carefully-produced events with often unusual combinations of guests, unusual presentations and new formats. It includes films and live draws alongside workshops and master classes including a whole programme dedicated to children and teenagers. Themes and strands include Konichewa Japan, Vive la France!, Lost in Space, The Great War in Comics and Just for Laughs?

Plus, the Festival offers a huge, free, Comic Marketplace in Kendal’s Clock Tower, crammed with publisher stands, creators offering art and sketches – and, of course, there will be plenty of comics for sale. (Full details of the family zone and Comics Clock Tower plus full exhibitions programme and more will be released in May and June, but look out for creators such as Isabel Greenberg, writer Ian Edginton, Great Beast publisher Adam Cadwell among many others). There’ll also be a pop-up Forbidden Planet for the weekend.

With a firm eye on developing new comic talent there are also plenty of workshops for aspiring comic creators to sign up for.

“The first festival ran like a well-oiled machine, with many people stating that it seemed like a long-established event,” enthuses Festival guest and founding patron Bryan Talbot. “If you only go to one comic event this year, this is the one that's unmissable.”

“The organisers are building on last year's resounding success to make this year's festival outstanding,” added fellow patron Mary Talbot. “There's another stunning array of guests and exhibitions, events and competitions - so there's sure to be something for everyone. Like last year, only even better!”

"One of the most popular questions after our first festival in 2013 was how would we be able to match its breadth, scale and quality,” says Festival Director Julie Tait. “We hope this year's programme (with a few surprises still to come) will answer that question.

“We are delighted to have an increased number of international creators and to have broadened the genres too. Meanwhile we have listened to feedback and have extended the range of the family zone and have made the Comics Clocktower free to the public. And we can assure you that Kendal will be even more of a comic art town for the weekend"
Sign up for the Festival's newsletter here for the latest news! Web: www.comicartfestival.com

For further information contact: Julie Tait - julie@comicartfestival.com

Images of most announced guests, Festival poster and mascot images can be found here:

Web Resolution: www.flickr.com/photos/116459003@N07

Notes for Editors

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (17th – 19th October 2014) is a new kind of comic art event in the UK. Modelled on a European-style festival it aims to take over the market town of Kendal, on the edge of the Lake District, with comic art presenting the widest range of genres. Events include a 24 Hour Comic Marathon, children’s comic workshops, talks, signings, Great War in Comics art exhibition and a Comics Marketplace. 

Guests So Far...

International Guests

Nick Abadzis
Becky Cloonan
Peter Van Heirseele
Wilfrid Lupano
Scott McCloud
Junko Mizuno
Jeremie Moreau
Ivan Petrus
Romuald Reutimann
Gail Simone
Jeff Smith
Joost Swarte
Jorg Tittel


John Aggs
Rob Bliss
Adam Brockbank
Charlie Adlard
Doug Braithwaite
Mark Buckingham
John Clark
Mike Collins
Stephen Collins
Darryl Cunningham
Rob Davis
Glyn Dillon
Oliver East
Jonathan Edwards
Gary Erskine
Felt Mistress (Louise Evans)
Martin Geraghty
Merlin Goodbrey
Dave Gibbons
Scott Gray
Nick Hayes
Kate Holden
Rian Hughes
Joe List
Lizz Lunney
Robbie Morrison
Sean Phillips
Woodrow Phoenix
Tim Pilcher
Kimberley Pope
Dermot Power
Jade Sarson
Dez Skinn
Kev F. Sutherland
Bryan Talbot
Donya Todd
Emma Vieceli
Joff Winterhart
2014 Comics Marathon Team

Dan Berry
Kristyna Baczynski
Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Joe Decie
Sarah McIntyre
Fumio Obata
Jack Teagle


Joelle Bernard
Hannah Berry
Pete Doherty
Alex Fitch
John Freeman
David Gaffney
Mel Gibson
Paul Gravett
Stephen L Holland

24 Hour Comic Marathon

The 24 Hour Comic Marathon creative team is: Dan Berry, Marathon curator and producer; Kristyna Baczynski (NME), Warwick Johnson Cadwell (Tank Girl), Joe Decie (The Accidental Salad) Sarah McIntyre (Oliver and the Seawigs, shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2014), Fumio Obata (author of the graphic novel Just So Happens) and Jack Teagle.

• For more information about the 24 Hour Comic Marathon visit: www.comicartfestival.com/competitions

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Ink - Alter Egos Exposed S1E02 - Death & Resurrection (+playlist)

So why, you may ask, post this particular episode on Ink -Alter Egos Exposed?  Well, I think the title says it all. Back in the 1970s, on UK TV, Stan Lee pointed out (and he has done this many times since) that without that threat of possible death what the super hero does is boring. Okay, Doc Ock has a nuclear bomb and he's going to blow up New York -no problem. Spider-Man beats him and end of story. Spider-man answering the call to find that has walked into a trap -and Aunt May is trapped with him as the seconds tick away, now that adds the peril.

The Death Of Speedy by Jaime Hernandez is a classic that maybe a few editors and wrtiters of super hero comics ought to read to see "how it's done" -including not resurrecting the dead character in a re-boot.

With Crisis On Infinite Earths, DC Comics found just how profitable it was to kill off entire groups of characters, Earths and even the multi-verse. That this lack-lustre , run out of ideas on how to rip off comic readers is still working is down to one thing and one thing only: dumb-ass comic readers.  "Oh! It's a new series re-boot -gotta grab that new #1....and all the variant covers!"

Why?  There used to be a joke that Hawkman had more #1 issues than any other character.  Poor guy -now that means nothing. Are those new first issues going to make you rich? Is it a shrewd investment for the future? Well, yes...if you track down and destroy every other copy of that particular first issue. Let me know how that goes.

There are certain creators who have prima donna hissy fits and leave Marvel to go to DC -"I'll never ever work for the big stink Marvel again: they would not let me have my way!" Then they have a hissy-fit at DC for the same reason and "It's great to be back at Marvel!" These are egotistical comic whores who really have no interest in the characters because the important thing is....themselves.

Now, comic artists tend to be quite egotistical and you have to be careful how you refer to something they've drawn. Tread very carefully. But comic writers...oy.  I once had one comment on the old Yahoo 360 CBO that writing that only "the writer did a great job of adapting the story" was a personal insult. "They (the artists) only did a good job because of my writing and guidance. Without that it would have been nothing!"  He posted the same sort of thing when I reviewed the next book he had scripted. Did it matter that the excellent artists were being smacked in the face and insulted by him? No:HE was the important one.

Denny O'Neil I think wrote some good stories but, lords, he comes across as preachy -this was the problem with a lot of DC comics: look at entertaining, well written Avengers stories in the 1960s/1970s and look at the Justice League of America at the same time. DC had very preachy social issues and the writers today seem to think they were Shakespearos!

"It's only a comic character -you get that, right?"  Yes, but a comic character that stood for something. Spit in the eyes of the fans and they'll giggle along because it's Ed Brubaker or Denny O'Neil or whoever. If you cannot invest some piece of yourself into a character and care what happens to them they why bother buying the comic -is it because comics are currently cool?

John Byrne states that if you take away death as the ultimate threat you have nothing.  Other creators just chuckle: "Hey, kill the characters off -who cares it boosts sales!" Well, fuck you. Why am I not reading Marvel or DC comics any more? Because, like many others, I am sick of the crap they have become.

If a character faces a deadly situation and he dies it is not easy for the creator of that character to write that scene. But I have allways adhered to the "you die you stay dead" policy.  It's what happens in real life and though there are paranormal characters in Black Tower Comics that addage still applies.

In Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes I put characters I had been living with for 30-40 years into deadly situations and there was no script.  Everything was drawn "as it happened" and on one occasion I actually said "No. I can't kill him off!" but, once done it was done. Even though I argued and struggled with myself on ways to make it not happen -"He/she was an android"....no.

I was asked a couple times when I was bringing the dead characters back? I said "Never. They're dead!" But then you get the "Oh, right. Like that happens in comics!"

So let me make it very clear to those clinging to the belief that all companies and creators in comics lie and they allways bring back the dead:In Black Tower Comics when a character dies he/she is dead FOREVER.

Now, watch the episode and watch the sincere "it's what the fans want" comic creators smirk at how good they are at ripping comic fans off and how insignificant comic characters are to these comic whores.

This has been Terry Hooper-Scharf:super star and god-like creator on an Easter Sunday -and, yes, I know: even the Bible re-booted Jesus and brought him back from the dead......have I just shot myself in the foot, there???

Professional Comic Artist -Work Just Not Out There? Here Is WHY

There are a lot of very high calibre comic creators out there who have been working away for many years -John Erasmus, Tom Elmes, Jim Ritchey et al. And despite the quality of their work and the years they have put into the industry they struggle to get work.


The answer is quite simple: the wannabe.

You see, years ago you had to schlepp your projects or portfolios around to publishers and talk to them, find out what they were looking for and even amend projects to suit their needs. I seem to have spent much of the 1980s-1990s doing this and it paid off for a few creators.  Editors responded to letters as well which helped.

But then came the internet. People who could only contribute to small press comics put out by friends now had a new tool -web pages where they could post their art and even publish web comics and charge people to see their work (that died a death when people realised they were not exactly paying to see a great comic strip. Do not get me wrong -there were some nice online comics but, seriously, why pay every time you wanted to read a comic online when you could buy others and pay once and it was yours to peruse whenever you wanted?

As a creators agent I used to get between 60-100 packages a week and whatever was popular at the time was copied and became an "original concept".  The movie Blade Runner -the number of strips sent to me that were just simply that movie -or part of it- was incredible.  Then writers would send you their own personal 'Blade Runner' scripts.  The same applied to The Evil Dead and when the Watchmen comic was published...oy!

I keep notes and out of around 600 or so  "I am going to make comics my career -this is what I've allways wanted to do" most vanished pretty quickly having discovered that you needed to keep to deadlines and could not just change someones script or characters to how they wanted them.

I had this problem with a number of artists who worked on scripts of mine to submit to publishers. I got ten pages of comic work in the post one day, read them and wrote back: "It looks nice but you could have completed ten pages of my story that could have been submitted."  And in reply I got: "This is based on your script. I thought I'd change the character names and some of the scenes."

Now, we had talked about this at length, given all the reference material that would be needed and even explained why certain characters had specific names. And the artist had nodded and understood but when he got home he "decided to change things as I think they will sell better with these changes".  I explained that this is not how comics work.  An editor does not give you a script written by someone and you decide you need to re-write it all or make major changes -some writers plan story-lines and incidents that are designed to be added to issue by issue until it all comes to a head.  Besides, you start playing that game the writer is going to tell you where to stick your guillot nib.  And the editor is not going to use you.

This happened several times to be on joint projects but when it happened professionally I just exploded. I wrote a series of scripts for Fleetway/Egmont (Revolver in particular).  The editor told me at a meeting that the title and theme of the scripts was so liked by his co-editor (who was an utter ass) that they would use different titles for my scripts.  Why? Well, the co-editor wanted to use the titles. We bite the bullet in this job and since I was being paid...phah!

The editor then decided to use a "new hot talent" to draw one of the scripts.  When it was published I missed it in the relevant issue until someone pointed to my name as scripter.  Thew artist had quite literally re-written the script while drawing it that it made no sense.  I pointed out to everyone I could that this was not really my work!  Then the editor used my scripts vastly altered so I was never paid. That happens a lot.

But back to the wannabees. I have had writers who have -seriously- told me: "I dig your art. I have a shit hot project for you!"  My response: "Is it for a publisher -what is the pay rate?"  Silence. I have now, between 2012-2014 had six offers to draw "sure hit" graphic novels of between 120-200 pages for nothing. I have even had the "It's 120 pages and once that's done we can put something together for a publisher"....so what -WHAT- is the 120 pages graphic novel for?  Oh, I can tell you that because I have seen this on a number of occasions happen to other artists.

Comics, probably because of the TV series The Big Bang Theory and even the Watchmen film and republished book, have become "hip".  You see it in most fields -Crop Circles are hip and cool -Timmy is a Crop Circle investigator. UFOs are "popular" so suddenly Timmy sets up his own UFO group and gets in touch with newspapers/TV about his 'professional work' (based on a subject which he's read up on quickly -which is why Timmies spout such inaccurate crap).  Oh, "mystery big cats" are hip -Timmy is now a Big Cat investigator of the same quality.  All these ghost hunting TV programmes....you guessed it.

So, people who really cannot draw or are of a lesser standard than you might expect from a pro, jump in and publish their own comics or graphic novels (Print On Demand is a cruel thing, baby).  Now, if they do this as a hobby or for fun then okay.  Sell copies to their mates. No problem.  BUT it becomes a problem when these people decide they are now "comic book professionals".  I have heard on four occasions such people state: "My mother says I've become as good as those other artists in comics"...oh...my...gods.  How do you respond to that?

But then these people put their art online to sell at very high prices and you have to ask if they are selling anything?

There is another problem, and this is another first hand experience.  An American artist asked for a script set in the 1960s -he was a big Silver Age fan. The art pages he was selling on a well known comic site looked fantastic.  I outlined the idea and he said "Perfect. You write it and I'll draw it" -fair enough.  A few days later the guy got in touch as he had a problem "You say the villain is human on one side but the other part of his body is robotic/mechanical...what do you mean?"  I thought it was quite straight forward. I explained. No, he didn't get it. Eventually I had to draw a sketch and he understood. Next: "You say a huge tower block in the centre of the city and at the top on all four sides are huge clocks -I don't understand?"  Four sides to a building and a clock on each side. "I'm having trouble visualising this..." So, off went another sketch.

A few weeks later an email: "Attached are the pencils for the first five pages..." WHOOPEE!  I opened the files. Ah, he'd sent me...well, something but not pages of art. You could not even call them "roughs" so I wrote back pointing out what he had sent.  He wrote back that these were the finished art pages --a demolished skyscraper was a squiggly line at the bottem of a white page.  WTF???????  I showed these pages to two people -a gorilla character on a page was so bad we all thought it had six deformed fingers and then I realised it was a banana it was holding!  These were the finished pencils. THAT was his art and he wrote "If we could muster together $2000 I know an artist who'll ink the pages though we might be able to sell this based on the pencils!"

I was speechless but then I found something out from someone who knew the man.  This 'artist' did these 'pencils' but then paid another artist to ink the pages.  The other artist was actually drawing the pages and deserved every penny he got!!

We have the writers who want to be hip and say "Yes, I've written a graphic novel" and show their freebie drawn book.  The artist is insignificant because, as Alan Moore 'proved' it is the writer who makes and sells the book.  And the amateur artists fall for it all the time. Nothing happens with the book.

Then the artists who say they are pro and want money up front.  They have NEVER had anything published before and most of their work is amateurish but some of them are so full of themselves that they do get paid in advance.  It is interesting to note that out of 25 writers I've read the 'woes' of, only two ever got any pages for their money.  Some were told their books were two pages short of being finished...then nothing.  That has happened to me a LOT.

I have been begged for scripts to help artists out  "because you have a good reputation" and I have written short scripts of 5, 10, 15 or 20 pages and how many have ever been completed? Zero.  As one 'artist' put it to me when I asked how he was getting on with the script -"Aww, man, I am so hung over. Basically I've been going to gigs and clubs and getting wasted."  My reply: "We agreed on five pages drawn in three weeks -it's been over a month?" (If you CANNOT draw 5 comic strip pages in three weeks then go away. THAT is simple work) and I get "Well, you aren't paying me are you?"  My response is usually **** off.

But then artists who DO draw a full story disappear. They do not respond to letters or messages.  Then a year later you find they have changed some names in the story and been trying to sell it as their own work -I found this out in one case when an editor told me "I've seen this but with different names -it was drawn by ___ _____ -is this your work really?"  Too ******** right. Response from the artist ...well, he never did respond.

Now, as working for a paying comic company -there are only a few around and the glut of wannabe artists means they feel they'll pay you what they want and you'll like it- is not likely I publish my own books. These days I rarely if ever work with another artist but if I do the deal is simple:

(1) it is a joint project (neither of us get paid up front)
(2) Money to promote or push books at possible other publishers comes out of my pocket. There is NO financial input by the artist (yes, I know, drawing materials)
(3) Any money made is split 50-50 (in the past on more than one occasion I've let my percentage go to the artist)
(4) Although characters are mine the art is wholly the artists. I never ever lay claim to any art. The artist can try to sell this as extra income if he wants so long as a (c) characters/story is written on the reverse side of the art.
(5) if another (paying) publisher is interested then unless there is a set rate for writer and artist it's a 50-50 deal.

So, on one occasion when an artist I knew said he really wanted to work on a specific character and could I write a 20 pages story for him I did. I liked his work even if it had a few rough edges.  He liked the script!  "How much are you paying me per page? When do I get the first payment?" Again, WTF??? I sent him copies of his emails where he agreed to a joint project because HE had asked me to write for him repeatedly.  "Well, I don't see why I should work for free!" But I wrote the script for free -should I bill him?

There are now literally THOUSANDS of small pressers who publish their own books for fun and have no interest in comics -in fact they know nothing about comics. Good for them. Long may they continue and grow in strength.

Sadly, there are equally a great many comic wannabe types out there and the writers want their books drawn for free with no rights to the artist.  And there are artists who really cannot draw a pencil who want large payments per page for their "professional time".  These are the people screwing up the real comic artists and writers and some actually get published in high quality printed books by big companies!

A little aside here. I've been asked over and over again ad nauseum what I do in comics? I reply that I write, pencil, ink and rarely colour, oh, and letter (by computer). I get giggles or screwed up faces in response:"No, seriously -what is it you do?"  The skill levels of some artists (I'm being polite) are such that they have to use a computer tablet to draw and a lot use programs designed to do a lot of the work for them. The very idea of someone pencilling AND inking art is freakish to them, or as they say to me "old school" or "Retro". Their computers crash and they have nervous breakdowns. I have physical pages.

Someone who can write or draw well I used to encourage (I still do privately) but 95% of those out there labelling themselves as "professional comic writers/artists" are no such thing.  And for the real pros it means a loss of paying work. We DO have to pay bills and eat you know....or try to.

And what have any of the various comic "community" groups set up to promote and stand up for creators rights achieved? They have pulled in more wannabes as members.

Just a few thoughts.

Oh, I do have a bullet proof vest.