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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

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

DC Comics -Warner: "No Jokes"

I think this Yahoo! News item by Drew McWeeny shows just how far behind the times DC Comics and Warner are.  Sadly, they seriously do not get the back-forth joky banter that Marvel was known for and which has been included in the movies.

Oh, and there are now rumours of some delays in filming "because of certain properties" -and I have no idea what the hell that is about.

Why Superman and Batman may lose the war to Marvel before they even begin

Why Superman and Batman may lose the war to Marvel before they even begin

Warner Bros. has ambitious plans for their superhero properties, but have they put a rule in place for all of the DC movies that has already given Marvel's flawed-but-lovable heroes the upper hand?
"No jokes."

Last week was about the fifth time I've heard that there is a mandate at Warner Bros. regarding any of the DC superhero films in development, and it's very simple and direct and to the point.

"No jokes."

It would seem like a crazy rule to set for an entire series of films. How can you know what the tone is for every story you'll be telling in a series before you've even started telling it? The thing is, DC has taken a few stabs at establishing this larger universe on film, and they've gotten smacked down for everything that hasn't had Batman in it. "Man Of Steel" made money, and I'm certainly not the only person to like the film. I may be one of its more ardent defenders, but I'm not alone. I think you'd have a far harder time finding someone to defend "Green Lantern," the studio's other big attempt at launching one of the core Justice League characters with a film franchise of his own.

One thing you'd have to grant "Green Lantern," whatever your feelings about it as a movie, is that they've got lots of jokes in that movie. They are resolutely unafraid to make jokes. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan/Ryan Reynolds (there is no discernible difference between these three identities) makes jokes throughout the film, and the trailer featured plenty of them. There is a wise-ass attitude to a good chunk of the film that is very much on purpose. Every one of the guys they looked at to play the lead in the film had to be as well-liked as a comic performer as an action star. That's not a long list, but it seems like the exact sweet spot that studios are constantly searching for. Look at the reaction to Chris Pratt now that he's made the jump to a lead in the biggest film of the summer. He's the guy studios dream of when they dream of new young movie stars. A sense of humor seems like an essential club to have in the golf bag, right?

Not according to Warner/DC. Not after "Green Lantern."

Now, to be fair, no one has directly connected those dots for me. But something has caused this shift in the overall editorial voice of the DC superhero movies. There's got to be a point behind an edict as broad and as specific as that.

Here's why I have trouble believing any studio would do that. Even in the most serious of mainstream movies, some of the most memorable moments are those points where they let off steam, where a laugh is used to punctuate. In adventure movies especially, a laugh can make the difference between a movie people like and a movie people love. The right laugh can make a movie a classic. Think of that beat in "Raiders" where Indy shoots the swordsman. That laugh is not just a huge rush of relief in the middle of a harrowing and thrilling action set piece, but it's also a character-defining moment for Indiana Jones. George Lucas may have his qualms about whether or not Han Solo shot first, but Indy's no dummy; of course he's going to shoot first. That's why Indiana Jones is still alive.

Laughter also allows audiences to swallow some of the more ridiculous things that they're asked to buy into with modern event films. Suspension of disbelief is always a sort of a magic trick if you're dealing with aliens or superheroes, but you add a talking raccoon with a fetish for giant guns and a talking tree creature that is meant to be the emotional heart of the film, and you'd better figure out exactly how to embrace that absurdity, make the jokes that win the audience over, and use that humor to smuggle in the sentiment. If you've got an audience laughing, you've got them willing to accept things.

DC is going to try for some big characters with Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash and Cyborg and Aquaman, and one thing that's always seemed true to me of DC comics versus Marvel is tone. DC treats their superhero characters more like gods, fighting battles that we simply can't comprehend or participate in because of our natures. Even Batman, who has no superpowers, is treated like he is a legend, an icon that he's nurtured as a symbol of fear. Marvel characters are more flawed, more human, struggling to live human lives while still dealing with their powers and their responsibility to the world. And if DC finds a way to try to play their films on this larger, operatic, hero-as-myth level storytelling, I'd be excited to see that. I'd want to see that.

But if "No Jokes" is a reaction to "Green Lantern," an edict that comes from a desire to simply do things differently from Marvel, it could really paint DC's movies into a corner, and I would imagine that it's giving some filmmakers pause in considering whether or not they'd want to make a DC movie.

While I thought there were some gentle pokes at genre fans in "Man Of Steel," there's nothing in that film that I'd call a joke. There were set-ups and punch-lines in the Nolan Batman films, but I wouldn't really describe those movies as "funny" in any significant way. "Green Lantern" is the one film where they really gave a character permission to talk shit in the Tony Stark manner, fast and funny and self-aware, and where audiences seemed to love it when Robert Downey Jr. did it, they did not seem as smitten with Reynolds.
Instead of worrying about something as drastic as "No Jokes," the studio should look at how important it is to get a consistent sense of tone in one of these movies. The reason "Guardians" manages to get away with some of its more outrageous moments is because it tells us right up front, during that great opening title sequence, that this is going to be fun, and it's going to be irreverent, and it's not going to take everything deadly serious. There are serious moments in the film, heartfelt moments, sad moments, ridiculous moments, and big action mayhem moments. The film does all sorts of different things, but it always seems ready to wink and dance away, and that's what we expect from it. "Green Lantern" didn't fail because it was funny; it failed because it had no idea what kind of film it was. Martin Campbell goes for big broad comedy in some scenes, and he's got a decent visual wit. He stages some of the training stuff well, and he tries to give Oa a sense of wonder. There are images in the film that I feel like he comes very close to pulling off, but when he fumbles it, he really fumbles it, and the bad guy in the movie is a disaster.

Parallax is, for lack of an easier visual description, a cloud made of poop and mouths. It is a singularly unpleasant visual bad guy, and when he transforms Peter Sarsgaard, he makes him into a repellent big-headed horror movie bad guy. Considering how light some of the sequences are, like when Hal uses his powers to make a giant green race track to save someone, the villains feel ill-considered, like they're from another film.

Consistency is key. You can make jokes, and in films about Superman and Batman and Green Lantern, it seems perfectly okay to make jokes because these are giant cultural icons. We have complicated relationships with these characters because of the ways we are exposed to them and which versions we read or watch or see first, and nobody has the exact same checklist of what makes Superman Superman or what makes Batman Batman. Trying to hold everyone making films for the studio to one somewhat rigid, joyless tone would be creative suicide.

So I'm going to put the question out there, and as we all talk to Zack Snyder or David Goyer or any of the actors working on these characters, I'd love to hear an answer, a firm denial. Is it true? Is DC really so gun-shy that they've laid this rule down for all of their films?

Is it really a "No Jokes" future we have to look forward to?

And if so, do you think Marvel feels like they've already won in terms of audience sympathy if this is really how things are supposed to move forward?

Man, I'm curious to get a look at "Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice" on March 25, 2016.

Now, if all that sounds bad you need to read McWeeny's other great piece to see just how up their own arses these people are creatively: 
Warner pits writers of 'Gangster Squad' and '300' against each other on 'Aquaman'

Yeah, and you wonder why Aquaman ain't no happy sea horse!
Warner pits writers of 'Gangster Squad' and '300' against each other on 'Aquaman'


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 were not 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.

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:


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 (may they be forever cursed in the hallowed halls of British Comics Hell) 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.

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:


You want to see how good Dobbyn is?  Visit his website which has great art on show including Billy The Cat colour pages:


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 sum 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.

I Would Like To Point Out That Deadpool Sucks Like A 97 Year Old With No Teeth And Only A Melon To Eat.


A minor character who has been blown out of all proportion as these companies tend to do. I'd sooner read used toilet paper than anything with Deadpool in it.

Keep that to yourself, Terry. Just get on with it.

Okay, 75th Anniversary of Marvel and the celebrate with the feckin worse shit covers possible. Ahh, you say, but "photo-bombing is popular"....PHOTO bombing. Not sticking a third rate comic character as centre piece of a cover -photo-bombers are in the BACKGROUND YOU DUMB-ASSED MORONS.

Anyway, this is what Disney has released.

This October, Marvel celebrates its milestone 75th Anniversary – commemorating three quarters of a century of the best stories, the most iconic characters and one of the biggest legacies in entertainment. Oh, and Deadpool. The Merc With a Mouth is invading Marvel’s milestone anniversary for a series of special Deadpool 75th Anniversary Variants – as some of the best and brightest in the industry recreate famous covers from the past 75 years guest-starring the regeneratin’ degenerate. 

Remember that time Deadpool fought the original Human Torch? Or the time he helped form the New Avengers? No? Well, that’s what these awesome variant covers are for! Be there when Deadpool makes his Marvel for these can’t miss variant covers! 

“We really wanted to do something fun for our 75th Anniversary,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “Seeing all these wonderful artists turn in these hilarious covers has been a blast and we can’t wait for fans to get their hands on them!” 

Marvel urges retailers to check their orders on these hotly anticipated variant covers as they hit comic shelves through the month of October. No fan will want to miss the chance to see the Merc With a Mouth invade the Marvel Universe in a whole new way when Deadpool 75th Anniversary Variants come to your favorite Marvel comics in October!

Unoriginal. Brown stains in a pair of tramps(hobo) old knickers.  Greed Greed Greed and STUPIDITY STUPIDITY STUPIDITY as every comic geek chic fool buys ALL the books "because its got Deadpool on it".

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Jennifer Rostock - K.B.A.G. (Official Video)

Henry Cavill & Amy Adams takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in his Super...

I Am Absolutely TIRED Of Comics

Seriously. Do NOT **** me off.

Ahh, The Moore Question

Some months back I posted a remark on a You tube video in which Alan Moore talked completely inaccurate bollocks about that 'great thief" of creators ideas Stan Lee.

Everyone KNOWS Lee has an awful memory -its almost as legendary as his name. I have seen a couple interviews in which he says "My memory is awful: if you want to say I created the character go ahead -I don't know!"  There was an amusing Alter Ego interview with Lee in which Roy Thomas asked Lee questions but had to answer them himself because Lee just couldn't remember.

Lee has also put into writing that Ditko is co-creator of Spider-Man. That is correct.

Now, unless you read one of those badly researched or pure out to malign Lee articles then you would know the facts. In fact, even in critical articles/books Lee comes out as having always stuck by his guns and not being the villain (seriously, Lee was not the boss of Marvel).

Anyway, months after posting my comments some screeching little tit has come along to challenge me on poor or no research.  Oh my words did he pick on the wrong person to accuse of that!

Anyway, I re-iterated my comment. I also stated that I did not think You Tube comments was a place to discuss this topic (it just is not).  I invited this person to identify him/herself rather than use a silly pseudonym -that is plain cowardly if you are going to call names.

As it happens he/she has not identified themselves nor provided reference/proof of their assertion -other than Moore's diatribe.

Just checked...no. No response. I win.

For the record: challenge me on a comment anywhere AT THE TIME and not months later.  However, only do so if you are willing to actually identify yourself. I will not waste my time debating with an anonymous weasel.  I'm open -you should be.

The Bizarre State of Copyright

Monday, 25 August 2014

More Value Than Any Other Blog....

Okay, folks. I've been posting my bum off this weekend so it's now Monday, 2th August and 19:43 hrs. I'm tired. Fed up. Go read.