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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

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Saturday, 1 August 2015

Yeah, this is not very likely: Fantastic Four Cast Want Silver Surfer & Namor In Sequel

Before you get suckered in by money-sucking, evil little profiteering toe-rags let me tell you now: The Sub-Mariner and Silver Surfer will NOT be appearing in the next FF movie.  If you read the comments by the two stars they are just giving off hot air but on to the item:



The cast of the new ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot have been talking about the characters they’d love to see in the sequel, namely a fan favourite and a character not yet seen on the big screen.

Michael B Jordan, who plays The Human Torch and Jamie Bell, who plays The Thing shared their thoughts with ComicBook.com during the promotional trail for the film set for release next week.


 
“You can’t get away from Silver Surfer,” says Bell. “I know chronologically speaking that was the next villain in the previous franchise but I think Silver Surfer is cool looking.”

This is as likely as it is unlikely. The Silver Surfer is a top character Fox own as part of the Fantastic Four license, but they may be concious about repeating the past - as Bell mentions.

“Namor is a cool one,” Jordan then said, adding that the character is, “by far, he’s the strongest mutant. You know what I’m saying? Maybe not by far, but he’s the strongest mutant. It would be a pretty interesting battle, the Fantastic Four vs. Namor.”

Sadly this won’t be happening as the rights to Namor The Submariner belong to Universal Pictures and Marvel - the former belonging the distribution rights as they would for any solo Hulk movie.
Bell also spoke about how he wants to see the relationships between the four continue to grow.

“I’d like to see more of how the characters interact with each other famously from the comic,” he said. “It would be appealing to me. This [film] very much is to get them to that point, to take them from people you don’t know, to transition into characters you can recognise.

“The job of the next film is taking it further and having the characters already established, seeing them interact in the very famous kind of way. Things between me and Johnny get very antagonistic. More of a blossoming love story between Reed and Sue. More of a family dynamic. Stuff like that would be great. There’s a wealth of material and with a 90 minute run time of an origin story it’s very difficult to fit it all in.”

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From what I've seen so far I have absolutely no interest in this movie.  The 1990s Roger Corman movie -uh, 'never released'- was far truer to the comic than even the later 2005 (?) movies.  Look at this poster for the new film.  I looked out of the bus today and thought my eyes were playing me up because I thought "did they use toys to replace the actors?"  But, no -this is an awful -AWFUL- poster!




Corman had various difficulties including budget but his movie was very enjoyable...though it was 'not' released of course (hah!)

But back to topic.  The Silver Surfer and Sub-Marinber are NOT the next big movie characters to waste all your money on.  Buy the comics because you love and enjoy them because with 1.5 billion comics across America alone, they ain't going to make you rich!

All Time Highest CBO Views By Country



All time CBO hits are interesting!

China
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Even if you are in a country that does not appear on this list -it's merely the highest number of views as it does not include many other countries CBO gets daily views from -including our Two Friends in Antarctica- I still write THANK YOU.

Apart from the UK, for obvious reasons, most of these countries I'm gladly work for in comics!

The Final EVER Posting On The UK Comics Scene And The Way Ahead

As it stands, in 2015, there is no British comics industry.  That is a fact and if you argue the opposite you are either just trying to argue for the sake of it or you have absolutely no idea of what is going on.

I am going to cover part of the problem by using a previous posting -a lot (a very large number in fact) have started reading CBO in recent weeks so will probably have missed this.

And if you are one of those who want to comment negatively or start an arguement don't bother.  As always your comment will be deleted as spam.

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Just WHY Is No Businessman or Existing Publishing House Getting Involved With UK Comics?


We know that there is no comic industry in the UK. 



 With the exception of Cinebook The 9th Art, which specialises in publishing Franco-Belgian comic albums in the English language.  Future generations of UK kids will grow up on these albums but not, sadly, UK originated comics.


 above Chris Weston's The Spider artwork


I have had a couple of conversations with companies this week but it was the same thing "We simply do not publish comics.  We couldn't compete with Marvel" oh, and (incredibly!!) "You ought to contact the guy does a website called Comic Bits Online, he's always banging on about British comics".....he seemed taken aback when I said "That's me"   but added "Well, there you go then"

There I go then -what?!

I think the last person who knew the UK comics industry for almost 45 years retired in...2000?  A year later I was told in a letter regarding IPC and Fleetway-Egmont "How the mighty have fallen!"

The idea that "only the Americans can do super heroes" is ludicrous.  There is still this stupidity that exists in the UK.  Back when we did have a comics industry I was told by top management and even senior editors that "We don't get super heroes.  We just don't do them because they are an American thing" -when I rolled off a list of characters I was told "Oh, those are action or masked adventurers!"  So WTF are super heroes.

Below: British Super Soldier Captain Hurricane


I mean, The Spider, Gadget Man and Gimmick Kid, The Phantom Viking, Kelly's Eye, Rubberman, Tri-man, Steel Claw (costumed for a brief period in the late 1960s), General Jumbo, Billy The Cat, The Leopard From Lime Street, The Iron Fish, Danger Man, The Black Sapper, Spring Heeled Jack (take your pick!), King Cobra, Nick Jolly -even Captain Hurricane, a World War 2 commando was a kind of "super-soldier" -especially after his "raging furies"!

The list goes on and on and that is just from the former "Big Two" -the Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke" and Fleetway/Amalgamated Press/IPC.

Last year (I think it was up-dated) I wrote this post so I'm adding more to it.  It will be my ultimate piece on the subject.

Ever......

....until next time.

 _________________________________________________

You see, I never lied -"Never say 'Never Again!'" and I think this article helps emphasise things and once I get to my final comments it will all make sense.  Honest.

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The Improbability Of The British Super Hero-
AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT ANY MASKED CRIME-FIGHTERS I PERSONALLY KNOW. JUST SAYING.




“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.  Yes, he was what some called a "supernatural character" or "magic character" because of the mystic amulet.  And later on science fiction as he travelled in time.

http://superitch.com/images/2011/08/19.jpg
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.

 

 Robots were big in the 1950s-1960s and Robot Archie was merely a remote controlled robot, from The Green Peril (The Jungle Robot) to travelling the world and, later on via tower-like device, travelling in time and space.  Yes, he foiled bank robberies and other criminal masterminds but he was not a super hero just a sci fi robot.



Likewise, the British secret weapon known as The Steel Commando was nothing more than that -though he answered only to Lance Corporal Ernie Bates' voice and seemed at times to make his own decisions -sometimes with very odd and funny consequences.

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!

Below: Tri-Man. He wears a costume.  Has super powers.  Fights crime.  Obviously 'not' a super hero!





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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ0YDF9bpZ8&feature=player_embedded#!

 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zuV3LI-FJ5c/T5seY6CAL6I/AAAAAAAAKZA/oY3-Qyd9hAY/s1600/gadgetman1.jpg
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!

Now look at the UK again (or any country in Europe since this applies there, also -though Hexagon and Wanga comics are doing great work in France):  seaside resorts and coastal towns -in some of these areas larger "sea front tower blocks" have been built but even without those you have piers, amusement arcades/parks, sea forts, oil rigs out to sea -there is so much.

Towns and cities speak for themselves and Bristol has a mix of Medieval right through to ultra modern buildings and water fronts (our European colleagues in Germany did a lot of landscaping work for us between 1941-1944).  But there are underground caverns, cliffs, caves, old mine workings run many many miles from one end of the city to another and most are 'lost' or forgotten about.  And Pen Park Hole -wow.

Did I mention forestry and woodland?

And our ancient sites -everyone knows Stone Henge- but The Severn Sisters, Callanish, Avebury and even ancient woodland mazes -in Wales there are said to be ancient forests areas of which no one has probably ever seen.

Below:Callanish stones


There are the Green Man legends....


And then there are mountains and moors, ancient cave complexes and even underground lakes.

Just why would you need skyscrapers if you have all that -unless you lack imagination!

I used to love to watch the Narri Narro Festival in Germany where regional teams took part dressed as legends or myths from those areas.  In the UK there are the Green Children of Woolpit, Suffolk (12th Century)...





 And  there are many others to which we had the very well known ones.  King Arthur has been, perhaps, "over exposed" and we could say the same of Merlyn, but Merlyn is the British character intertwined in so many myths and legends that to ignore him would be rude!


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....to Americans. 

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.”

The Scottish company whose name must ne'er be spoke (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.

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!


Jack Staff and cast


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.


A boy with a remote control Army, Navy and Air Force stopping bad guys. General Jumbo 0'not' a super hero!


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.
Above: Black Tower specialises in two things when it comes to new characters -super heroes and the supernatural/horror.  Kotar & Sabuta by Ben R. Dilworth.


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 to 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.

No one is challenging Disney since its policy seems to be "make all comics American" and no one is challenging DC.  It is NOT how you go into this.  I've seen babies clothed in Marvel/DC super hero clothing, Avengers shoe laces, lunch boxes, Pez dispensers, t-shirts, socks, action figures, toy cars sweets -basically on everything.  Do you think that kids look at something and say "I could not possibly look at that comic.  It may have super heroes and be colourful but, really, it isn't Marvel, is it?"

Do my great nephews care if it's Marvel or DC or some other super hero? No. It's super heroes and that is that.

So the market is there but where are the money-men, 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?   And rake in some of that money!

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.

Garen's Billy the Cat

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This all led on to an article in response to remarks about how the French viewed the UK and its comics -in fact, I know I referred, as did those who noted this originally, to "the French" but, in fact, the attitude seems to be a Franco-Belgian one.

Anyway, this was titled....

“The French Laugh At The British At Angouleme –We’ve No Comics Industry!”
And So They Might 

And that is a quote, baby.  Not from one person but several including some comic professionals from the UK who will not repeat those words in public because “I just do not want the grief that follows saying that!


Oh, yes. On the old CBO I got the reaction to writing things like this but not just off the top of my head for controversy but fully backed up by facts and statistics.  I once suggested that all UK comic bloggers add a banner to their sites: “Let’s Revive The UK Comic Industry” and the reaction?

I was told I had “a Saviour complex” and a lot worse.  “Oh, so YOU are going to come and save us all?!!”  Really nasty things were written and not just on CBO but on comic blogs and forums.

Let me make this clear (because ALL the postings and responses were kept –a full file of all this is with a solicitor “in case”): I was being attacked because I suggested all of us in UK comics get together and try to rebuild the comic industry as best we could.

At that point I realised that the main problem was that we never really had an industry anyway –the comics business was so crooked that it used to be known to tax people as “the double cooked books with triple layer mud”.  Distributors were no better and often acted in collusion with publishers.

Once the fan-boy got into comics that was it.
But I was asked why I do not include the Small Press as the new comics industry?  Well, I believe that I have written before that it is but it does no real good. It is a dilettante comics industry.

Someone just Googled “Dilettante Comics” to see if they are collectibles.

Now I know people do tend to misconstrue my words even though I try to make them clear so hold on to your lederhosen.

I began drawing as a youngster.  In school I edited the school magazine Starkers The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth which was in…1971/72?  The title came from the Deputy Head, Mr. Wright –an ex-RAF man and one of the most popular teachers at Greenway Boys School.  I do know that there was/is a magazine by that name from London(?).  Never seen it and I did an internet search recently and cannot find reference to it.  I am positive that I did see it advertised in publications such as Fortean Times (in the old days).

Anyway, one of the school secretaries complained and it was stopped at printing and burned.  Also, the rather pompous religious Head Master disliked immensely that I called it a “zine” –it was NOT a magazine and I kept saying it was a “little magazine –a zine”.
I later did lots of other work with newsletters, magazines, printers and from the late 1970s on, the Small Press world of fanzines.  I have a big collection of Small Press publications –poetry, prose fiction/sci fi as well as fanzines and comics.  Unlike today, the 1980s saw people from all over the UK exchanging their zines and if anyone needed a strip to fill a page or so everyone chipped in.  This was in letter writing days –no internet and phone calls were too expensive.

Also, we all knew comics.  Whether UK weeklies or the US comics from Marvel, DC, Charlton or the rather obscure companies.  And, of course, we all had our Alan Class comics.  Strange to think how many of us were into horror movies and particularly some of the classic black and white movies.  Then again, we were working in a black and white medium.  I was very happy when I also discovered a great many zinesters were fans of Orson Welles because of his masterful use of angles, shadows and the B&W medium.


In other words we were a community without internet and only after the Westminster Comic Marts and other one day events became more popular in the 1980s did any of us meet up.  There is a term you don’t hear these days –“marts” that were, basically, a hall full of people selling comics and zines and creators meeting up.  Going to the Westminster Marts was fun but we must have looked odd: meeting in a corner or on a staircase feeling different types of paper we drew on.  Checking out each others pencils,  pens (one typo and a letter “i” there and I could put a whole new slant on things!), brushes, sniffing inks and pens –checking which were alcohol based or whatever because certain pens combined with certain papers or boards could be very messy. Most of all we talked.

Apart from one or two incidents involving certain people I was never once accused of throwing anyone out of a window or into the Thames.  There were no witnesses. Understand?  NO….WITNESSES.

Most of us were starting work in comics or already working in the medium.  We knew about our subject.  Everything except earning big money!
Mastering a photocopier not to mention paste-ups, removing ghost-lines and so on was not something you had a choice in.  It was what you had to learn if you were in comics.

In the mid-1990s computers started appearing and before you knew it everyone new who came along was thinking they were going to produce and get rich from a Teenage Mutant Turtles or Blade Runner rip off.  And the ‘new pros’ –well some were quite open about using tracing paper to draw their comics.  In the huge stack of news zines and papers I have there are some true horror stories about this.  Stick figures as “a genuine artistic comic medium”…..no, I really never did throw that man in the Thames though he deserved to be.

And it only got worse.  Once the wave of mostly untalented creators vanished they were replaced by those arty farty elitists who believed that only European comics –Bandes Dessinee matter and that everything else was puerile.  Those people had been around in the 1980s and we used to call them “bow-tie *******” (this is a family site).  Here is the problem, though. These people only considered Franco-Belgian BD (must NOT call them “comics”!) legitimate.  



Spain and Italy had comic industries and though Germany had a small industry that mainly reprinted Franco-Belgian and US comics Bastei Verlag at least had their books going to more than a dozen European countries.


Alan Clark and the late Denis Gifford –particularly Denis- were nastily mocked and their work looked at as “low interest” because, unless it was The Beano, The Dandy, The Eagle were any other publications or creators not in those comics of any worth? Denis had a life long love of comics which the alcohol and dope loving new creators didn’t like.  Despite the lies and rumours I can tell you that Denis did receive and read Small Press publications –including mine.
People who were “names” in the 1980s continued to hang on in though, and I find it funny, they become media comic luvvies but you go to a Small/Alternative Press event and mention their names and you get blank looks!  But, if as “media luvvies” they get to pay their rent, eat and enjoy life good luck to them. I have no problem with that.

Now while comic Expos –the new “Marts”-  are popping up all over the country it has to be said that, say, 90% have no interest in the Small Press and have never seen a SP comic –and if they have they probably grimaced the same way their mothers do when they find that “odd stain” on the bed sheets (ladies I ask you to submit your own comic slob image).


One comic geek –because TV programmes such as The Big Bang Theory have made comics “hip” and everyone wants to be known or called a comic geek.  Bless, they’ll tire of it after a while.  And everyone is a new comic collector spending money on the ‘cool’ comics that many do not read and a few think that because they were conned  into paying huge amounts for a comic featuring a character(s) from new movies –which they find out are NOT the movie characters- they think will make them rich one day….when every other one of the THOUSANDS of copies of that comic suddenly turn to dust!
 
Comics toys, cosplay (including those with no knowledge or interest in comics) and TV/Movie merchandise are their world. Honestly, real old style comic fans are driven away from events and their passion by hugely inflated prices of comics and event entry fees.


Then we have the SP/AP people.  Never heard of Stan Lee (other than “Is he that old guy –the character from The Big Bang Theory?”.  Never heard (NEVER) of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko.  John Romita snr (not Jnr) or John or Sal Buscema?  Gene Colan? John Byrne?  No.  “Oh, they made a comic out of that Avengers film?” –it’s at this point that I usually fall to my knees (which hurts) and raise my fists to the heavens and scream out “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” and some ***** says “Mr Khnan from the TV comedy series? Why –is he okay?”

Honestly, I make a point of talking to these people and most, let’s face it, are at the oldest in their mid-30s so have never known UK comics other than the horrendous merchandise crap with toys attached.  Big names in UK comics –John Cooper? No.  Mike Western?  No.  Terry Hooper-Scharf?  “Didn’t he used to be held hostage somewhere?”  Yes. I have a beard so I’m mistaken for Terry Waite.  

WHAT THE ***** DO YOU MEAN “WHO?”!!!

Well, I suppose at least he kept the handcuffs and radiator.

But these people move in their own little circles.  I never realised that until I started name checking with people.  Some people in zines today do go to various events outside of cliques.  Our own Paul Ashley Brown –doyenne of the Bristol, London and he’s even known outside the UK.

I’m that man on the hill The Beatles sang about.  “Who are the Beatles? What man –Stan Lee?”  Do   not  try my patience...grrrrrrr.


And in 2014, as I already noted, I really found out how bad things were and, again, apologies for any repeating of facts but I do want them to sink in since his is, honestly, my last posting on the subject. After this all else would be nothing more than insipid vapour.

I'm Too Radical For The 'Kids'! -The BCZF



  
I would like to start by pointing out I am not ranting.  It seems that, if you have an opinion and try to get it across it is seen as “ranting”.  The “ranting” I do tends to be fairly tongue-in-cheek but I guess people don’t get it because there is no “smiley” after humour.
Believe me, if I ranted you would know it.
I need to also point out that I have attended and sold at zine and comic events for over thirty years.  I’m not some wide-eyed newcomer who expects to earn a fortune.  I know the business and in thirty years have been quite happy that I make back table costs and a small profit.
Neither do I expect to have people worshiping at my feet.  Particularly with the Small Press I like the fact that you are –or were- always taken as one of “the folk” who produce and sell zines.  It was very informal, swapping ideas, talking about all aspects of the Small Press.
I go into events never expecting to make money. I don’t think “I need to sell £15 worth to cover table cost, £x for travel and I’ll set the money I want to make today at £xx!”  That is not how it works.
What I did expect at the BCZF –at which I actually was the only comicker- was to have a good chat with creators and people attending the event.

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My attending was to support a Small Press event in Bristol. Simon, one of the organisers is a very nice fellow and as helpful as you would really want a helpful person to be!  
It was not about making money –my books were being sold cheaper than a lot of Small Press books at the event and, basically, at cost. I was just going to get my money back on anything sold and no profit.
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So, let me begin….
I arrived at the event location, the Station, at around 11:10hrs –the Station is a really nice place for an event and I’d hope that someone organising a comic mart might one day look at this place.  Okay, a few people seemed to be freaked out that they had to use unisex toilets.  I’m 57 years old and I’ve lived in Germany and travelled through Nederlands, France and Belgium. It takes more than that to phase me (and something was going on in one cubicle that we’ll not talk about). The Station is a lovely location.
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So, met Simon who told me where my table was and that there was a name tag on it –so I looked and found!  “Hello. How’s it going?” I said to one zinester I had met previously.  “Yeah” he muttered as he turned away.  Okay, maybe had had a bad night.  The guy on the table next to me was setting up. “Hello –I’m Terry, how’s it going?” Response: “nngh. Okay.”   I began to think that I might need to drop the “how’s it going”.  So the other chap next to me turns up with his mate. I say “Hello” and nothing. In fact, I began to suspect both were deaf after another attempt to be friendly.
I then realised that my t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: “Jim Fixed It For Me To Meet Rolf Harris” might have been a bad idea. 

I’ll point out here that that last sentence was dark, satire. Of a kind.
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So, I spotted someone who had friended me on Face Book and went to say hello. I got a grunt and a turned back. Yes, I did check that my trousers were not undone. I then spotted another FB ‘friend’ so went to say hello and made a nice comment about the display on the table.  “Yeah. Right” and he then walked off.
I checked my shoes.  No, I had not stepped in anything obnoxious. Trousers WERE done up.  My breath was okay.  My biggest shock was that someone I had more than a few email chats with as well as friendly exchanges on Face Book just totally blanked me twice when I said hello.
Don’t call me paranoid but I was beginning to suspect that the problem might be me.
NAH!
My sign (on MY table) declaring cut prices for the BCZF on all books was repeatedly knocked over by the next table who seemed happy to just leave it as it ended up but I consigned this to “wasn’t aware what he had done” on those occasions. A “right on guy” I’d met at previous events just totally blanked me and apart from “Hi” would not talk to me.
So, I thought I’d just get on with what I was there for –to “press the flesh” of the punters (insert “smiley” here).
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It was really weird. I think I spoke to five people over six-and-a-half hours and those were quick, short outbreaks.  People stopped at my table to stretch over to pick up and read zines from the tables either side of me. A jokey “Hey, there’s some nice books here, too!” was either ignored or got a scowl.  Maybe the t-shirt with “I Have Ebola” on it was a bad idea.  (sigh. Joke)
It was almost as though some kind of force field smoothly moved people to either side of my table. But I did get some people checking out the books. The Dr Morg Trilogy cover got more than a few views.  Some people even flicked through the book.  I would now like to quote some of those comments:
“Yeugh. Weird.”
“That just looks weird”
“mutter mutter mutter weird mutter mutter”
Then came the man who was flicking though the book –and I do mean “flicking” as though the rapid movement of pages would produce a moving image of some kind.  So I said: “It’s quite an odd book but I’ve had some good responses from readers outside the UK….”  Nothing but a quick look at me.  “There’s some black humour and there is a complex story there –and I played around with design—“ A response:”Yes. And then there is this” –it was almost spat out as he pointed at the page. The man pointed to one page out of over 50 which has a silhouette of a devil-winged foetus and the caption reads “We gave it our DNA”.  That was, it seems, totally offensive and he tossed the book back on to the table as I said, perhaps he might like to go through it and take a careful look.  No.
Then several people pointed to the GoBo book and made muttered private comments.  Later a young woman told me that it looked like a character from a movie…Sylvester Stallone?  No idea and no one else has pointed it out to me...?
http://static.lulu.com/product/file-download/gobo/12911911/thumbnail/320
At one point my two neighbours, in loud voices which was odd as they had been quietly talking all the while, said “At least we’re not in it for the money!” and burst out laughing.  There was another comment later on that made it quite apparent that it was a reference to what I had written about people in zines not being in it for the money but for fun.
The books I sold were not mine but placed on the table for me to sell.  My actual sales were a £1 Black Tower taster and a copy of GoBo bought for a lady’s “young brother” –as it was intended for general readership and to raise a smile  no problem.
In all, I made a HUGE loss.  Normally I wouldn’t care but even people I knew were nodding and saying “hi” and going to other tables to buy.
Now, GoBo and Mr Morg were getting looked at a lot but it seemed to be the opinion that there was nothing similar to Black Tower books at the event.  A LOT of sub-Manga, some nicely produced books and a great deal of not well drawn books.  As I have pointed out over and over again, the quality of the art does not matter in zines but everyone seemed to be using two styles that were similar and it didn’t look good.
But the major shock to me was how, when I told people I was based in Bristol I got blank looks.  I was not the only one there!  I did mention having worked in comics and zines since the 1980s --and the look I got from the man next to me!
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Some French girls were overheard by someone I know and they seemed to think some of the books on my table were European!
The overall opinion, though, is that I am too radical for the kids.  Yes, I’m putting that on a t-shirt.
So, my books don’t fit in with comics.  They don’t fit in with today’s zine people. And the opinion of one person who is a proper fine artist was that my books were unlike others at the event carries far more worth because he would be looking at things visually.
Face it, even at my age I’m too radical.  Some people find it hard to pigeon hole me.  Good.
But after years of promoting and pushing the Small Press, yesterday killed it for me.  Reviews yes but that’s it.


At events you note that exhibitors, if I may call them that, have their own entourages.  Their friends and others go to their tables and talk, buy a zine, talk….Twenty tables in a room with twenty different groupings of mates who might –might- look around and possibly buy things.

These SP/AP people are producing their own comics or zines (some really do have no idea their books are classed as comics!) without having read comics.  Some may have seen what friends have produced and decide to have a go.  Others may have seen something about European comics.  A good few start at art college.  But they have no knowledge of the history of comics and I have genuinely had these young folk say “Well, when did they start comics -1970s or 1980s?”
So we have an ever increasing number of SP/AP events around the UK –in London Dimitri Pieri is a human dynamo at organising events-  but most are independent of one another and some have no knowledge of the other events.

I meet the occasional creator who knows about comics but to a limited degree because, again as I found out from personal experience, most were not born until the 1980s (by which time the UK comic scene was dead) so if they are “doing comics” it is in the US format.  These days I just introduce myself –“I come from the comics world of another century and you may call me…..Methuselah!”

You are getting some of these nuggets of gold, aren’t you?

Most AP/SP people have been to Art School/college or whatever –some are still students and others have full time jobs.  The idea –if it is ever there as anything more than a dream- is to make zines, have fun and if you sell a copy or two –great! Very few actually get to go on to make a living out of their work and when I’ve asked about this in the past I get a furrowed brow and “make a living out of it? “ and they look at me oddly or laugh –and I am fully clothed.

Independent Comics are the same in a way.  A LOT of vanity publishing –you should never pay any publisher to have your work printed.  If it is that good, even if they don’t pay: they should shoulder the costs.  But I did wonder how the same publishers could attend one event after another throughout the year while claiming thay they do not sell enough books to earn a living or pay their creators?  Some do make money but there are a lot of gullible creators out there.

Here is the thing and I observe these things because “its what I do”: the Indie publishers are the same as the AP/SP people.  True most hope for that comic that is going to make them huge sums of money but they, too, have their groupies/entourages who do follow them to events.

You see, Print On Demand (POD) makes it possible for anyone to publish their own comics.  Good quality production in both hardback and paperback.  For Indie/SP/AP there is the buzz of seeing the books printed.  Books with your work in.  You don’t even have to learn all the old skills just use your computer –even print limited runs of zines on your own printer.

Do I get a buzz from publishing my books? No.  It’s hard work and I do it to try to make a living.  At events I tend to be the only person who is doing so professionally. The fact is that everyone else is doing this as a past time because they like doing it and have paying jobs so the “tomato ketchup on toast” meal is something they don’t have to face.  

Do you know that back in the 1980s I regularly went without food for days?  Usually three to four days and a maximum was six days –publishers didn’t care because they tried to hold back your earned cheque as much as possible (Fleetway/Egmont owe me over £5,000 from the 1990s but I’ll never see that!).  Trick is that you drink fluids and when you get food eat lightly.  The idea of a slap-up meal after days of no food is dumb because you will be spending a lot of time in the toilet afterwards!



I’m meandering in my textual …..what am I writing? I should make notes.  And before you ask: NO, printing off copies of bank notes on your printer is no good.  Shops do not accept them and they are illegal….that’s what the police told me.

You pay £25 for a table.  Sell one zine or nothing but you’ve had a good day and met your mates blah blah blah.  Really?  That £25 loss cuts into me.  

The attitude is not a professional one it is an amateur one. I like a lot of these people I meet.  Some are really lovely.  But they are dilettantes.  Nothing wrong with the attitude but it creates a major problem.
You see, if those attending events just go to see their friends and buy their books but do not look around at other tables, maybe a glance of a few seconds, then the people who are selling books to make a living are not.   You carry that over to a hundred events a year, small or large, then you are talking about many thousands of people who, were they more widely interested in comics as in the “old days”, would be looking around, checking other tables and books out (most will not even lift a book off a table let alone look inside) and chatting with creators they do not know.  These days they do not.
And at a comic event you will find “dilettante fan” who only goes for cosplay but not to buy books.  Or the “Nuevo geek” who is only after the “cool” Marvel or DC comics or the merchandise collector.
“Comics” has splintered into factions –one not knowing the other.  In the 1980s/early 1990s, we would buy our Marvel and DCs at a mart or convention but we would also check out and buy SP books.  None of the factions really knows of one another or cares.  Its not “their scene.”  If all of those factions did combine we would have one hell of an industry in the UK.

But that will never ever happen.

The comics background and mindset is now gone and comic ‘geeks’ make fun of or stick up their noses when the SP/AP is mentioned and vice versa.  Totally and utterly ridiculous.

Try to make a living out of comics in the UK gets you no real respect.  

So maybe those French BD people have a point –except they are also suffering from a stuffed shirt attitude.  For decades BD publishers and collectors have looked down their noses at the “poor relations” publishing US comics in French or original French books as now published by Hexagon Comics.  They just ain’t arty.  


 But the huge success of movies tied to Marvel and DC has made a few BD publishers sit up and take notice because there is nothing more “arty” than the smell of money.  So now they repackage some BD to take advantage and make money from this.

At least, though, they do have a comics industry.  And I so wish Germany would wake up and get in on the act.

For the UK the dilettantes –however sweet- have taken over and it has killed us.

A more happy, warm ending to a miserable depressing posting?

Okay.  A butterfly.  Let’s smash a butterfly on a wheel (5 kudo points to whoever got that 1980s music reference).


 I have to say that comic events  are not healthy for those involved in this pretend industry.  I say that because it is NOT an industry.  Let me explain.

I've attended comic and zine events for a few decades. There were familiar faces but always a few new ones at events.  So you would meet someone or see books you had not before.  It kept things fresh. It does not work like that these days.

Firstly, as already explained, event organisers are pricing tables too high.  A small presser needs to accept that they are giving away books at these events because if they are making money  they are miracle workers.

Here is the posting that got me some very nasty responses -from event organisers.

http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/uk-comic-events-hate-me-for-who-i-am.html

What I did during the week was look at upcoming comic events (yes, I have not "won" a table at any of them....seriously) and who is exhibiting/selling at them.  With the odd exception -the same faces at every event.  So, as I used to do this sort of thing when it involved a table full of books, journals and files, I thought "it's all on the internet go on!"  Yes, I decided to see how varied attendances (Exhibitors/Dealers) at UK comic events going back five years.
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Well, the same comic creators with a very few minor variations, the same exhibitors and traders -again with only slight variations.  So, I went back ten years.  To me this was a bit shocking as the same thing applied.  As I have programs/catalogues from UK events I decided to delve back further.

The last time comic events in the UK could be called fresh and unpredictable was the mid-1990s. From 2000 on it seems almost blindingly obvious (it is all there online if you have a few hours to waste) that events have developed into a little closed gang.  Everyone knows everyone else and tend to be selling the same books with occasionally announced "new books".

These are NOT people who depend on comics to earn a living.  The one thing I like about the internet is that social media and other outlets allow you to find out so much about people.  Who is a registered publisher and pays tax as a publisher earning an income and so on.  Social media also lets you learn more. People with full times employment and "do comics as a pastime".

You can also see how the old back issue comic dealers have been squeezed out more and more and that means many have just gone out of business.  Some have gone to Ebay and found it such bad experiences that they quit and retire.

People "in comics" today do it to be part of a social club, to be "characters" but are not out to be full time comic publishers, earning a living from the medium.  They also have very little interest in comics outside of their own or those of their friends -I've observed this since 2000 events.  People interested in collecting old comics -the real comickers- have been pushed out.

With the Small or Alternative Press it is a hobby.  A group thing.  And, yes, the same people attend these events but they are not pretending to be comic publishers -very -very- few know anything about American comics let alone British comics.  They will all go to the same events but few will travel to events where they do not have the usual "entourage" -a group that basically hangs about but only buy from their specific creator and might look at other tables but they ain't buying.

The Small Press events seem to have their own individual "same old people" but that's no problem.  If they are not out to make money -a living- and its just fun why not?  It is a social thing.

But think of it from the perspective of a family group or individuals who pay money to get into an event and you hear "It seems to be all the same people as last time.  I haven't seen anything new" -and you've lost them.  I have heard that a few times.

The old Bristol Expo used to have a good mix and events or items to interest families as well as the jaded old comicker.
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I was noticing how the same old-same old faces were getting one or two tables for selling very limited numbers of books because they asked for two tables or three.  Now, a big publisher like Cinebook it is understandable as they have huge numbers of books.  But someone selling a new (single) book or 2-3 then if they have one table that is lost to another publisher who still pays but adds a new face to the crowd. Two tables should be two traders.  They still pay -even if they are not friends of the organisers.

I would really like to see the genuine comickers -those who collect and read comics- get back these events.  They are managing to do this in the US -the Clallam Bay Comic Con for one.

Bring back the one day marts in your town.  A church hall, scout hall -it does not have to be a huge room so long as you can fit in tables, traders and comic buyers.  Work out the cost of hiring the hall and divide that up for the number of tables and that covers costs.

Charging £50, £60 and £80 tables are just plain extortion -in the US fans have started a backlash having realised events are getting more expensive for less event.  organisers are the only people doing really well!
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If we really want to keep new people flowing into the hobby, and allow the old comickers to continue without being pushed out for cos-players (who generally do not go to events to buy comics) then changes must be made.

The one day marts need to return.

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I think these posts have made some points very clear.

1.  There is no longer, in fact there really has not been since around 1990, a British comics industry. Even the once great D. C. Thomson (which really could have helped a resurgence in comics in the UK) is no more than just a small Independent these days -it's output is negligible.  Egmont has absolutely no interest in comics in the UK just merchandising magazines.  IPC Media has repeated to me that it has no interest in comics and has not had any in over 32 years or so.  Panini simply reprints US material.

2.   Despite constant attempts and appeals to UK business entrepreneurs, none has shown the slightest interest in comics and they, like those in (1) above,have no first hand knowledge or involvement in comics.  This is almost unbelievable since comics are currently big money and movies and TV are attracting more readers -if only temporary, it is still a base to build on.

3.   Those involved in the Independent Comics scene are not doing so as a full time business. It is, basically, a hobby.  None has made a serious attempt to promote their books in the Press/Media. In some cases many are Vanity Publishers -asking that those whose work they publish pay anywhere up to 60% of the printing cost -and printing is done via Print On Demand companies where the publisher can buy at a discount.  These publishers can argue as much as they want but if they think a book or strip is worth publishing THEY take on all the costs, many creators who have contributed to such Vanity Publishers tend to get no return: "We've made no profit" they are told or they get an absolute pittance back at some stage.

Vanity Publishing is frowned upon in the book community which has almost stopped the practice -though the odd rogue still operates.

4.   Creators, especially those with well known names in the comic circle could easily publish their own books.  Take full responsibility and the profit if any from them.  However, they will not.  When it was announced that Disney was buying Marvel I warned that any original UK material carried in their books would stop.  I was ignored -called an idiot with no idea.  I recall the last good Bristol Comic Expo where these creators turned up, all depressed, crying and wanting sympathy.  I pointed out that I had warned them but there was a great opportunity here.  Most were well known comic names in the UK -some were, in their own ego, big stars.  I pointed out that if they all worked together they could get the publicity and launch their own comic and promote it around at the shows.

The responses were:

(a)  "But we'd have to pay out of our pockets!"
(b) "It's not our job to publish comics!"
(c)  Both of the above and, from one Midlands cap-doffing fool: "They are the bosses.  They call the shots"

I pointed out that if they did not do something they would all end up out of work or doing lower paid jobs -however much one or two brown-nosed.  No. They were not having it.  The bosses were the ones in charge and publishing was not the job of artists and writers.

We've all seen the results.

In all seriousness the industry as it was began dying the day it started employing fans.  In the US we saw the results of this when both Marvel and DC almost went to the wall by the mid 1980s.  In the UK a couple of individuals produced two or three comics -far more famous titles today than they were back in the day- and have lived off of that for almost 40 years.  If these were such great individuals you have to ask why their titles failed rather than boosting a new UK comics age -2000 AD was the last highly popular UK weekly but even by the mid 1980s it was failing.

And the so called comic "nice guys" -who are far, far from being nice at all- who when, in 2010, I posted on the old WordPress CBO that UK comic creators, bloggers and fans ought to all do a simple thing to show support for UK comics -a banner on their blogs reading "I'm supporting UK comics"...wow. 

Within an hour I was being attacked on UK comic forums.  I had, it seems, a "saviour complex".  "He says only he can save the British comics industry -he probably thinks he can walk on water too!" was one good line.  The other was "He's a very -VERY- amateur writer and not very good writer so he his ego is obviously bigger than any talent he might have as an amateur" -and, believe me, it got nastier.  People I had never heard of or who used pseudonyms were attacking me personally and disparaging my work while saying they had "never seen any of it because I don't want to look at amateur crap" and some of these were well known UK comic creators. 

All because I dared suggest we all band together -albeit with a blog banner, showing support for UK comics. In fact, I had to resort to legal means to shut some of these people up, and ISP warnings were given out by some of their servers -I was getting, between 2002-2010 anywhere from 6-10 nasty emails each and every day and nasty comments left on my blog -the suggestion of supporting UK comics intensified this.   And I got some very nasty mails from people working at a certain company.

But the lack of any real interest from publishers combined with the self serving attitude of creators who seem to be, and I say this with all seriousness, mentally challenged, has meant that....

5   It has been 30 years since kids could walk into a shop and buy a weekly comic.  Let's not start jumping in with the "Robert Maxwell was to blame" bollocks because the rot had set in well before then and after his death for years after every new thing that went wrong or dirty deed by an editor was "Robert Maxwell's fault!"

There are some titles for pre-school but if you are over 8 years old you are out of luck.  You have to wait to discover a comic shop or 2000 AD which is not good.

And there is another myth: "kids today have no interest in comics -it's all computers" -replacing the old "kids today have no interest in comics -it's all TV!"  These are just lazy excuses.  My niece and nephew were interested in drawing and reading comics.  I have seen kids reading old 1980s annuals (!) and at events there is a massive interest from kids in comics -this has been proven again and again ad infinitum by Cinebook The 9th Art.

Oh, and as I've mentioned in previous posts -kids are super hero crazy but they just get awful merchandising magazines -parents looking at comics from Marvel and DC put them straight back because they are not suitable for (pre) as well as 8-12 years old children.  To add to this, I spoke to a couple in a shop today who were looking for comics to keep their kids amused.  Both said there were no comics -the father pointed out that he had been into Forbidden Planet and could find nothing there for his youngsters "Archie Comics used to be safe -have you seen them now?" I said I had given up on them.

There is that market there but it is totally ignored because publishers are simply incompetent to publish comics -because no one at the companies have, for over 30 years, had any experience with putting together and publishing them.


6    I have mentioned that comic events tend to see the Same old faces turn up at every -its a social thing not business.  I do not believe for one minute that any serious "bidding" takes place at any of these events. Going over guest lists and traders at events over the last ten years every time it is the same people.  Do you know the odds of every single one of them winning a bid for a table at all the UK events in one year alone?  Over ten years?

No, it is the "same old, same old" -the friends and people the organisers want because it is a safe "in crowd" for them.  So let's cut the "bidding" pretence. It is not real. The old Bristol Comic Expo used to achieve a good mix but even there the same people each year mixed in with some good guests.

This makes things very stale.  It certainly does not encourage diversity or creativity and I have the emails and comments from people who commented on "the same people all the time."  And there is also, to be noted, the same old, same old attendees.

Cosplay began to take off but then seemed to get poorer at the "new" Bristol Expo after Mike Allwood left (the first year under new management and the great event died!).  Exhibitors being told that there was power on site for their displays/monitors turning up and being told the power points were in another room -all they had to do was go into town and buy extension leads!!!!

Cosplay deriving from Manga that I always said was a flash in the pan but those "in the know" insisted would save UK comics...Manga is still popular amongst a small following but definitely nowhere near what it was in the 1990s -publications such as Manga Mania came and went.

But, back to the same old attendees...yes, families with youngsters were attracted to events such as the Bristol Expo and their reactions showed that they had never been to comic events before!  The question is: what attracted them?  If I really had that "saviour complex" I would write "Me" (we all know it was me but let's move on!) but the truth is, and I noted this time-and-time again, it was Cinebook The 9th Art.

Cinebook do not publish new UK material but translations of Franco-Belgian series.  Covering all ages and genres -and THAT is where the families and those not interested in the usual dealers went to because it provided very friendly staff (seriously, some of the comic people just sit behind tables glaring unless they know you!), full of information and that alone is a breath of fresh air.  The other factor, obviously, are the books.  Top quality in story, art and production at a VERY reasonable price and they got kids involved!  Future generations will have grown up seeing only Cinebook titles and my Great Nephews certainly will.

The other dealers all have full time occupations -it's why they can afford to travel so many times a year to so many events.  It is NOT a business.  "I take my publishing seriously" -yes, but you are not publishing to earn a living.  These are dilettantes.  Dilettantes pure and simple -they do not attempt to encourage the industry or promote it or really give back to it -in fact, out of amusement, at the 2011 Bristol Comic Expo I spread the rumour that someone from Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes was moving around and taking notes.  At one point a publisher I knew told me that if anyone asked I ought to say that they were doing badly and not making any money -"someone said there's a taxman going around!"

It is a pastime for them.  No one has ever said to me "If I don't make enough here I'm going to be in financial trouble -and the rent's due!"  

Well, no one other than the life blood of what are supposed to be comic conventions -the back issue comic dealers.  In 2012 I spoke to two at the Bristol Expo who were getting no real sales.  "Everyone wants the issue that just came out or they go straight to their mates!"  Both said it would be their last expo event.  Another told me he was not doing too badly as the real comic fans looking for back issues were coming to his tables and when I asked if he had a mail order list or web site he replied "Oh, I only do this as a hobby not a job".  meh.

But there are comic dealers who have to organise their yearly schedule for comic events because it is part of their business who, up until 2012, were turned down year-after-year and told no tables were available. Seven dealers I know went bust and had to quit or try Ebay.  Most quit.  

That is not supporting the UK comics community -in fact, there never was a "comics community" just people who knew each other and belonged to little cliques of trouble makers or ego polishers.  This is why things have died off.

The reference to "their mates" needs explaining.  We have the same old dilettantes at each event and they have their followers -mostly friends- who come to the show to just go to their table and buy from them and, as I noted many times, will not even consider looking at another publisher's table. I think this is one reason why the same old, same old is very unhealthy for events.  The same people attend to see their mates but do not buy from anyone else -a true comic fan who has not got a ticket because they were all allocated therefore cannot get in to spend.  The organisers are not that interested in any real sense in the commerce just what they make at the end of the day.

And there is another thing. Event organisers wanting YOU to pay for the event so they don't have to. "The event has gotten so big we need bigger premises so we are starting a Kickstarter!" When people who year-after-year tell you "Sorry -no tables at the event!" send you such an email -and try to make you either feel guilty because you are not supporting their comic event or try flattering you just to get you to support them or publicise the kickstarter and promote it- the response has to be: "I am not sorry. YOU have NEVER supported myself or Black Tower comics.  Every year I contact you within two hours of your announcing next year's event and I am told "no tables. All gone" And you now expect me to support and promote your event kickstarter? F**k off." (and that is a quote from my email to the last one who even then responded that I "might get lucky and get a table at the next event")

7    Events need to produce free comics to encourage kids or have special kids/family activities.  As it is, kids are not seen as anything other than, at times, "cute".  Cinebook, again, does more to promote family interest in comics.  "Leave it up to them, then!" are words I often heard.  Again -WHY are things as they are in UK comics?

8   The Small Press has THOUSANDS of self publishers and 90% have never read a comic -its social but each event, again, has the same specific little clique and their friends. The Bristol event will have the same faces and same attendees with the occasionally curious attending. Ditto such events in Bath or London.

There are many Small Press events around the UK in a year and organisers and publishers will not know the organisers of an event in London -or even other local events.  Back in the 1980s-1990s everyone knew each other and organisers knew one another because it was a community with everyone producing zines, not for a living but to make "a few extra quid" and you either turned up and got/shared a table or you organised one before the event.  No "bidding" -and it was not always the same old faces again and again.

An event should not sell itself as a "Comics and Zines" event if there are no comics planned for or dealers.  It is simply a clique of Small Press dilettantes and it is a social thing. A hobby. Friends going to see/buy from friends.

The rather brusque attitude toward children at these events is sometimes almost like child beating. "No, this is for adults.  We'll go to MacDonald's later!"  Kids of a friend tend to get patronised but this is what I find absolutely awful: if you cart a child along to such an event then you ought to at least encourage him/her to understand what is going on -try to encourage a bit of creativity.  But no. And, again, I've never seen anything at these events encouraging kids -attitudes are more likely to discourage an interest.

So what can be done?

In all honesty, nothing.  If entrepreneurs do not become involved and realise that what Cinebook can do they can, then we are simply looking at hobbyists. In fact, it is wrong to use the term "Independent publisher" in the UK unless you are trying to signify a Small Presser because that is all we have.

We have, I hope I've shown this, sufficient home grown topics that can be used -exploited- in comics and there is even some great artistic talent out there -many currently having to work outside comics- but without that financial backing and all the support an entrepreneur or existing publisher can give we are, as the Franco-Belgian comic community point out, nothing.

And for those in other poorer countries this is a lesson that needs to be learnt. If you have a basic industry it needs to be promoted -get not just adults but ALL ages involved.  Organise events, no matter how small, to cater for families.  Look at your own myths, legends and history as well as your country's geography -there is the source for your comics future.

Do not sit back and let Disney/Marvel and DC or even Image or Dark Horse move in and become THE comics publisher/source.  If you have to get creators from outside your country to help then no problem so long as their work fits in with a plan for your -your- domestic comic industry.

Kids and adults read comics and try drawing them.  Not just adults but kids and they are who will provide your fan base in the future.

Learn from the UK and it's mistakes.  If you are a comic publisher or trying to publish comics, whether in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine -anywhere: you can do it but you need to instill that sense of a community embracing comics, creators and fans.
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And that is it.  I am done.  Almost forty years in comics and supporting comics and the Small Press and I just wish I had not bothered.

For me, I'll get on with what I do but the days of freely supporting everyone with my time are gone. This has been my last post on the British Comics industry and community because...it does not exist.