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

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Working For The Small Press -What's It Worth?

 I was thinking how things have changed over the years. Back in the 1980s/1990s, if I had a zine that was short of 3-4 pages I'd knock out a letter and send it off to other zine publishers/creators.  Within a week I could guarantee having enough material to fill 2-3 zines.  And, if contacted by other zine publishers looking for material, well, yes, I'd send something to them.

At no point did anyone ask "How much are you paying?"  It was simple fun -contributors got a copy of the zine their work was in. Again, no one asked: "If you make anything out of this what's my cut?"

We were selling our "end product" for 25 pence.  50 pence.  75 pence or, and, I tried and succeeded in never crossing this particular price barrier myself, £1.00.  Yes, £1.00 which back then was 50 cents? So, buy my zines and you got a lot of pages for little money.  I try to keep doing that still.

Although, via Zine Zone mail order or marts you could sell quite a few zines -in fact, it's odd but you would guarantee at least doing fairly well sales-wise back then where as now the attitude and expectation is that selling one or two books is a good day! In fact, zine publishers reported that they did far better sales-wise with Zine Zone than they did with Fast Fiction (which saw ZZ as a competitor though we never considered there to be any rivalry).

"Hey -I made £2.00!" Not bad -snicker-  now to divide that up between 10 contributors! Seriously, no one expected to make big money because it was all for fun. Also, a lot of the creators of the 1980s who made it into comics as writers or artists all started in the Small Press -it was seen as a place where you could hone your skills. It is interesting to note that a few of these creators when asked how they got started in comics tend to gloss over any mention of the Small Press!  It all seems to be "I started writing/drawing and used every opportunity to hone that skill and then DC/Marvel saw my work" I think that is actually shameful.

People ask me how I got started I'll tell them.  Putting together a school magazine (Greenway Boys School, Bristol, 1972) titled Starkers -The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth which was a title suggested by our Deputy Head, Mr Wright. Getting everything together, drawing, typing on the stencils for the Gestetner copier and then....getting banned by the Head because one of the secretaries complained about the title (yes, there was more to it because I was seen as an "H-dropping" pain-in-the-ass by the snobbish head and his school kid cronies).

Then I got work with a printer.  I then started working with the early photocopiers.  I wrote articles on everything from nature to astronomy and history and then I decided I wanted to get into publishing so I got friendly with those folk as well as editors and distributors and even stupidly spent money buying rights to certain characters/publications (see one of my previous big posts -they are there somewhere).

Putting all of this together helped in making dummy copies of proposed titles to submit to publishers.  Some of those titles, such as Preview Comic got a few people into permanent comics work both in the UK and US.  Then there were scripts for London Editions, Fleetway/Egmont, Marvel UK and so on.  And even while doing my comic work (and the officially unofficial other job) I was writing comic articles for publications such as Comics FX and other publications promoting comics and particularly the Small Press which has never gotten even 2% of the publicity 'real comics' do.

Today, obviously and I never ever do this any other way, all art is (c) the artist. If the contributor wrote and drew something then it is all (c) the creator. Even if I lost out I made sure contributors got something.  But then you hit the big problems.

You learn, quite by accident, that an artist you have written a script  for and who then with no explanation break all contact, are actually trying to sell the strip with a couple of character name changes.  When found out and contacted over this there is either silence or "Oh, I thought you'd left comics" -right.  Then you have the artist who wants to have full control over the end product which includes changes made "to make it better" and believe me I have had artists change characters names, sex and even whole chunks of story because they feel they know better.  That just is not on.  The writer writes and the artist draws -perhaps making an odd change to make action flow.

I have had one artist ask me to draw character sketches because he just could not understand what I meant by stating the right hand side of a characters body was all robot while the left was wholly human.  Another had to have a sketch when I described a central tower in a city had, at the very top,  a clock face on each of the four sides...?

Then you get an email out of the blue "I don't want this published unless I get a 60% royalty deal, a page fee and creative rights"  hmmm.  Or, you publish after putting a lot of work into a book and the artist then says he doesn't want to be associated with it because it might affect his work prospects with Marvel or DC???

You will also get artists who email every single week asking about sales.  "You can't be doing enough to promote the book!" And then there are the artists who complete books and simply vanish.  They no longer answer emails and so the book HAS to be withdrawn.  Or the families of people you have worked with....don't even get me started on that.

There are no huge profits in Small Press publishing and Independent comics will not make you rich!  So, as a publisher you have to make decisions that affect your output.  Books are withdrawn. Decisions are made so that you no longer have to rely on other creators and all the problems associated with them.

Black Tower no longer accepts proposals from creators.  Everything is in-house and there are only two creators...and a very large selection of books to buy.  No distractions or problems other than those you get normally as the UK largest Independent comics publisher.

The small Press rely far less on collaborations these days.  There are some but more and more it's an individual thing with the creator writing, drawing and publishing the book.  No profit no problem. A profit -nice.

I think the anthology titles of old with any number of contributors will eventually vanish because unlike the doing -it -for- fun days where publishing was smooth and creators did not scream out "I'm a star! Pay me!" 

If you ask what money you are going to get out of the Small Press as an artist or writer then the true answer is that you'll be lucky to make any.  And the proof is there if you don't believe me: publish yourself and see all the 'joys' first hand!

So if you go to this weekends Small Press event remember: no one there is getting rich!

Newsletter Hamelin 2 ottobre 2014

NEWSLETTER del 2/10/2014

È andata benissimo, ci pare. Grazie a tutti per la grande partecipazione, davvero sorprendente. Contiamo di proseguire insieme il percorso iniziato.

Qui le foto della giornata.

Qui scaricabili gratuitamente materiali di approfondimento su lettura e adolescenza.

Stiamo lavorando agli atti del convegno, in uscita sul prossimo numero della rivista.

Da oggi, uno alla volta, gli 11 nuovi percorsi Xanadu, con i libri "titolari".
Il primo: le storie d'amore.
Romanzo di riferimento sarà Cime tempestose di Emily Brontë.
E da lì partiranno due strade, ognuna con altri libri, fumetti, film: il rapporto tra amore e morte e l'importanza del corpo.
Seguiteci su Facebook per scoprire gli altri percorsi nei prossimi giorni.

International Board on Books for Young People è una rete internazionale di persone, che provengono da 77 paesi e promuove la cooperazione internazionale attraverso i libri per bambini, creando ovunque per l'infanzia l'opportunità di avere accesso a libri di alto livello letterario e artistico e incoraggiando la pubblicazione e la distribuzione di libri di qualità per bambini specialmente nei Paesi in via di sviluppo.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

BilBOlbul newsletter 1/10/2014

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #1 hits comic stores on October 15.


Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #1
Offering shocks, surprises, and galaxy-shaking revelations, seasoned TARDIS pilot Robbie Morrison (Drowntown, The Authority, 2000AD, Nikolai Dante) and New York Times-bestselling artist Dave Taylor (Batman: Death by Design; 2000AD) mark the start of their first five-issue run by diving headfirst into the console room and pulling all the levers they can – spinning the new Doctor off to his most challenging destination yet!

New Face! New Doctor! New Beginning! Get in on the ground floor of this amazing ongoing series!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Markus - Ich bin nicht Spiderman (offizielles Video)

I Am NOT On Face Book

The requests to "friend" me on Face Book.  I forward links to news items from CBO but I am NOT using FB.  Please note that and do not send friend requests.

Thank You

Cinebook The 9th Art: Barracuda 3 -Duel

Authors: Jérémy & Dufaux
Age: 15 years and up
Size: 18.4 x 25.7 cm
Number of pages: 64 colour pages
Publication: July 2014
ISBN: 9781849182041
Price: £8.99 inc. VAT
On Puerto Blanco, life goes on. Captain Flynn is dead, murdered by his old nemesis. Emilio mourns his mentor and lover, yet finds unexpected companionship in Maria and Raffy. The three children left behind by the Barracuda have grown and found each other, but the dangers are many: De La Loya and his Spanish expedition; Ferrango, Maria’s cuckolded husband; Flynn’s killer; a scorned woman with a talent for poisons… And above all, a cursed diamond that carries madness and death.

 Great looking cover.  Nice story and the interior art is what you would expect -Great.  But my review opinion probably does not count with the company so I'll just say it's a great book.

Oh Dear, Some People Are Just Dumb-Asses

I posted that all free event publicity was over.  I even forwarded the link as well as the item to event organisers.  They are still trying to get free publicity -they deny me a table (that I'm willing to pay for) or a free press pass but they want me to do free work for them.  No.  Just no.

Then we have the 'friends' still trying to cadge free publicity and free feedback on their new books.  These are the 'friends' who NEVER read CBO or Face Book because "I'm too busy. I have 160/200 friends and I don't check all of them" -great friends to have.

I point out again that I have asked these people as friends and people who I have helped a lot in their early careers and later without ever asking for anything in return.  But when I ask for just a mention or a link on their blogs/pages every excuse going comes forth.

No. "Friends" help each other out.

You want to name call at events where you think no one knows me or tells me what goes on then just carry on. I've spent over three decades helping other people now I'd like some return.


Opus 21: “Quality Birds” a.k.a. “The Wisdom of the Colonel”

Peter Lally
Opus 21
 To purchase a copy contact Peter at:

It appears that last Friday Mr Paul Brown was gamboling about London.  And while gamboling met up with Lord Peter Lally -adventurer, treasure seeker and international man of mystery. "Give this to Hooper -and if you are questioned you know nothing!" were the words I apparently made him utter for comedic effect here.

So, on the Saturday I noticed Mr Brown skipping along the lane toward my house. Once in the house and seated, he excitedly produced "Quality Birds" by Lord Lally.  To calm him down from a sugar-rush created excitement, I promised to do a review.

Well, I sat down and looked through this one. The production is incredible and must have cost a few quid. Nice crisp and shiny.  Now the thing is that Peter is NOT Jack Kirby.  He is NOT John Byrne. But this is why I think the Small Press works -there are no huge egotistical pretensions.  What I look for is the "feel" of a book and, yes, you can "feel" if a story or comic was just chucked together for fun or whether it was just chucked together and **** what it ends up like.

I got part way through this creation of the man who brought us Mind Your Manners: The Donald Hamilton Story and just chuckled.  I also uttered the words: "What are you on, Lally?"  Seriously, I thought that this was going to be some huge attack on the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.  Instead it was....funny.  Take a look at the pages below -particularly the first!  Pure genius.  And do you know what?  While shopping in Tesco (I feel it my duty to help them get back that £25m) I passed the frozen chickens* and thought "Ooh. There's a quality bird!  Oo-er!"  And, yes, I did have to stifle a loud laugh.

I will never be able to look at a frozen or fresh chicken again without that feeling of....arousal.  Lally caused that!

Seriously, you need to read the whole book. It does make me wonder just Miss Millie  is trying to impart...no, I don't want to go there.

If you want a fun read then this is it.  If you don't buy a copy...well, it really is your loss!!

*I ought to point out that I've been a vegetarian for 35(?) years now so was passing the chicken section and not deliberately heading there to check out the "talent".

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Alan Moore, Listen -There Are A LOT Of Young Creative People Out There (and me)

It was nice to see Small Pressers comment on the usual Alan Moore rantings -this time his claim that comics at all levels suck.

See what the people at The water Closet say:


Moore, like a few others who rose to "fame" (fleeting bastard that it is) in the 1980s and he did work with fanzines.  He shows that he does not grasp what is going on in the all encompassing term "comic industry". The Small Press used to be where you honed your skills before moving on to mainstream comics.  In the 1970s it was a rather small group of people. 

In the 1980s it quite literally exploded because photocopying allowed a faster way of publishing and it was a bloody sight quicker and cleaner than using a Gestetner!!

It’s Not About The Money
By Raphael Salimena

By the mid-1990s there seemed to be a slight stagnation because Small Pressers found their main selling points, Fast Fiction and later Zine Zone gone. Comic marts seemed to decline also.  Getting a table at one of the new conventions was going to cost more than your rent!

Then computers became more common and desk top publishing moved from putting together a comic at home and handing it to a printer to being able to do small print runs yourself at home. Print on Demand also helped would-be publishers. And then the Small Press/Alternative Press events kicked in.  People like Peter Lally and Jimi Gherkin literally blasted a major Alternative Press community -community NOT "industry"- onto London.

Today there are more Small Press events going on in the UK than major comic conventions -many of which still look down at Small Pressers but are all smiles to take their money for a table.

Most of the creators have no idea about comics.  They never read comics.  They are trying things out.  Being inventive. They are not looking at making big money, most seem to enjoy the work -or pleasure- of putting these books together and seem amazed if anyone buys their book!

They are not "appropriating" characters and ideas from old literature.  They are not claiming any Messianic power.

They are having fun.

I am an aging curmudgeon and if I smile it might just be me farmers playing me up.  They are young, fresh faced and doe-eyed. I'd sooner sit in a room full of them than in a luxury suite with Mr. Moore.