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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, it's taken all morning but the online store has been upgraded and all books re-priced.
It's ridiculous to think people have been able to buy 50-60-70 and even 80 and 100 pagers for £6.00-£7.00 for six years or so. That is just so ludicrously cheap and, yes, practically give-aways. I wanted to give potential readers a bargain and a good read.
I just got a poke in the eye back.
Well, all prices have been updated to be more realistic so if you never bought that book you 'wanted' at the old price -tough.
Thinking about it, I really do think that the lack of comic education is why people are scared of even picking up Black Tower Books. They have sturdy, glossy covers and are in the A4 format -standard European Comic Album format. What they generally see are A5/Digest, US comic size or book style publications. Even at last Saturday's disaster, looking around, I could see nothing like my books.
But for Black Tower graphic novels, prose books and others, A4 is standard. I'm not going to spend months re-sizing just to please the eye of the dilettante comic buyers.
I stick by quality and, despite prices changes, a very good cover price for buyers.
While I finish repricing books on the online store and sort out the total **** up lulu.com has made of some files and not even told me about (nice) time for an interlude. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.
Well I am guessing that my postings and reviews from Saturday to last night have left the comics industry in a whirlwind of-of......
Let's face it: no one was interested. I try and try and postings on the comics industry -the troubles and tribulations- do appear to be popular. They tend to get very high viewing figures. But thoughts? Responses? Not a one. You do know that I could just as well go sit in the bathroom and say these things aloud to myself which is satisfying but does not take a lot of typing/editing?
Hmm. From now on I am going to review books while seated 'pon the lavvie. You don't hear my reviews then that is your fault.
Honestly. Burned out. Type/post and just watching the visitor numbers climb is boring beyond belief. Should be a lesson there for me. My books go the same way. Years of research, editing, typing, editing and then design followed by publishing and...no one reads them.
Michelle MacLaren has signed on to direct ‘Wonder Woman’ for Warner Bros according to fresh reports.
The Hollywood Reporter
claim the Canadian was always the studio’s first choice, and will guide
the project with Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven on board
MacLaren has had her hand in a
number of major television shows, having directed four episodes of ‘Game
of Thrones’, three episodes of ‘The Walking Dead and eleven episodes of
‘Breaking Bad’, which she also executively produced from season three.
She also produced 46 episodes of ‘The X-Files’ at the turn of the century.
‘Wonder Woman’ is Warner Bros’
first major property to launch following the release of ‘Batman v
Superman: Dawn of Justice’ in 2016, and will star Gal Gadot as the
Amazonian superhero. Gadot will make her debut as the character in the
‘Man of Steel’ follow-up.MacLaren is the third director
to be brought into Warner Bros’ growing DC Comics Universe after Snyder
and ‘Suicide Squad’ director David Ayer.
THR says Warner Bros had felt
pressure to hire a woman to direct due to Wonder Woman’s theme of female
empowerment, but were concerned that no woman has ever directed a
CG-laden big comic book tentpole movie.
Thankfully they ignored the
pressure and hired MacLaren anyway, who aside from being a woman is also
clearly qualified to handle such a big production.
Recent reports suggested that
the ‘Wonder Woman’ films will act as prequels to the character’s
introduction in ‘Dawn of Justice’ – with solo films set in the early 20th Century, including World War Two.
landing a role in ‘Star Wars VII’ it looks as though the up and coming
star will be heading to the ‘X-Men’ universe… as he takes the title role
in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’.
Not content with nabbing a role
in the galaxy far, far away it looks as though Oscar Isaac is determined
to conquer modern geek culture. And now the actor has reportedly signed
up for the upcoming ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ as the movie’s big, bad
According to Variety, the 35-year-old Guatemalan-born American actor has nabbed the role of Apocalypse in the upcoming ‘X-Men’ sequel.
Isaac will be playing the titular comic book villain in 20th Century
Fox’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’,” they revealed. “[Bryan] Singer has described
the upcoming ‘X-Men’ film, which is expected to feature all cast
members including Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James
McAvoy, as the most destructive movie in the franchise.”
course, Apocalypse has already taken to the big screen in a post credit
teaser after the recent ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. But while the
scrawny-looking mutant was busy with his newfound pyramids, it looks
likely that he’ll bulk up a bit for the upcoming sequel.
will have more of the mass destruction that ‘X-Men’ films, to date,
have not relied upon,” said Singer in a recent interview. “There’s
definitely now a character and a story that allow room for that kind of
taking place during the 80s, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ will feature younger
versions of the classic ‘X-Men’ characters. And while it seems that
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ has found its villain, the hunt is apparently on for
a young Cyclops and Jean Grey.
will they be able to conquer the mighty Apocalypse? For now, we’ll have
to wait and see. Although, if Isaac has to go up against Hugh Jackman’s
Wolverine, I don’t fancy his chances.
‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ heads to cinemas on 19 May 2016.
And that is a quote, baby.Not from one person but several including some comic professionals from
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
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
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
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
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 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 purile.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 connedinto 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
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
–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
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
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
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
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?
butterfly.Let’s smash a butterfly on a
wheel (5 kudo points to whoever got that 1980s music reference).
I actually wrote a quite long review which Blogger appears
to have deleted.It was there and ten
minutes later -nothing.You have no idea
how close I am to chucking this all in.
The story/script was, apparently, written long before an
artist was found in Rebecca Teall, a fine artist who had never worked in comics
before.You can find her blog here:
"So what is it about? I’ve spent quite some time
describing it as fifty-odd pages about a funeral, but that tends to make people
uncomfortable. Nobody really likes funerals, and they like talking about them
even less. Funerals are about loss and grief, and we understandably tend to put
them to the back of our mind. Which is, in a way, what Longship is about?
"I often tell people that I want to be interred in a
pyramid when I die. I’m pretty sure that most of the people that I tell this to
think that I’m a touch morbid. It’s not morbid, though, at least not in my
“My pyramid is intended to be a celebration of my life,
something for people to remember me by when
I’m gone. I don’t see planning for that as morbid, I see it
as a culmination of my life, something I can leave behind. Which is, again,
kind of what Longship is about.
"I’ve described Longship, perhaps a little
pretentiously, as a story of life, death, what you leave behind, and what we
will do to honour those we love. It’s about loss, and acceptance of that loss,
but also about celebration.It’s a
celebration of a life after it’s ended. That’s also what Longship is about.
"The story is about a Viking ship burial on a hill
somewhere in Yorkshire, set in the modern day.
It’s beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Teall....She has made it look far
better than I ever dared to hope."
I think that sums it up nicely.In the old days of TV this story would have
been the basis for a slice-of-life
Play For Today.As it
is, this story flows nicely and Teall's art works wonders.I loved the use of Runes -see page below.
Is it really "an emotional roller-coaster" of a
story as one person put it?Well, it
obviously impressed Time Bomb Comics Steve Tanner enough to publish it.I never give too much away story-wise and in
this case it is hard to give "spoilers" -you have to read the whole
book to get the feel of what is going on.
One of the best from TBC to date?I'd just say you ought to support British
talent and buy a copy because for a 50+ pages colour book the price is cheap!
Now, as I have re-written and TRIED to publish this for the last hour let's see if it works now!