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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Can You Help Me Triumph??



Out of sheer and utter frustration I would like to ask visitors to this blog if they can help with a project. It isn't something that will cost you money so don't panis!

Since the 1980s I have tried to set up a British Comic Book Archive (BCBA) and the response from UK comic collectors has been dismal. A few have tried to help but UK comickers/collectors are notorious for not being willing to share scans of books.

In the last 30 years all of my breaks have come from collectors outside the UK -a good few in the United States.

The general UK attitude is either "I might have that book but I can be bothered checking" or just plain "NO! I bought it and it's mine and I do not share.

Seriously, in the US (and other parts of the world) comic fans are willing to share scans because it is a subject they enjoy and want to share with others.

To the point. I have tried and tried to find anyone in the UK with issues of Amalgamated Press title Triumph and particularly issues from 8th July 1939 to February 1940.  They are not particularly rare and usually go for £2.00-£4.00 but none from this particular time frame are appearing for sale.

So, I am asking -VERY nicely!- whether any of the regular CBO viewers from the United States or Europe (or anywhere and I include other planets here "just in case") who might have these issues or has links to downloads of them or whatever can get in touch with me.

You'll have my thanks!
 




Friday, 20 June 2014

Defining The British Ages Of Comics ...AGAIN


Why re-post this article since it was first published back in 2000 and several times since then?  Well, despite the "serious comics history" pundits being given the link on a number of occasions it appears I am beneath their interest. I know this because they are now stating that the Overstreet Price Guide has published 'new' info. 
Here is what someone wrote on Yahoos Platignum Comics group:

Now I do realise that some "sequential historians" look down on us regular comic folk but seriously they are ten years behind the rest of us.
So hear is the cranky old article but with new illoes.
I thank you.
_______________________________________________________________________
 
Despite attempting to fill in the Lost Era of British comics from the 1940s/1950s since the 1980s it is only recently,with the invaluable help of  Dennis Ray,owner of The 3-Ds comic store in Arlington,Texas,that a small chunk of this period has been rediscovered.


Characters not listed even in Denis Gifford references have been found. These have started to appear in the Black Tower Golden Age Classics series.  As they are unlikely to be big money earners the cover prices were kept low for those interested in the subject.






Dennis Gifford


Here is a slightly up-dated version of my article defining the British ages of comics from my British Golden Age Comics web site and a couple years back on CBO.



 The late Denis Gifford spent many decades chronicling the history of British comics.  It was a never-ending task and at least we still have his books to rely on –these have been so plagiarised by new ‘experts’ that it shows just how valuable any Gifford book is. For this reason,I am relying solely on Denis’s and the “Tel’s From The Crypt” feature from vol.1 no.1 of COMIC BITS [1999].



Of course,there are some who would argue that comic strips go back further than the dates I give. This is debatable and,hopefully,one day the UK will have a symposium on the subject!  

Looking Glass was a tabloid sized periodical published by Thomas McLean and could be purchased as either a plain or hand-coloured edition. Some 36 issues were published starting on 1st January, 1830 until December, 1832 -but from issue number 13, that was published on 1st January, 1831, it suddenly got retitled to McLean's Monthly Sheet of Caricature or The Looking Glass.



But this was not the first Looking Glass!John Watson published The Glasgow Looking Glass on the 11th June, 1825 and it lasted five issues up to August, 1825. From 18th August, 1825 and for twelve issues up to 3rd August, 1826 as Northern Looking Glass.

 THIS is the comic 'newly discovered' by the Overstreet Price Guide!


According to Denis,the first comic magazine was actually titled…The Comick Magazine!  The magazine appeared on 1st April,1796.  The publisher was Mr Harrison of 18 Paternoster Row,London who describe the title as “The compleat Library of Mirth,Humour,Wit,Gaiety and Entertainment”.  



Most purists would argue that The Comick Magazine was wholly text,however,it did come “enriched with  William Hogarth’s Celebrated Humorous,Comical and Moral Prints”. –one per monthly issue!  These prints formed the series “Industry and Idleness” and when put together in their “narrative sequence”,argued Gifford,”they could be described  as an early form of comic strip”


 Above: Dr Syntax on Tour



Thomas Rowlandson  provided plates for The Caricature Magazine [1808].  On the 1st May,1809 came The Poetical Magazine and it was in this –Rowlandson the artist once more—that what is arguably the first British ‘comic’ super star was born:Dr Syntax!   The serial by William Combe,”The Schoolmaster’s Tour” was Dr Syntax’s first,uh,outing and in 1812 was reprinted in book form [graphic novel?] as “The Tour Of Dr Syntax in Search of The Picturesque”.  This featured 31coloured plates.



Dr Syntax spawned merchandise spin offs,as any comic star does,such as Syntax hats,coats and wigs!!

Figaro 31st March, 1832


Inspired by the French funny paper Figaro,on 10th December,1831,the four page weekly Figaro In London appeared.  Cover and interior cartoons were by Robert Seymour.  This first funny weekly went on for eight years and was to inspire [imitation] spin-offs such as Figaro In Liverpool and Figaro In Sheffield.    We can see the future shape of the comic industry appearing here!



Punch In London  appeared on 14th January,1832 –this weekly lasted 17 issues and the last featured  17 cartoons!  



The longest lived comic magazine,of course,was Punch from 17th July,1841 until its demise in 2002!  

It is a fact that Punch,on 1st July,1843,introduced the word “cartoon” into the English language;on that date the magazine announced the publication of “several exquisite designs to be called Punch’s Cartoons”.   Two weeks later the first appeared,the artist being John Leech.  [for more info on Punch see http://www.punch.co.uk/

Punch number 1

Leech also drew “The Pleasures Of Housekeeping” [28th April,1849] –described as a slap-stick strip aboutr a suburbanite called Mr Briggs which,ten years later,was published in book form as Pictures Of Life And Quality.



In 1905 Mr Briggs was still being reprinted in six penny paperbacks.            



Judy~The London Serio-Comic Journal started on 1st May,1867 and,on 14th August of the same year introduced a character  who became one of the greatest comic heroes of the day…….Ally Sloper!   



Ally Sloper [so called because,when a debt collector turned up he Sloped off down the Alley!] was a bald headed,bulbous nosed figure with a rather battered hat. ..often described as a Mr Micawber type [as played by W.C.Fields and others over the years].  Ally was constantly trying to make money but more often than not never quite succeeded.



 Merchandise abounded, Sloper Pewter mugs, figurines, bottles and much,much more.  And you can learn a great deal more on a wonderful web site –






There was an Ally Sloper comic in 1948 and some might think that was it.  However, Walter Bell drew the old lad in Ally Sloper, a British comics magazine published by Denis and Alan Class in the 1970s and soon to reappear in Ally Sloper’s Comic Bits [successor to Comic Bits].

Note: since this was first written the Ally Sloper's Comic Bits was shelved and also, in an interview with Alan Class, he told me he was NOT publisher of the 1970s fanzine!
 

Above the 1948 Ally Sloper comic.

Ally has certainly lived longer than his creator, Charles Henry Ross, could probably ever have imagined!   



Into the 20th Century and there was the rise of many illustrated text stories and comic strips with text under each panel.



D.C. Thomson had titles like ADVENTURE and ROVER.  Alfred Harmsworth’s,and later his Amalgamated Press’, COMIC CUTS was the first comic though.  Issue 1 was published on 17th May,1890 and the final issue was published on 12th September,1953 with issue number 3006!     





But the 1930s saw a virtual explosion in comics from small publishers outside London.  These included Merry Midget, no.1 dated Saturday,12th September,1931 and published by Provincial Comics Ltd.,Bath –and the other  title from this publisher was Sparkler.  Also publishing from Bath were Target Publications who produced Rattler and Target.  



Now these were traditional humour strips and gags along with text adventure stories.  But in 1939 something happened that ended the Diamond Age and saw the beginning of the Golden Age.  



On the 8th July,1939,the Amalgamated Press published,in Triumph, the strip “Derickson Dene”,drawn by that "mysterious" comic great Nat Brand.  Gifford described the strip as “a four page serial strip that established him [Dene] as the first British super hero in the American comic book style”.  




And then,on the 5th August,1939,in Triumph no.772,compilations of the Siegel and  Shuster Superman newspaper strips started.  On the front cover,flying through space and drawn by John “Jock” McCail was The Man of Steel.    



These two very significant strips,in my opinion,ushered in the British Golden Age.  



There was only one little problem.  Across the English [or French] Channel,a little twerp with a silly moustache started a “bit of a tiff” we know as World War Two.  Paper restrictions and the banning of imported goods such as comic books,meant that British publishers had to use whatever they could. Comics were printed on brown wrapping paper,silver paper[!] and other inferior stocks. Many comics simply vanished.  No new ongoing titles could be published so smaller publishers began to issue one-off eight pagers.  


Oh, and as I've proven previously, the myth of the Germans "never had comics during the war" is just that. A myth.


The best known publishers  remembered today are the Amalgamated Press and D.C.Thomson,at the latter not just Lord Snooty and his Gang but also Eggo and Desperate Dan took on the Germans.







But Gerald G. Swan deserves a mention for books such as War Comics,Topical Funnies Special Autumn Number,Thrill Comics,and Slick Fun. .  Swan gave us Krakos the Egyptian and Robert Lovett:Back From The Dead.  



A.Soloway produced All Fun and after the war Comic Capers [1942] and  Halcon Comics [1948].  R & L Locker published Reel Comics and Cyclone Illustrated Comic.  Newton Wickham published Four Aces and Martin & Reid produced Grand Adventure Comics.




Gifford himself,later to work on Marvelman (and there are VERY strong rumours Marvel comics will be reprinting the 1980s series), produced Mr Muscle.  Cartoon Art Productions of Glasgow published Super Duper Comics [1948].  W. Daly gave us Crasho Comic [1947].  Cardal Publishing of Manchester gave us the Gifford drawn Streamline Comics [1947]……..  



There were so many publishers and titles and these titles included Ally Sloper, Ensign Comic, Speed Gale Comics, Whizzer Comics, Super Duper, The Three Star Adventures, The Atom, Prang Comic, Marsman Comic, Big win comic, Big Flame Wonder Comic, Evil Eye Thriller, The Forgers and many,many more –super heroes,science fiction,humour,detective,war comics the lot.   



However, there was soon to be a revolution.  Publishers started declining and the big companies continued on.  Then,on 14th  April,1950, ”launching British comics into the new Elizabethan Age,and the Space Age” appeared The Eagle,starring Dan Dare.  This date can be seen as the start of the Silver Age of British comics.  



New characters would appear who would engrave themselves on the new generations of comic readers.  



In the Amalgamated Press’  Lion no.1,23rd February,1952 Robot Archie made his debut.  In 1953,rivals D. C. Thomson featured General Jumbo in The Beano.  Miller, of course, brought us Marvelman and his family of comics.  



More uniquely British characters followed and into the 1960s we saw “The House of Dollman”, ”The Spider”, ”Steel Claw”, ”Rubberman” appear.    



In the mid –to- late 1970s titles began to get cancelled more and more frequently with Thomson and Fleetway/IPC seemingly not sure just where they were going comic –wise. In February,1977, 2000 AD made its debut and it was a pivotal point for British comics [not to mention for the US industry which later  recruited many of the talents involved to help its rapidly sinking comics in the mid-1980s.    And though some comics continued few survived.  Beano and Dandy continue but in much poorer form and British comics as an industry seem almost dead.  



 From all of this we can define the ages of British comics. 





The Platignum Age                   ~ 1796-1938
The Golden Age                       ~ 1939-1949
The Silver Age                          ~  1950-1976
The Modern [Bronze Age]      ~  1977—– 
And there you have it;a brief  break-down and definition of the Ages. of British comics.  

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Steve The Horse Comic Strip,DVD and Mystery Statuette

Here's a re-post from the old WordPress CBO that never made it here!

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stevecover-001.jpg
There is,for some of us,a fascination for early British comics and the characters/creators.  Ally Sloper and Steve The Horse I have tried to deal with on my Yahoo British Comic Books Archives group.
And,about five years ago I used pages of art sent to me by the late comic historian Denis Gifford to produce an A5 tribute publication to Roland Davies creation,Steve The Horse –“Come On Steve”.
above:Roland Davies Studio.  Davies is in the cardigan and Steve statue to right
I knew Davies had been involved in animation and had produced features.  However,I guessed that I’d never see these as buying 9.5mm 1930s film seemed like a fantasy.
Until,quite by accident,I was looking for more Davies info when I came across a site run by Grahame L. Newnham and well worth checking out if you have an interest in Pathe or other old films:
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was an advertisement of Newnham’s for “Come On Steve!”—a complete collection of the character’s animated features on a DVD.  And the price was perfect!
Sadly,ill health put all idea of buying a DVD out of my mind. However,when I recovered and realised that I hadn’t ordered it -I did!
The disc includes:
Steve’s Treasure Hunt  [1936]
Steve Steps Out       [1936]
Steve Of The River  [1937]
Cinderella Steve   [1937]
Steve In
Bohemia  [1937]
Steve’s Cannon Crackers  [1937]
Bal Costume [French Silent version] 1937.
With a wonderfully vintage sound track it might be that some would find, in these somewhat ridiculously over the top politically correct times,Steve Of The River a little “racist” in its depiction of African natives.  But I am totally opposed to retro censorship of historical images [such as using computers to remove the cigar from the mouth of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel!]. This was the 1930s and the truth is that not everyone was racist!  This was the easiest way for a cartoonist to depict natives in a comical film.
So be warned!
The quality for 70+ year old films is great.  I loved some of the wacky scenes featuring things such as a police gyrocopter!
If you don’t like black and white animation then it’s not for you.  But if you have any interesting the history of British comics,the creators and animation you’ll LOVE this! And Grahame included some nice info fact sheets with background and all for £9.95 + 75p p&p!
Check out the website and contact Grahame for current price in case it’s altered. You won’t be sorry in adding this to your DVD animation collection!
But there is an up-date to this.  After reading the above article,Patti Brown contacted me to see whether I could help her identify a Steve The Horse statuette?  I thought that it must be the studio piece [see photo above].
That idea was quickly shot down.  This was much smaller -you can see it below next to a 50 pence piece.  There is no makers stamp or any other information.  Only one thing is certain,though,the quality and glaze means it was a professional piece rather than a one-off a fan made.  And,there is absolutely no doubt that this is Steve The Horse!
I have tried every toy or comic merchandise auction house/collector I can -nothing.  I even tried BBC TVs Antiques Roadshow -nothing.
Anyone out there have any ideas -I’d like to know details.  Grahame Newnham would like to know details -Patti would definitely like to know more!
There,thrown open for you comickers.
above:Roland Davies a few months before his death.
Denis Gifford wrote a wonderful obituary for Davieswhich I include below for those interested in the greats of the British Golden Age of comics:
DENIS GIFFORD
The Independent,Thursday, 16 December 1993
Roland Oxford Davies, cartoonist and animator: born Stourport, Worcestershire 23 July 1904; died 10 December 1993.
ROLAND DAVIES was the epitome of the commercial artist, never happy unless he was drawing or painting. His long career covered sports cartoons, topical cartoons, strip cartoons, animated cartoons, children’s books and boys’ weeklies, and towards the end superb paintings which were sold in art galleries to collectors who never knew of his once famous comic horse, ‘Steve’.
Davies was born at Stourport, Worcestershire, in 1904. His father, a Welsh musician, was a conductor of theatre orchestras with an eye for art. ‘He always encouraged me as a boy,’ recalled Roland, ‘by ruling in the horizon line, which taught me perspective.’ Settling in Ipswich, the boy studied at the Art School there during the evenings, then at 16 spent two years as a full-time student before becoming apprenticed to a lithographer. Here he designed cinema posters and one for the Metropolitan Railway of which he was particularly proud. His obsession with speed, whether by aeroplane, train, racing car or motor-cycle, led him to freelance cartoons to Autocar and Motor Cycle magazines, and when a new weekly, Modern Boy, was launched in 1928 he found a regular home illustrating action stories and supplying wonderful two- colour covers depicting roaring motors and zooming planes.
Curiously, his greatest success came with the very antithesis of all this speed: a lumbering, genial old cart-horse in a weekly strip cartoon called ‘Come On, Steve]’ – the inspired title was the cry that sprang from a thousand racegoers’ throats as the jockey Steve Donoghue galloped to yet another win. Davies took his sample strips – devised over a weekend – down Fleet Street, trying first the Evening News, then the Evening Standard, then the Daily Express. Arthur Christiansen, showing the editorial acumen for which he became famous, took the strip to his editor on the Sunday Express, and the following week, on 6 March 1932, Steve made his top-of-the-page debut. Davies was pounds 4 a week richer, a fee that was shortly doubled.
‘Come On, Steve’ was soon so popular that Davies conceived the idea of animating the old carthorse. Buying a stop-frame cine camera for 18 shillings, he set up a studio in his kitchen and spent seven months making a short animated cartoon. Although full of faults, the film when projected gave him the thrill of his lifetime. ‘The biggest thrill in the world was to see my drawings move, even if I had got the speed all wrong, and Steve looked as though he was floating,’ Davies remembered. In his ignorance he had placed his cel-pegs at the top of his camera rostrum instead of the bottom, causing all kinds of odd distortions. ‘Well, I learnt animation from a three-page chapter in an old book,’ he said.
However, he had the nerve to show his film to John Woolf of General Film Distributors. Woolf would not give a decision until a soundtrack was added. Davies hired a studio, improvised a track – and was turned down yet again. He lowered his sights and showed his film to Butcher’s, a minor distributor of B-pictures. They promptly gave him a contract for six eight-minute cartoons at pounds 800 each. With finance from his father-in-law, Davies set up an animation studio in Ipswich, staffed by students from the Art School and headed by one professional animator, the young Carl Giles. One by one the six cartoons were made, this time complete with a signature tune composed by John Reynders, whose orchestra supplied the music track and sound effects. Steve Steps Out was the first, released in December 1936, and a children’s book-of-the-film was published by Collins. Best was Steve of The River (1937), a burlesque of Edgar Wallace’s recent film, Sanders of the River.
When the Sunday Express dropped Steve in 1939 Davies, who had wisely retained the copyright, took the strip over to the Sunday Dispatch. They snapped up Steve with glee, and soon gave Davies the added post of cartoonist. He supplied topical comment in a large weekly drawing, using the pen-name of ‘Rod’. After 10 years in the Dispatch, Steve moved into children’s books, and Davies wrote and drew a full-colour series for Perry’s Colourprints, plus a run of the Come On Steve Annual.
Davies’s work for children’s comics began in 1933 when he drew the cover for the Daily Express Children’s Own, a Saturday supplement starring ‘Larry Leopard’. When DC Thomson’s new comic Beano began in July 1938, Davies drew a tough-guy sheriff, ‘Whoopee Hank’, and ‘Contrary Mary the Moke’, a long-eared donkey who was clearly a close relation to Steve. But his mainline comic work started in 1949 with the weekly serial of ‘Sexton Blake’, the famous boys’ paper detective, in Knockout. For TV Comic he depicted the children’s hour detectives ‘Norman and Henry Bones’, and created the sci-fi superhero ‘Red Ray the Space Ray-nger’ complete with club and badge.
He drew ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ in Swift, ‘Wyatt Earp’, the western television series, and a string of Walt Disney characters (Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh) in Disneyland. He even drew the adventures of ‘Woppit’, Donald Campbell’s mascot, in Robin. This linked back to his old speed-mania, and he wrote and illustrated several books such as The Daily Mail Speedway Book (1949) and The Ace Book of Speed (1952).
The continuing pressure of strip art finally grew too much for him, and in his seventies Davies turned to painting. Under the guidance of a publisher turned art dealer, Alan Class, he began producing dramatic seascapes and colourful Parisian street scenes, which found their way into several good galleries.
below:Roland Davies painting

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Combining Blogs?



I'm seriously thinking of combing the British Golden Age Comics blogs with CBO for the reason that there seems very little interest in British GA comics unless they are the Beano, Dandy or an Associated Press title.

Nothing definite just yet but "under serious consideration"!

With the way Yahoo has totally screwed up its groups now the British Archives group has become such a pain to use that, despite all the info and pages of albums, I've just left it as it is.

The link is on the blog roll.

Now, off to rest my weary body!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

I'd Sooner Stick "Mr Floppy" In A Crazed Rottweillers Jaws Than Reboot!



The question has allways been, for me, do I 'reboot' UK Golden Age comic characters or do I leave them as they were?

Let's be honest here: there was no big writer-artist teams in UK comics of the 1939-1951 period. No Simon and Kirby's.  We've never really had an idea of what creators were paid in those days but I'm going to guess it was not a great deal.  Comics were cheap, throw-away entertainment that only cost a few pennies.

Gerald Swan is the best known publisher from this period and his attitude seemed to be that there was a huge gap in the market left by import restrictions (thanks to that Hitler bloke).  Swan was an entrepreneur and he paid what he thought was appropriate.  No doubt Harry Banger and others who could supply strips on a weekly basis got the best deals but even then the creator had to keep churning out the work.

I doubt that one of these men -or women- sat down one day and plotted a long term storyline for their characters.  This was not the "Marvel Age of Comics" and with all the restrictions facing publishers I doubt whether many even believed more work would be coming in and even if it was -for how long?

So, it was basically a strip with a few vizual gags and then a punchline or "wham bam action!" in the space of one or a few pages. No great characterizations.

Take Zom of the Zodiac by S. K. Perkins. One story in which Zom peeks around a corner, turns a bullied man into a taller, better looking man to trouncew the bully but when said man becomes too full of himself...Zom changes him back.  Yes, probably a moral in there and we Brits loved some morals in our comic strips!  But you have to ask -"What?" "Who?" "Why?"

I've used Zom now for almost 30 years and developed him into a more complex character but those questions still apply to a degree.  He seems to be friends with The All Seeing Eye, has had a hand in guiding super heroes/crime-fighters over the decades if not centuries but we still have no 100% answer to who or what he is.  The Green Skies will see a little more revealed and, perhaps, a glimpse or hint at who he might be.

And TNT Tom, and later his cousin Tina: given powers by aliens, Tom saves miners after a cave-in, stops a gang of cop-killers and even saves Earth from biological attack by aliens.  His main concern? That his dad does not find out "the Wonder Boy" is none other than his own son. Luckily, the odd press photographer is avoided but imagine TNT Tom based in 2013 with all the cameras, cell phones, dvrs and so on!


Characters such as Moon Man or Marsman had one off appearances but over the years they have been developed somewhat.  In the Black Tower universe there is life on Mars, albeit underground -even an explanation as to why the various Martian races took that root.  For the Moon Man, well, we have a very rich literary history of Selenite civilisation from the pulps onward.  Both Mars and the Moon races feature in Green Skies (the Martians referring to Earth people as "our biological cousins" which ties in with the belief that life on Earth may have originated from Martian meteorites).

Rodney Dearth, creator of The Iron Warrior has been a bit of a regular in Black Tower over the years -can anyone forget 2011s incredible The Iron Warrior Vs Big Bong??  Dearth was, as I've pointed out in previous postings, a typical Colonial Britisher. Save you going all the way back to 2011 postings...

Was The Iron Warrior A Villain???

It occurs to me that,today,a lot of comickers who have no real knowledge of UK Golden Age characters will make things up or make bad guesses based on what they might have seen.


This can be said to be true when it comes to the Iron Warrior.


I can onloy find one source with any information on the character up to 1990 and that is the late Denis Gifford’s Encyclopedia of Comic Characters [Longman,London,1987].  In the entry for The Iron Warrior,Gifford writes:


..the most violent and bloodiest strip ever seen in British comics to this time,and for several decades to come.  Rodney Dearth,seeking the Jewels of Junius,arrives at the site of the Temple of Sloth in Central Africa,accompanied by his robot,the Iron Warrior. Captured by a White Princess,he summons the Warrior (‘wavelength 60,impulse 400′).  Crying ‘I come Master!’ and also ‘Ahrrr!  Whoo-roo!  Roar!’,the Warrior’s built-in chopper slices up the Sloths,cuts up a giant crocodile,and pulls the head off an outsize eagle.”



And from this we get entries in the Internationalheroes site:

“A robot controlled by Rodney Dearth, who used it to hunt treasure with him in Africa.
The Warrior isn’t really a hero, as it kills anyone who threatens its master, whose own goals are far from altruistic.”


Hmm.  But then we get,at the League for Extraordinary Gentlemen fan site:

“The Surrogate League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

When the government decided to form the Worral’s League they based it very closely on Mina’s first League, “When in 1946 it was apparent that Miss Murray and her colleagues had deserted our employ by going missing in America, MI5 elected to replace the group with surrogates in an attempt to recreate the impact of the 1898 ensemble…
  • The Invisible Man (Peter Brady) = The Invisible Man (Hawley Griffin)
  • Prof James Gray = Nemo (both submarine builders, Nemo even inspired Gray in League V2)
  • Worrals = Mina (female leads experienced in death)
  • Wolf of Kabul = Quatermain (both in the great white hunter tradition, they even both wear pith helmets)
  • The Iron Warrior = Hyde (both really killers pressed into service).
The Iron Warrior is a robot built by Rodney Dearth, Dearth was not a hero and had a more villainous overtone. He would command the Warrior to do various illegal things, including kill people, but mainly Dearth used him to hunt for treasure in Africa.”



YAAAR! RRRAHHH!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


Oh. I do beg your pardon.  Had a bit of an “Iron Warrior” moment there.  Seriously,I hate this whole “we know nothing about the character but it seems it was a killer controlled by a killer so let’s write that” crap.


“…Dearth was not a hero and had a more villainous overtone. He would command the Warrior to do various illegal things, including kill people.”


Dearth was not a villain or scheming killer.  Anyone read any old boys adventure books or H. Ryder Haggard?  By applying what the League page and Internationalheroes entry has written then we have to re-classify Alan Quartermaine as a cold blooded villain.  In fact,up until more politically correct times,most heroes would need to be re-classed according to this methodology.  Biggles takes on arch villain proportions.  Even Indiana Jones would be classed as out-doing the Nazis considering how many deaths he’s caused directly or indirectly.  Think on that.


Let’s get a little bit of perspective here.  Sit down kiddies because if you’ve not watched any films made between 1920 to…well…now,and if you’ve not read any history on the British Empire or American Imperialism ["Hey,Japan:we've gun ships and troops harbored offshore now do business with us 'voluntarily' or we'll make you!"] -in fact any empire or power!- you may be shocked.


Most sea-faring nations such as Spain,Italy,England,France etc.,sent out exploratory ships/fleets to seek out new lands and new treasures and subdue the local population by any means including genocide [keep some alive for slaves,of course]. The Ashante were great at being slavers and made a lot of money out of it.  It’s a two-way thing you see -are black african slavers villains? Hey,slavery still exists today and amongst some of the West’s best pal nations.


But these Europeans were brave hero-explorers.  Anyone hear of a little group called the Conquistadores?  Dutch East India Company? The British East India Company -all had their private armies to,uh,”smooth things through”.


Ever read King Solomon’s Mines?


In comparison,Dearth was a limp-wristed liberal!  Hmm. If you were a British soldier at Rourke’s Drift with Zulu warriors rushing toward you would you throw down your rifle and wave -”Hello! I’m really against all this imperialism stuff -care for tea and a chat?”  Mind you,in Zulu Dawn,Denholm Elliott’s character more or less did just that -and was killed straight away!


Whichever city you lived in -London,Berlin,Paris- you would hear stories of strange lands,lost treasures and much more.  The urge to follow those tales continue to this very day.  If a chap was on his uppers and the old estate was falling to bits and,to be frank,the family coffers had been emptied long ago it was disgrace and destitution -but if you could find the “lost treasure” or anything worth a few quid you were saved!


I know that it is wrong to just go marching in,putting down the “locals” and stealing things that belong to them,whether they want to exploit it themselves or not –hey,I’m still for returning the Elgin Marbles and all those Egyptian artefacts we,uh,borrowed!


The context is that this was a totally different world.  Officers and troopers posing for photographs of themselves resting their feet on a heap of natives heads should have been totally unacceptable even in the 19th century but it happened -apparently “fun” hunts were organised with horse-riding officers carrying “pig-stickers” but I get a feeling the natives involved  weren’t having too much fun!


A white man would have his weapons because,even if a peaceful person,not all native persons were friendly in return [read some history].  I could write on the subject all day but it wouldn’t help.


The point is that we know,in the Iron Warrior strip,only that Dearth arrives in Africa with his creation.  If attacked he defended himself.  In volume 3 of the Black Tower Gold Collection,I published such a strip.  Dearth is exploring an area when a local priest stirs things up -Dearth is attacked and,though he could easily do so,he does not set about killing everyone.  In fact,he does fend off an attack by rushing straight at the warriors but then tries to use cunning to defeat the witch doctor.


Once the threat is sorted,Dearth goes on his way.  The one thing we see is that the Iron Warrior is far from some type of remote-controlled killer doing its master’s bidding.  It’s what would today be called a controlled vehicle or “power suit”.


Dearth get’s inside the Iron Warrior and operates controls and fires his weapons from here.  He also operates the axe-wielding arm.  Guessing at Dearth’s height the Iron Warrior has to be around 3-4 metres tall [10-12 feet]. But,it is still nothing more than a kind of hostile environment suit -almost similar to later [better designed] deep water suits.


What Denis Gifford wrote I have to take to be accurate -he did have a massive collection.  So,I’m guessing that there was  a remote control device and,it seems,a vocaliser of sorts.  This does not appear in the later strips I’ve seen.  That said,continuity was never a great strongpoint in comics back then.


Yes,the strip was violent but you have to recall that in early Tarzan films there were people being killed violently and arrows sticking out of heads. And,sadly,in war time Britain death was a daily event and kids [and adults] enjoyed a good “Darkest Africa” story with some white chap up against the natives.


So,do not think that,based on what people who have a narrow view of a character write,that Dearth and the Iron Warrior were just deadly killers.  They weren’t.


Now,back to Big Bong!


The Iron Warrior vs Big Bong:When Giants Fought,written & drawn by Ben R.Dilworth is available from:
http://www.lulu.com/hoopercomicsuk

The thing is that you have to understand the age these characters come from.  Putting 21st century sensibilities or any modern day ideas into characters from the mid-20th century just make them horrible Marvel or DC style reboots

How does this work when the characters come into contact with contemporary Black Tower characters?  Well, buy the books and find out! Following Green Skies there will be a more formalised chronology for the characters so that there is a definite JLA-Justice Society (Earth 1 and Earth 2) vibe going on.  Though the characters have met before the Green Skies saga will clear things up for newer readers but -and I have to emphasise this- the characters are not changed and certain not rebooted!!

If you cannot treat characters with certain respect and try to stay true to how they first appeared then you have failed as a creator.  We do not have to reboot so that TNT Tom is afraid his father will find out he is the Wonder Boy because his father is a violent child beater!!

The reaction from people who first read the comics as kids 60-70 years ago and purchased the Black Tower reprints was that they were "over joyed" and thought they would never see their favourite characters again.  Okay, not great sales but just those few comments give me a big boost.

You can add or develop these old characters but you MUST be true to what they were and, being honest, the industry is swamped in reboots, darkness, blurry-lined "good and evil" and just not enough fun.



Yes, I'm an old fart but I think you still have to see comics as having some fun...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Green Skies: The Fight For Mankinds Survival And Soul Begins

If you have not yet smelt the decay of Man. If you have not yet seen the increase in terror, chaos and anarchy in the world.  If you have ignored the freakish weather and geological upheavals.  If you have not yet seen the green tinted skies.

It is too late for YOU.



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Yes. I AM Still Alive.....Barely.

   It's been a while since I posted to this blog. There are several reasons why. The first is that certain folk have been grabbing scanned pages presented on this blog for the first time anywhere since they were first printed and claim the scans are theirs. This happens all the time on the net so it never surprises me but -BUT- I think it is sad that they cannot share AND credit the original scanners without whom they -let's be honest- would have nothing.But that is the nature of these people. 

      The other reason is that, oddly, I do get a lot of internet attacks against me because I am "using scans without getting the permission of the artists or publisher".  My response is that most of the publishers are dead.  Some of the artists we do not even know -I've spent years tracking down art and leads and naming more than a few.

      What I also get are regular -about one every couple of months- emails from American folk who want to know the copyright status of these UK Golden Age characters (many I have been using -and a few with permission from creators or publishers while alive- since the early 1980s. Why? Because they want to use them as "rebooted concepts" whatever that is.  I no longer answer these emails because when I explained I had used some in my own works I got hysterical come-backs such as "Oh, so EVERY Golden Age character is yours and yours only??" or "You are stealing these characters and I want to use them properly!"  The US has hundreds of unused GA characters -use them.

      Even the books I publish -at a loss (and that is provable) of Golden Age UK strips gets me grief. may have scanned a certain comic and if they did and I used something they get a credit. If the person scanned the book....

"Those are my scans!"/"I scanned that comic -have you credited me?"  Firstly, I thank those who provide scans but that, in some cases, is vague because "Comic1947" is an internet pseudonym NOT a person's name.  Secondly, a person

     Hey, I even at one point offered contributors of scans copies of the books their scans were used in. BUT no one wanted to give their names or addresses so how do they know they are not credited? Odd. The comic community used to be so different before silly web names came in. We used to correspond but that is out of the question these days!

    There are plans afoot for reprinting more old GA strips but in Black Tower Super Heroes amongst more modern day strips. Big collections that do not sell are too much work.

    So keep checking in -you never know what's about to appear!