From the ashes of ComicScene comes ComicZine – the 21st Century fanzine about comics. We will be talking comics here every two months and we hope you will continue to join us. You can read these articles first when you subscribe to the weekly CS+ International and get access to your CS+ Cloud Comics Library. You can then catch up here every two months in ComicZine with the best features and articles.
This issue we speak to Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics, Alan Holloway and Ed Doyle of Sentinel, Ben Cullis of the77, Fraser Campbell of the Berg, Tim Pilcher gives us his ‘Perfect Comic’, there are details of the latest comic events and kickstarters, we take a look at 45 Years of Starlord and Star Wars Weekly and you get two free comics from the library – the History of Comics 1977 and Atomic – to celebrate Free Comic Book Day.
There is also another free comic you can get! You may be aware we have launched CS+ a cloud comic library from which you can download over 80 comics (and growing) onto your mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop. If you take the £3.50 a month subscription or £25 annual fee option before 12 midnight 8th May and live in the UK we will send you the Kirknewton Story and Ian Kennedy print in the post, worth £15, absolutely FREE. 56 pages of comics featuring creators from 2000AD, Beano, Commando, Viz, DC and Marvel.
If you subscribe anywhere in the world you get access to CS+ – a ever growing library of digital comics.
Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics talks Quantum
Hi Steve, how are you?
I’ve very well. Very busy, but that seems to be coming with the territory these days.
Quantum is Time Bomb Comics new comic. Where did the idea for Quantum come from?
It was born out of a desire to do something different and unexpected. In recent years, Time Bomb Comics seems to have become on a lot of people’s radar, and while that’s a wonderful thing it always brings with it a weight of expectation. We won the Best UK Indie Publisher Tripwire Award last year so we needed to up our game accordingly to make sure that the hundreds of readers who independently voted for us didn’t feel their support of us wasn’t being taken for granted. Quantum is one aspect of Time Bomb doing that.
You’ve gone direct to retail newsagents. What prompted that decision?
Two things. Firstly, because nobody really does that anymore. It used to be the only way you’d see new British comics, it was definitely the only place you could buy them from. Part of the reasons why it’s no longer the usual method is because of the costs and risks involved; they’re a lot bigger than what’s involved trying to get a couple of hundred people to support your Kickstarter campaign!
Second, the success of Spectrum in WHSmith’s opened our eyes a bit. That book had already had a very healthy crowd-funding campaign and direct to comic shops distribution via Diamond, but still did really well through that traditional retail outlet. It was a realisation that whilst there’s some crossover of audience, it’s not self-consuming. There’s a whole audience out there that want to read a comic that they buy from a newsagent – so let’s give them one!
Is Quantum available in just newsagents or can you get it in comic shops too?
Mainly newsagents, though our distributor has let us know Quantum will be available in Forbidden Planet in the UK and Midtown Comics in the USA. That may expand, if there’s interest from comic shops to stock it, but we see Quantum being a newsagent fixture for the moment.
What characters feature?
Major Rakhana: Pax Galactica Part One, written by Steve Tanner, artist Pete Woods, colourist Dan Harris, letterer Rob Jones.
WesterNoir: Moon Cursed Part One, written and lettered by Dave West, artist Joseph Parangue, colourist Matt Soffe.
Memphis, written, drawn and lettered by David Morris.
Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man? Part One, written by Dave West, artist Marleen Lowe.
The Clockwork Cavalier, written by Steve Tanner, artist Ed Machiavello, colourist Dan Harris, letterer Bolt-01.
So it’s a mix of established characters familiar to Time Bomb readers and new characters making their Quantum debut. WHTTWFM and the Clockwork Cavalier are reprints that we thought really deserve to be seen by Quantum’s different audience, the rest is brand new material.
Having said that, we’ve tried to make the reprints fresh too, such as bringing in Dan Harris to colour to the Cavalier story that was previously in black and white.
Going forward, we’ll be reducing the reprint content further for Quantum No.2 when another new serial, “Death and Taxes”, makes its debut. That’s the first reveal of that, so you have ComicScene exclusive there!
How many times a year will Quantum come out?
Every two months, beginning with Quantum No.1 on 20th April.
You also launched Spectrum in newsagents. How did that go? Any more planned, or other licensed comics from Time Bomb?
We’re happy with Spectrum, our licensors Anderson Entertainment are happy with Spectrum, and #2 is well underway. This week I’ve had approval through for the suggested cover artwork (Yes, it’s brilliant! No, I’m saying nothing more!) and seen some of the completed interior artwork.
It’s all coming together very nicely.
The third Brawler has just finished on Kickstarter. What should we expect?
Exactly what it says on the tin! Brawler’s release schedule is perhaps a little lengthier than some of its readers would like, but part of the remit is to make sure that the content is really worthwhile. If some of the creative teams need longer to deliver, so be it, as one thing Brawler will never have is filler material. A lot of the favourites from Brawler #2 are back: Wolfheart, Amnesia Agents, Space Banshee Exorcist and of course Major Rakhana. We also have a new Baker St Irregulars story from David Morris – they first appeared in the Brawler Special we co-produced with ComicScene and Shift but this is their debut in the regular Brawler title.
Oh, and a new exclusive story done just for us by Mike Carey, That too.
John Higgins did the cover. How did you arrange that?
No arcane chicanery was involved. We reached out to John, explained the brief, and we were all in agreement. He continues the Time Bomb Comics tradition of releasing books with A-list cover artists: Ian Kennedy, John Burns, Steve Pugh, Phil Winslade et al.
And you’ve partnered with Dave West? How did that come about?
Bringing Dave into Time Bomb seemed a natural thing to do. I love what he produces as a creator and he was really enthused about what Time Bomb has already achieved and where it wants to go.
Having him as part of the core management team has already made a difference, and of course I now get to put the Time Bomb logo on all his Westiverse titles.
Any other plans for Time Bomb we should know about?
We have lots of things in various stages of development, but you’ve already had your ComicScene exclusive so that’s yer lot!
Thanks for your time Steve.
You can read Time Bomb Titles in the CS+ Cloud Comics Library. Subscribe below.
Ed Doyle and Alan Holloway the Bolt-01 Dave Evans tribute annual
Hi Ed and Alan, how are you?
Alan: A bit worn out from a year of putting BOLT-01 together and finishing up the campaign and printing for our latest Sentinel: “The Pack”
So how did the idea for the Bolt 01 tribute come about?
Alan: It was all Ed – it usually is!
Ed: I think myself and Alan were talking one day, back in 2022, about Dave Evans and how he had supported us by printing our strips in the 2000Ad Fanzines Zarjaz and Dogbreath. I was missing these unique publications and suggested wouldn’t it be great to do a tribute comic to him. I read a post on Facebook, looking back on these fanzines and I think someone must have been on the same train of thought, as they had mentioned in the comments section, that they would love to see another Zarjaz or Dogbreath issue.
Alan: We were expecting one of his closer friends to put something together, maybe a final issue of Futurequake or something. There was nothing, so we simply decided to do it ourselves as there were a lot of people eager to commemorate his life. We asked the two creators closest to him if there were any objections and none were forthcoming.
When did you decide to go for the Annual format?
Ed: It started out as a A4 comic magazine. Both of us loved Annuals, so we started to lean towards a 64 page Annual.
Alan: 64 pages! We thought we’d have trouble getting even that.
Ed: Then that became a 96 pager. Finally it has morphed into a monster 146 page book.
Alan: Like many people of a certain age we have a huge fondness for the old annuals, and using that as a format just seemed fitting once it became viable.
Is it an out in August for Christmas Day release?
Ed: It’s out in May actually. Planning to launch it at Lawless the end of May and Enniskillen Comic Fest, the first week in June.
Alan: Yeah, it was always planned to be launched at Lawless because Dave loved it there and would design the programme. They even have a charity type thing where they pay for someone to come that wouldn’t normally be able to, in Dave’s name. It is very fitting that we launch it there, and we won’t be sending out copies until after it.
The annual seems to have grown arms and legs. How did you ensure quality control?
Ed: Alan was Script Editor on this so he would go through the submitted scripts, make changes, reject those that weren’t up to scratch.
Alan: I read every script and assigned artists when needed. I turned down a few and suggested changes to a few, but I really didn’t need to do much as most people involved were involved with Dave, and I know from my own experience that he helped me make my scripts tighter.
Ed: For me it was putting the pages together as the art that came in for this was amazing. No editing needed there. Really talented, creative people in the Indie Scene. Plus getting support from those, doing comics professionally, was fantastic.
Alan: When we were offered strips that he himself had edited and lettered but were unpublished due to his death, they were simply accepted without question. It was very emotional to read some of them, and we’re so grateful to those involved for letting everyone finally see them in print.
What stand out strips and posters do you have?
Ed: There’s so many to choose from. My fave strips are Flawless by Pete Howard and Garry Wharton,
The Wedding by John Wagner, Dan Cornwell, Dylan Teague and Jim Campbell and The Letterer by Pete
Howard and Simon Chinook but all the strips in this annual are really good. We have 13 pin up artworks featured. My faves out of these is John Farrelly’s rendition of Dave as Bolt-01 Editor Droid and Matt Sandbrook’s piece.
Alan: I totally agree with Ed’s choices, I love that John and Dan did a strip as it was Dave that put them together and kickstarted Dan’s professional career, giving us “Rok Of The Reds” and more. It’s just one page but it’s absolutely beautiful, as you’d expect. There’s a strip called “Holding Onto You” by Yousaf Khan and artist Katie Pinch that Dave Lettered and I genuinely can’t read it without shedding a tear, so that one stand out for me, but there SO MUCH high quality content it just seems a little unfair to single stuff out. I’ve read a lot of compilations that have their fair share of slightly duff material, but I honestly think what we have here will hit the 90% good mark for everyone who reads it. Pin up wise, it has been very special to get one from Dave’s eldest, Danni, who has done a great pic of Whistler, Dave’s bounty hunter character.
The book is for charity but Is there a message in there about talking to someone if you need help, particularly around Christmas and New Year?
Ed: There’s a message in the Kickstarter regarding those who may feel they’re in a dark place to not be afraid to talk to someone. Unfortunately Dave succumbed to his own mental health issues which was a terrible shock to his family and all who knew him.
Alan: It’s always an important message, but the annual itself is a celebration. All proceeds are going to Survivors Of Breavement by Suicide (SOBS), so I hope that someone somewhere will benefit form what we’ve done. The charity was nominated by Dave’s family, who are 100% behind the book. As well as the pin up I mentioned Danni Evans has also written the book’s introduction, which is unsurprisingly emotional and touching.
What indie comics do you like?
Ed: There is one Indie comic that I’m a MASSIVE fan of and that is Ash Redburn’s Cinecrypt. Brilliant. Black and white comic, featuring photo strips, artistically manipulated based on schlock horror movies. Well worth checking out. Ash has a 3 page strip in the annual to give you a taste of what his work is all about.
Alan: Ed’s spot on with the Cinecrypt recommendation. I like one and done titles, such as David Metcalfe-Carr’s “England Made Me”, and I very much enjoyed Time Bomb comics’ “Flintlock” series.
Sentinel is a great format. What have you got planned?
Ed: There are a number of strips coming up/being worked on. Issue 14 will be Heartbreak Spotel written by Alan and drawn by Paul Spence, his second issue for Sentinel.
Alan: It looks amazing, Paul really is the spiritual successor to Massimo Bellardinelli, and for that reason I only gave him alien characters so his imagination could go mad. It’s a sort of follow up to his first issue “A Fare To Remember”.
Ed: Then there’s They call her Trinity with art by Atholl Buchan.
Alan: I wanted to do a Strontium Dog type thing, where it’s basically a western with the sci-fi trappings more of an aside. It’s a gritty tale of a female bounty hunter, Trinity, tracking down the father that sold her into slavery. The title is a riff on one of my favourite westerns, “They Call Him Trinity”, and if we ever do another it will be called “Trinity Is Still Her Name”, after the film’s follow up.
Ed: Ian Beadle is working on his third issue, a follow up to Issue 11’s Dark Matter. And a young artist called Jack Parsons, is working on Wolf Riders. His art is very Manga looking, a first for Sentinel.
Alan: “Wolfriders” is interesting in that I write it to compliment Jack’s Manga-ish style. He’s only, I think, seventeen, and was introduced to us at Lawless by the lovely sometimes 2000AD droid Kek-W. “Dark Matter: Implosion” is another old school action story. Ian was ready to give up but he loves the characters we created so much I wrote him a follow up. At his suggestion the villain is Tezhol, based on legendary UK strongman Terry Hollands. Ian got his permission and because we are both fans of that scene it’s a lot of fun to have him in it. Because there’s very little money in it (we wish that were different but hey ho) we don’t nag artists and not everyone can commit even after saying they’d like to. This means I actually have several scripts that just haven’t been done and that’s a shame.
Any other projects from the two of you?
Ed: Will be starting on a strip written by Alan for Paul Deadeye’s Grimm Prairie Tales comic that will be launching on Kickstarter in October. A Mature Readers title that. I’m going through commissions at the moment plus I do live caricature drawings at weddings. I’ve a couple of those coming up.
Alan: As a writer I’m always up for anything as I’m pretty quick and don’t give a damn about payment as long as it’s a good project. Pete Howard and I are writing a new one off horror comic for mature readers which Ed should be doing a strip for. It will probably be called “DREAD” and will hopefully be a Halloween release with some dark stuff inside.
Thanks Ed and Alan
You can read all issues of the Sentinel in the CS+ Cloud Comic Library and comics from Atholl Buchan too. Subsribe below.
Starlord at 45
Established under orders from management, the resistant editorial staff of 2000AD whose job it was to spin this extra plate didn’t believe that Starlord’s existence should have even been considered. Following the long-standing IPC dictum that fresh new titles be regularly launched and older comics whose lustre had gone off eventually be folded into them, it was initially planned that 2000AD be gobbled up by and integrated into Starlord. Yet even in the first year of its life, 2000AD was proving to be no ordinary comic, and the momentum of its runaway success carried on throughout the five months and twenty-two issues of Starlord’s life. In the end,it was Starlord which was swallowed up by 2000AD in October of that year’s Prog 86.
In many ways, the title was a footnote in the more than forty five-year history of 2000AD, but for two key points; Starlord was the first home of a pair of British comics’ most enduring and well-loved series, JohnWagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s mighty mutant bounty hunter epic Strontium Dog, and Pat Mills and co-creator Kevin O’Neill’s robot disaster squad satire Ro-Busters, who, following their transfer to 2000AD, morphed into the ABC Warriors.
“The two comics were very similar,” says Mills, who had left his post as 2000AD’s launch editor after four months of the title’s existence to freelance as a writer, just before the Starlord idea was floated to his replacement, Kelvin Gosnell.“There was little difference in readership, and predictably it backfired. Comics should be different to one another – you’d think that wasn’t rocket science, but people endlessly make this very obvious mistake.”
“We had been working as a team, me, Mills, Kev(in O’Neill) and Jan (Shepheard, art editor), since God was a boy,” says Gosnell, who was given Mills’ old job from Prog 17 of 2000AD. “At the same time I was offered the editorship, I was also told to start Starlord. This was John Sanders’, the publisher of all of th uvenile’s (titles). He said, ‘Pat’s leaving,and you’re going to start a new comic called Starlord which will do the same sort of thing as 2000AD’. I had no choice, I could either do it or go. I felt quite stunned. “I immediately said, ‘I don’t think that’s the right thing to do,’ because it meant falling into IPC’s sausage machine production line. The pattern was to open a title, then let it grow, then six months later you start preparation for a new one, which you launch six months after that. Another six months later, when your original title is starting to fall off and the other one is still healthy, you merge them together. We all thought 2000AD was the time to break that chain, because everything about it was so good. We felt – and with the benefit of hindsight, now know – that we had something a bit special. I remember coming out of that meeting and bumping into Pat by a coffee machine, and telling him about it. He agreed with me that it was the wrong thing to do, but I had to do it, so I did.”
With another ‘character’ editor in place much like 2000AD’s Tharg – this time, the square-jawed intergalactic freedom fighter Starlord – the new title was to be launched with much the same quality of production and creative elements as 2000AD. Yet Gosnell had other ideas. “I wanted to upgrade the printing quality, because 2000AD was produced on Fleetway’s good old Number 6 press, which was this ancient thing, three storeys high, down on the river somewhere in Gravesend. We wanted to go for something like web offset, where you get a much better quality of colour reproduction – everything about 2000AD was its quality, and we wanted to do everything we could to increase that. We got into deep shit from Sanders, because he thought it was going to be on Fleetway Number 6 again. The new printing cost two or three times as much.”
With Starlord now his main focus, and one eye on 2000AD – which had largely been delegated to his assistant Nick Landau – Gosnell had a lot of work on his plate. “I was more or less on autopilot,” he says. “I knew I had to get John and Pat on Starlord, and I knew Ro-Busters was going to be a big part of it, because Pat and Kev had been wanting to do this for ages. In fact, I think that came from Kev in large part, because he was mad keen on Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds, and then it was Pat who came up with the idea of getting them to charge for rescues. It worked beautifully, there’s a film that should have been made; I think Gerry Anderson was keen on it, but it never happened.”
Although O’Neill was the co-creator of the series, it was Carlos Pino and Ian Kennedy who drew the Starlord episodes. “I knew I could just let John get on with it, so when he came up with Strontium Dog, I left it alone,” continues Gosnell. “As a team, he and Carlos were an editor’s dream. Otherwise I had to come up with various ideas, talk to writers and match them up to artists. Timequake was written by Chris Lowder and drawn by Ian Kennedy, and was a particular hobby horse of mine – I love time travel stories.”
The launch issue also featured Planet of the Damned, a series devised by Mills for 2000AD, which featured a cast of artists. “Overall, although Starlord gave us some good stories, it wasn’t something I wanted to do,” says Gosnell now. “It’s interesting that when it came time to close it, instead of 2000AD going into Starlord, Starlord merged into 2000AD. 2000 was different, it was stronger,the stories were better and higher quality… Nobody wanted to let it slip.”
The reason 2000AD was the one to survive is down to two factors, he says; ironically, the cost of production thanks to that high quality paper meant the company were glad to get shot of Starlord quickly; and publisher Bob Bartholemew, angered at a recent 2000AD strip on moral grounds, deciding he was going to get the title closed.
“He said to me 2000AD had gone out of control, and to an extent that was true,” says Gosnell. “I was trying to keep Starlord going, trying to keep my hand on 2000AD, and there was the bloody awful Tornado starting up at the same time, which I’d been charged with as well.
“This all happened virtually overnight – I decided that the only thing which might keep it going, if it was lucky, was if I went in and resigned, and said we’ve done a great job with 2000AD and that it should be mended, not thrown away. I got to Sanders first, basically, I was in very early the next morning to see him. It worked – I lost my job, but 2000AD kept going.”
Gosnell eventually went freelance as a writer himself, and eventually ended up penning the adaptation of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat with Ezquerra for 2000AD. “Having passed the baton over to Kelvin, I urged him to stay focussed on 2000AD and turn down a new comic, because no-one can manage two at the same time,” says Mills now. “It was utterly ridiculous, but I think he was left with no choice. It was clearly a mistake and he did the very best he could – at we got Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters out of it.”
Author Karl Stock
Ben Cullis of the77 and This Comic Is Haunted Interview
Hello Ben. This week you launch Ian Gibsons ‘Lifeboat’. The 77 hits its 10th issue at the tail end of the year plus your second annual? Are you slowing down?
When we started The77 project we initially thought it’d be a one off convention comic. The convention was Lawless, the year was 2020 and then covid came along and everything changed. The response to our fundraiser was immense, especially when folk had read No1 and we raised more than £10K for No2. Based on that early success while the rest of the industry had practically shut down, I may have have gone as far as pronouncing the comic was going bi-monthly. Three subsequent issues were released in six months but with artists struggling to keep to that deadline and with The77 Team returning to full time work as lock down was lifted, and then BLAZER! bring released, I realised a bi-monthly schedule was unhelpful and unnecessary. Certainly we continue to release comics very regularly – This Comic is Haunted No2 will be our 18th in three years, so yeah we’ve maintained a bi-monthly schedule but with four titles contributing to that roster.
What has been your stand out moments in the 77?
It’s been the continued huge support we attract, both from backers who put their belief and subsequently their money into our projects and secondly the creators and contributors who have continually offered great work that we have been lucky enough to publish. I have to pinch myself when I think what we’ve all achieved in a relatively short time but without the team pulling together and being there for each other it wouldn’t have been the success it has. Therefore, having recently celebrated our third publishing anniversary and to still be producing brilliant comics is another standout for me and I’m sure for Steve, Dave and Jo.
You are also sponsoring Lawless for the second year? Any surprises in store?
Su Haddrell who runs the show does a great job of running the UK’s premier ’boutique’ comics event and does a fantastic job of getting legendary guests and advertising them well in advance. For fans to have a weekend to meet their comics heroes in such relaxed and intimate surroundings, where photo opportunities are free as well as signatures, is something to cherish and indeed look forward to all year. That’s why The77 Publications sponsor and gets behind this event. It’s an ethos we really subscribe to and it’s seen Lawless survive Covid, a name change and now moving to a weekend long event. I strongly recommend anyone reading this check out the Lawless website and see if tickets are available for the weekend of 27th-28th May.
You’ve had a newsagent version of the77 and some strips have appeared in the US? How did they go for you?
Antarctic Press contacted us through a mutual friend and it worked out really well. We featured in four issues of ‘Planet Comics’ and on three of the covers. We have copies available from our online store The77comic.net so fans can get the complete bundle there.
You are a profit share. Do you think that is the way forward for publishers to produce comics or is there a market for page rates?
Metal Hurlant and other houses in the 70s were profit share. I contacted Jean-Pierre Dionnet, the original publisher MH about his experience. He wished me well and said ‘It works as long as everyone agrees to work for a smaller amount that the industry standard’. Considering the names we’ve attracted, it seems that professionals are flexible when agreeing a rate, some jobs will pay very well, others not so much. But so many of them have said they support what we are doing and accept a lower page rate. Considering that many independent titles don’t pay anything I feel completely fine about how we do things at The77 Publications. If a jobbing artist can’t afford to work for us I completely understand and never complain. Why should I? Like everybody, they’ve got bills to pay. But when someone you’ve looked up to for years turns around and says their payment can go to the artist or a beloved charity then I know we’re doing sonething that they are completely comfortable with.
With the cost of living and the cost of producing and mailing out comics biting do you think that is a challenge for publishers like yourself?
Firstly calculate the costs to the penny and don’t miss anything!
Secondly, remain flexible. By that I mean keep in touch with distributors, printers, everybody on the production side to know what needs paying and when.
We’ve never missed a payment and know we are judged on how quickly we pay out.
Going forward I believe fans of our titles know we are trying to produce brilliant comics and have stuck with us. Some have even said they’ve dropped other titles from their pull list to ensure that can get all of our comics!
The Haunted comes out in the Spring and another for Halloween. What’s planned for those issues?
More gore! Brilliant artwork and writing and superb covers! Dave Heeley started things gently with No1 but I’ve seen what he has in store and he’s holding nothing back. I really think that a horror title will do very well and have not been surprised the calibre of the creators he’s commissioned for the coming 5 issues.
And what should we expect from the next issues of Pandora and Blazer? Any stand out writers and artists coming through?
Pandora is Jo Heeley’s title and due to her and Anna Morozova professional commitments they are waiting for the stars to align to continue the fantastic lead strip ‘Star Nav’ which was so popular and has been a real calling card for Anna, as it gave her the opportunity of her first cover. We’re all meeting up at Lawless and hope to sort out the production schedule then. It’s a great title and deserves its place in our roster but sometimes things can’t be rushed and Jo knows that she is desperate to see the next issue published as soon as is possible.
Regarding BLAZER! – Steve MacManus has got a fully paginated No 4 ready to go and is due to be unleashed at the turn of the year with some strips returning by Lee Milmore, Pete Western, Colin Maxwell and and as always some surprises, that I can’t mention here. He is very excited with the comic and as I have to remind myself, working with a doyen of the British Comics industry is a dream come true.
What indie comics do you like?
I support the titles that my friends are involved in, so anything by Lew Stringer, Andrew Sawyers, Andrew Richmond, Warwick Fraser-Coombe, Azza, Bambos Georgiou and many others I’ll be checking them out and sharing on my socials.
There is a rumour that you plan a hardcover of the Bogie Man. Any truth in that and if so do you plan to print both the Cam Kennedy and Robin Smith strips?
It’s not a rumour anymore. The77 Publications are co-producing this with John Wagner and Robin Smith. It’s getting the ‘compete collection’ so I’m fairly certain everything is being repackaged, alongside the new material that John and Robin are creating. It will be Kickstarting in May and June and should debut in the Autumn.
Any other plans for the 77 publications we should know about?
Steve Bull is extremely busy with our art editor, Brendon Wright on producing the Lawless convention programme which like last year’s features those artists attending the show providing the artwork for a special strip as well as that the artwork was auctioned to support our chosen charity. Steve and Su are saying the same is happening this year which is great as over £1100 was raised last year.
Then The77 Annual will make its return, we’ve decided a bi-annual schedule is sustainable as it’s a huge undertaking. No1 was over 140 pages of never before printed work and old school Annual treats like ‘cut out and keep’ activities, games and depth looks at creators and information around the production of the comics. No2 promises more of this and will be a great addition to our pantheon of books.
So apart from The77 Annual No.2, a brand new kids comic, more news of that to come in the new year and the much anticipated and long awaited Lifeboat by the legendary Ian Gibson, that’d be telling, but you can be sure to find out soon.
Thanks Ben for your time.
May the 4th be with you
1978 saw Marvel Comics in a bad way. The publishing house had flirted with bankruptcy during the mid 70’s, teetering on the edge of extinction until a little fancied licenced property became the first comic book since Dell’s Uncle Scrooge in 1960 to top a million copies sold. That comic was issue one of Star Wars, and by 1978 the sci-fi classic which had quite literally changed the face of Hollywood, licensing, merchandising, marketing and the way summer blockbusters are handled.
The film didn’t arrive in UK cinemas until December 27th 1977, but the title reached the shores in the UK in the form of a weekly comic on Wednesday February 8th 1978. Costing 10 pence, the first issue kicked off with the Howard Chaykin drawn and Roy Thomas written adaptation of the film. Written and drawn without much more than a handful of studio images and early versions of the films many locations, vehicles and creatures, the title is fondly regarded by readers of the day and looked on in bemusement by most folks born after the days of the original trilogy.
Despite the hurdles laid out in front of it, the title swiftly became the biggest selling weekly comic in the UK, outselling even the smash hit 2000AD which itself launched in 1978, the year of the Daily Star, Pot Noodles and Summer Nights. “Enter: Luke Skywalker! Will he save the galaxy or destroy it?” screamed the cover, promising us “A Valuable First Issue”. Prophetic words, as the value of that first issue would arguably lead to the salvation of Marvel UK and the entire company.
I interviewed editor Dez Skinn a few years ago, and he brought up the dire state of Marvel UK at the time. “Marvel UK was haemorrhaging money. The only thing that was making any money was Star Wars Weekly. It was doing so badly they tried to sell the company off. Nobody wanted it, nobody found it viable. The only interest they got was from IPC because Star Wars Weekly was outselling 2000AD and they only wanted Star Wars Weekly. They didn’t want Spider-Man and the Hulk and The Avengers, they didn’t want any of that. So that didn’t work for Marvel because they were already licensing Star Wars from Lucasfilm so they wouldn’t get much out of a shared sub-licence.”
While a large portion of the content was shared, the UK version was significantly different from its US counterpart. It was far larger, in the classic UK comic format, had black and white pages and held fewer pages of the monthly Star Wars title, meaning one issue of US content could be spread across multiple UK weekly issues. As is the style of British weekly comics it ran a back-up strips across its run including Tales of the Watcher, Star Lord, Adam Warlock, The Micronauts, Guardians of the Galaxy and Deathlok.
The UK title also gave away free gifts, starting with the infamous X-Fighter in issue 1 and over the years bringing us free posters, transfer sets, mini model sets and more besides. Editor Dez Skinn was keen to maximise the freedom of having the Star Wars licence, and making
it stand out on busy newsagents shelves. “I looked at Star Wars Weekly and it was up to about issue 40. So the first thing I did was put photographs on the cover. I mean, how obvious is that? Let’s have Luke and Leia and Darth and the Millennium Falcon, let’s have them on the cover. Not drawings of them, you’ve got the licence! We can do the photo’s! It’s not rocket science.”
From issue one in February ’78 right through to issue 117 on 21st May 1980 the title brought the galaxy to kids across the UK and beyond every Wednesday. Reprinting the issues from their American counterparts, the 13th issue saw the story of Star Wars continued in New Planets, New Perils as the infamous green rabbit Jaxxon was introduced to the galaxy in the year we bore witness to the one and only television screening of The Star Wars Holiday Special. An admittedly rocky ride, the quality of those early pre-expanded universe stories developed, the artwork along with it as the designs and vibe of the original film were left behind and the gap to The Empire Strikes Back bridged.
The nuclear impact of Star Wars simply can’t be underestimated. On TV it directly led to the greenlighting of such series as Battlestar Galactica and Mork and Mindy. Its wider influence saw the return of Star Trek on the big screen and prompted Disney to take a journey into The Black Hole, along with a procession of mixed budget films like Battle Beyond the Stars, Starcrash and Humanoid. The comics realm saw a similar influence as the Micronauts launched at Marvel and comic versions of Star Trek returned to Marvel along with Battlestar Galactica.
Star Wars kicked off other franchises purely on its star power alone, and the potential of similar success. Issue 118 saw the title switch names to The Empire Strikes Back weekly to mark the arrival of the sequel film, and over the years switches to monthly titles and by the time of Return of the Jedi a hop back to weekly releases, but to fans of a certain age and savvy modern collectors interested in products of the time Star Wars Weekly simply reeks of pure, uncluttered mainline Star Wars.
You can read an issue about one year in comics, the History of Comics 1977, for free here. You can read all eleven issues of the History of Comics in the CS+ Cloud Comics Library when you subscribe.
Tim Pilcher My Perfect Comic
Tim Pilcher has had a career in comics for many years. He was an assistant editor for DC Vertigo Comics, has written several books on comics and has worked with Dave Gibbons on his autobiography Confabulation (everyone who takes out a paid subscription to ComicScene Comic Club before 15th May is put into our raffle to win a copy of the book). Or buy it here
NAME OF YOUR COMIC
Outlawed (Yes, I know there was a Marvel comic of the same name, but this is my perfect comic so I don’t care)!
The late, great Garry Leach. Simply one of the very best cover artists (and best artists in general) that ever worked in comics and beyond. I was lucky enough to commission him to do a cover for one of my books (the US edition of Erotic Comics: A Graphic History Vol 1). I miss him greatly.
A solid metal Sheriff’s Silver Star badge (made of real silver!)
City Lights by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. This was one of the great unpublished series that never saw print. Garth wrote the proposal, but it was always pushed onto the back burner. Sadly Steve (one of my favourite artists of all time) died, which is a damn shame. The strip was to be a slice of life story about 4 friends in different cities.
Powerman by Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland. One of the best examples of early Gibbons and Bolland artwork – This was the strip that helped get them work in 2000 AD. Apart from a limited reprint in 1988 (Eclipse/Acme) this work has never been published outside of Nigeria in its entirety. Watch this space… 😉
The Rites of Alchemy by Dick Foreman and Paul Johnson. This was a series that was commissioned by Art Young (my boss at Vertigo) and while 8 issues were scripted by Dick, and 4 were drawn by Paul, the series was canned and never saw print (you might be spotting a theme here in Outlawed).
Big Numbers by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz. This is one of the great unfinished comics of all time and I’d love to see it completed in our lifetimes! Great piece of work so far (2 published issues and the 3rd pencils online) but we need to see all 12 issues! Might take a while serialising it in Outlawed.
Kalifornia by Chuck Dixon and Duncan Fegredo. This was a comics adaptation of the very underrated Brad Pitt/David Duchovny/Juliette Lewis/Michelle Forbes film. This has some brilliant artwork by Duncan that has never seen the light of day – which is criminal!
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO INTERVIEW IN THE TITLE?
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Alan Moore together.
WHAT QUESTION WOULD YOU ASK?
Was it all worth it?
BACK COVER POSTER ARTIST
Ally Fell or Jay Gunn, two absolutely amazing artists who are at the top of their game and who deserve MUCH higher profiles than they currently get. Gunn’s Coal Face: The Devil in the Smoke just came out and Fell’s A Trick of the Light graphic novel is gorgeous.
Thanks for sharing your ‘My Perfect Comic’ with us Tim.
Here are some of our recommended Kickstarters for this month. Pledge now.
THE KISSING GATE
THE ART OF PROFESSOR ELEMENTAL
The Berg by Fraser Campbell
Hi Fraser, how are you?
I’m very well, thank you!
So how did the idea for the Berg come about?
Sarah and I decided we’d like to write something together at the pub after Glasgow Comic Con one year (I forget which year but a while back). Sarah had seen a documentary about the London Fatberg and suggested it might be a good catalyst for a horror story. Within a few minutes we had the basic vibe of the story decided and we went from there!
You wrote the story with Sarah Peploe – how did the process work?
We bounced ideas around for a while until we felt we had everything we wanted in the mix then I wrote an outline and character essays based on those discussions. After that we spit the actual script writing duties and basically did that tag-team style, Sarah started it off then I took over, then back to Sarah and so on.
The Kickstarter has been very successful. Any feedback why that is?
I think it’s a good solid story idea and I also like to think that people generally like my campaigns but I think the reason this had had a special response so far is twofold. One, it’s a very easily defined horror genre comic. I’ve written quite a lot of genre blends in the past and I find these kind of books can have a problem finding a large audience. They are fun books to make but conceptually they maybe fall in between two stools for a lot of readers. There’s no confusion with THE BERG, it’s a straight up horror comic that I think appeals right away. Second, Gavin’s art is just sensational. The line work, the characterisation, the action, the colour choices, even the logo are just so spot on I think that’s the main attractant for people. They see Gavin’s art and instantly get what we’re trying to do. I mean everyone has done a great job on this and deserves praise but I think Gavin has really knocked it out of the park. A lot of the comments we have had highlight they love the art style.
Is the Berg a one off or could it be an ongoing series like Alex Automatic?
It’s a one-shot and this story is fully done in one. However, I have a few ideas for sequels so if the demand is there, you might well see a follow up!
Any more plans for Alex Automatic?
Yes, James is working on the art for #6 right now. We have a full second volume planned ending with #10. James has been busy with his own very successful book Stramash, hence the delay.
In-dexed, the comic you are doing with Lucy Sullivan, is coming to Shift? How did that come about?
I’ve worked with Adrian on fulfilment for some of my comics so it came up in the passing. Really looking forward to seeing it get a new lease of life in the pages of Shift!
How do you choose your artists for your books?
Usually I’m just making comics with pals I like to work with and whose work I admire. I wish I could work with loads more people but time…money… it’s just not possible to work with everyone.
Usually I either develop an idea with an artist or try to hire someone who I think will be a good fit for the particular book.
What comics/ indie comics do you like?
I love Gustaffo Vargas’ Peruvian cyberpunk stuff, Gateway City by Russell Mark Olson, I loved Ploughman by Arron Losty, Becca Carey and JP Jordan, anything by Steven Ingram, Dave Cook or Kathryn Briggs, loads really. I back a lot of Kickstarters. I also still get print direct market comics and have a small pull list. I read most of the Bat books, Nightwing, Poison Ivy, Amazing Spider-Man etc.
My favourite direct market books of recent times have been 20 h Century Men by Deniz Camp, Stipan Morian and Aditya Bidikar and What’s the Furthest Place From Here? by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, both on Image.
I should also mention my great pal John Lees, whose new book The Nasty is excellent, it’s out on Vault. My other two writing group pals Rich Douek and Kenny Porter are also always great. Rich has a fantastic horror book called Breath of Shadows out on IDW right now with Alex Cormack and Kenny’s new DC Superboy comic hits the stands next week.
You say you plan more books. What have you got planned?
Right now James is working on Alex Automatic #6 as I mentioned and artist Alfie Gallagher is working on the art for a book called Starcrossed, which is a fantasy adventure comic about two friends who get sucked into a realm of space knights, magic and mayhem! I’m hoping to have the money to get Nightmare Fuel #2 going soon as well, it’s been too long a wait for that one! The next thing I’m working on is in the very early stages but will be something very exciting hopefully with my good pal, Gustaffo Vargas.
Fraser, thanks for talking to us.
5 of Frasers comics have been added to the CS+ Comic Cloud Library.
It’s FREE comic book day on 6th May – so we end with a FREE comic from our CS+ Cloud Comics Library. If you’ve liked this issue of ComicZine and want to support the creators involved and the work we do then please subscribe and read more comics with even more to come! Thank you.