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Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Decision And Why. It Needs Explaining.


 I apologise for the ramble, though. I did say I would be open and honest about publishing so...

Firstly, I will make it clear that my severe financial problems have not gone away. They are here and I face them every day.  Nothing has changed there.

What has changed I will explain. I had a very long conversation and discussion with Frank Barrell on Friday and went over why I had made serious decisions lately regarding publishing.

All the lack of sales print outs from the online store were laid out. In fact, every printout covering 2010-2017 was laid out.

I will paraphrase Frank’s points.

I started publishing in 1984 though I was involved in printing in the 1970s and had even put together a school magazine (the story of that and why it was banned as well as my selling copies of Oz magazine can be found in my QRD interview).

1. When the school mag was banned did I give up and just say “well that’s it then”?

2. When I worked with small and later larger US Independent publishers and got ripped off or messed about did I quit?

3. When I invested more than a month tailoring Heroes Of India for Diamond Comics in India –almost 50 pages of art, colour samplers and covers- and they decided to drop the idea without telling me…the same thing another Indian publisher later did…did I quit?

4. When I put in weeks of work drawing horror/ghost stories and later, at the suggestion of a senior editor, put together a D-Gruppe sampler issue for Bastei Verlag who were then taken over by Egmont and all work in progress dropped without telling creators, did I quit?

5. Did I quit over the constant, daily, troll emails as well as lies these same people put on UK comic forums from 1999-2016?

6. When Fleetway cancelled projects I worked hard on and then never paid me the £5,00+ it owed me for scripts, did I quit?  When the two editors at Egmont did the same thing did I quit?

7. Marvel UK-same thing. Did I quit? (no mention was made of me holding a Marvel editor out of the window. Good)

8. Did I quit when the two best selling adult graphic novels I wrote were allowed (the publisher never even attempted to step in) to be illegally downloaded millions of times?

9. Did I quit when one artist after another who I had helped get into comics (when I was a creators representative) cold shouldered me?

10. When a lawyer from Defiant Comics threatened to sue me because my Black Tower logo (used since the 1970s) was similar to their logo (1993) did I just back down and quit or did I tell him I looked forward to seeing him in court and to **** off?   The answer to that is obvious.

11. When an idiot at IPC Media and their legal department threatening the full weight of Warner (who owned IPC then) if I did not stop using my own characters (seriously) and did not pay for using characters in Looking Glass, which was a project submitted to IPC a few years before, did I back off and quit? (same as with Defiant but I was on good terms with management at IPC and later Warner told me they had no idea any of this had been going on)

12. Did I back off and quite when a number of other such incidents occurred (I am not giving details here because the people involved are either no longer here (alive) or nothing to do with the companies today)?

At this point I have to say that points 13-20 involved personal events so I won’t go into those.

The obvious answer was “No” to each point. 

So when I asked what the point was I was asked “Why are you being a ****** quitter now?”

Bit rude, but….

Yes, I took the point that I have been without money before.  Yes, in the 1980s/early 1990s I did often go 4-6 days without food (note to youngsters: in those circumstances tomato ketchup in hot water tastes fine. I also lived on one cabbage for a week. Drink plenty of fluids and when you get food do NOT eat like crazy!! Small amounts only to start).

It was pointed out that with over 90 books over 9 pages on the online store it was stupid to just close it down.  There were also 10 other books prepared waiting publication.  And hundreds of pages of The Green Skies so was I seriously going to dump all that?

Frank then pointed out that Comic Bits gets thousands of views per day and has a truly world wide audience –more countries from Africa recently appearing in the stats, too.

I pointed out I still review books and the counter point was that “reviewing does not earn you money!”

I pointed out that a lot of genres were covered by Black Tower and these were in comics, comic albums and graphic novels –excluding the prose books.  Artists had turned in fantastic work but showing that on CBO had not resulted in sales –and I was told quitting meant those creators were being let down.

I pointed to the lack of sales and a few other things but the response was that I had never quit before despite major problems so why was I quitting now? 

Paraphrasing again: “You are too ***** stubborn to quit.  You know that once this rough patch is over you’ll be like an express train again.  You think about it. Can you live with having quit?”

I get the point.  But, for the foreseeable future, what?   Yes, I will continue reviewing books as they arrive but beyond that--?

I was told that I needed to keep the idea of one day comic marts in Bristol even if not before 2018.  Again, depending on how many people want to book tables to just sell comics because last time I mentioned this I got no real interest.

The look and design of the Black Tower comics and books?  No. The covers have nothing wrong with them and the quality of contents and printing are excellent. Black and white is the best and affordable option –one of the books at the store is £5,75 in black and white. In colour that same book would cost £12.00+ (and remember I only get a small percentage since the printer and Print On Demand company take sizeable cuts –I have no real say in pricing).

The quality of the books cannot be improved upon.  Maybe Mr Dilworth can think of a new jazzed up Black Tower log?

Apart from that I can only wait and see. Flow through the rough waters.


But I really do not like to quit.  I have seen so many small publishers vanish or meet their ends in the last two years. I’m not sure how but I’ll dig my feet in. I guess at my funeral someone is going to say “He was a stubborn sod. Never knew when to quit!” Until then I will be that old bearded man people point out but hope I never notice.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Black Tower Super Heroes




The final covers for Black Tower Super Heroes 2-7 have now been completed. The reason for the slight delay is simple: it has always been Black Tower policy that no title gets published unless all parts of any multi-part serial are completed.   That has now been done.

All issues are 80 pages, Black & White, A4 (Comic Album) format and will feature British Golden and Silver Ages strips as well as newer material and strips from the old Adventure (vol 1) zines of the 1980s.

The Golden Age material features The Iron Warrior,Madame Foretell, Dene Vernon, Halcon Lord of the Crater Land and many others.
All contents conform to the law as laid down by HM Copyright Office.

The cover price as well as publication dates (monthly) have not yet been decided upon.

There is an issue 8 and that is designed to lead straight into The Green Skies.  It should also mark 34 years of publishing and an end to BTCG anthology titles

It is hoped that BTSH 1-8 and The Green Skies will see publication in 2017.  All books will then remain available at the online store until December 2018 which will see the store terminated.









































Friday, 6 January 2017

So, The British Comic Book Archives Is Dead then?

Back in the late 1990s I had intended to set up an archive of British Platinum, Golden and Silver Ages comics. Some of you will know this was called the British Comic Books Archive -BCBA.

Many of today's British comic 'experts' were not doing British comic history back then. The two main historians were the late Denis Gifford and Alan Clarke -it is from the works of these two men that much has been, uh, 'borrowed' and declared as new work. I've even found this with my own work which is being used by others as their own.

The BCBA started falling apart when the internet kicked in. For some reason old comic fans no longer wanted to help. So I suggested scans of books rather than donated actual comics. I knew some members of my two main Yahoo groups -Britcomics and Britishcomicsarchives had (they bragged on other groups) scanned most of their collections to go onto disc. I asked for contributions. Nothing.

At least nothing from the UK, initially, most contributions came from US members like Denis Ray of Texas.  From there it was a case of building up a collection myself so that I now have a good few Swan annuals and comics from various publishers. Another thing I learnt: never tell your group members if you find a Golden Age book for sale online. On three occasions it resulted in members putting in higher and private bids and getting the books which they bragged about. Never scanned or made available.

Britcomics was founded in 2004 and the Britcomicarchives group in 2007.  There are hundreds of images over a couple pages (tip: you get to the bottom of, say, the Albums page, you will find a "next page notice its not all on just on one page).





With only scans to form an archive the Yahoo groups seemed the best places, though they are always imperiled by Yahoo's own "tell no one of changes made" policy.

The Golden Age books -the single volumes- and the Ultimate Golden Age Collection took a lot of work. Scanning and cleaning up heavily damaged, taped or even foxed pages.  In some cases I do not just fiddle with contrast, brightness and resize but will zoom a page up by 800% to correct text and problems in panels.

These books are a work of love. They do not sell -I think the Ultimate Collection sold 2 copies in 5 years- and make me a load of money. That would be nice but the main point is to find rarities, the obscure and completely forgotten characters and comics. I was once made fun of on two well known UK comic groups (Yahoo! groups) for considering the books of Gerald Swan lost and important. Pfah! They were not old Beanos or Dandys so who cared? They were nothing.  I kept those messages -which is good because some of those people a few years later denied ever having said any such thing.

In the United States comic book history is taken very seriously.  In the UK it tends to be more "can I make money out of this or boost my ego?"   We all know who those people are.

There is one thing I have learnt in over 30 years of doing this: collectors do not want others to see these comics.  I refused to believe this myself for ten years but Denis Gifford explained it to me.  Now, Denis would let no one get near his books -of course, he was a true comic lover and collector and never had access to scanning -and I doubt he would have risked ruining his comics by scanning!

So I plod along.

I get requests from families of creators -grandfathers and fathers- whose work they have no samples of.  If I have examples of those strips I scan, or if they have no computer, will print off pages fort them. I don't charge. I do not help 'researchers' whether writers or students studying comics for a thesis or whatever.  You are supposed to, according to strict academic guidelines, credit sources. After seeing my work used word-for-word in various papers and no credit to me I drew a line. £100 consultation fee for research.  No one has bothered me since.


You learn things that go against what comic 'historians' state. In the case of Denis I was staggered when I found that the UK character, the Falcon, did not get his costume in the year everyone says (because they cribbed from Denis) but at least six years earlier.

And not one of the 'experts' ever mentions the biggest contribution Gerald Swan made to UK comics.

Here is something I found from a 1940 British comic -State Marshal V Killer!- this is a partially cleaned copy of the page. There was something very familiar about the art-style but I thought it would be a case of never know.  Until I spotted the big give-away!  It was not a big surprise because the artist involved did humour and some action strips but it was a find and previously uncredited to the artist.

The other reason for finding these gems is to not  just reprint but, where possible, and without "rebooting", produce new strips featuring the characters. I've done a lot of that since 1984 but there is another creator who has, in my opinion, contributed far more quality strips featuring the likes of Slicksure, Iron Warrior, Acromaid and so on -Ben R. Dilworth.  I think that without his contributions the whole idea might have sunk into nothing.  He has made the biggest contribution to keeping these characters alive!

So, one day, when I am out of my current dire straights, the BCBA will need to be polished up somewhat and maybe one bigger online location found.  So, no, the idea is far from dead.