Thursday, 22 December 2016

So YOU Know That I KNOW What I'm Talking About: The QRD Interview -Terry Hooper-Scharf

It seems a few people had trouble getting to read the QRD interview you are. Apologies if you come across any "&" which seemed spread throughout the QRD interview but I think I got them all!

Indie Comic Creator interview with Terry Hooper-Scharf
July 2015

Name: Terry Hooper-Scharf
City: Bristol, UK
Comics: Wow –so many.  Check out his online store:


QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics and did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?

Terry – Ohhhhh boy.  You realise that I am very, very old, right? I used to have comics bought for me by my grandfather, Bill. Being in the UK and the 1960s we are talking British weekly comics. I began reading comics at the age of 5 years. Comics that I enjoyed ranged from BimboBeezerTopperLion, and so many others. When my family moved to Germany, my reading, naturally, had to change and I began reading comics from companies such as Carlsen, Disney, and Germany’s biggest publisher of European comics, Bastei.

Below:That's me (about 10 years old) older brother Peter and Lassie the dog in Sevier St., St. Werburgh's my then comics stomping ground.

So that’s 50+ straight years of reading comics.

QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?

Terry – When I got my weekly pocket money (allowance) it was not much.  The family were typical working class so money was short.  However, with money I could decide what I wanted to buy and read.  I purchased UK reprints of the Dell Tarzan series, UK black &whites such as The Purple Hood and The Adventures of Mark Tyme, but what was the very first comic?  That was over 40 years ago. I really cannot remember!

QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?

Terry – Long story short.  I put together a school magazine titled Starkers -- The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth. The title came from the deputy head teacher and it was supposed to have cartoons, jokes, and a comic strip.  Apparently one of the school secretaries who had to prepare all the pages for print objected to the title and the head teacher banned the mag.  I had to wait until 1984 for Black Tower Adventure (volume 1) #1to be completed and printed!

QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?

Terry – The Golden Age period of the 1930s-1940s laid out all the groundwork and things got stunted in the 1950s thanks to idiots like Wertham.  The 1960s I would say is a time when things took off more and publishers developed more originality.  In the UK we had a long history of anti-heroes in comics.  The Spider was a master criminal with a crime organisation, but he also helped out the law later on so you were never sure which way he might turn next.  

And the Bat by William Ward might be considered a freedom fighter or a terrorist (depending the side you were on) as he fought to liberate his country, Stahlia. We also, in the UK, had a long history of occult characters -- Dene Vernon who tackled violent ghosts, demons, cults and even aliens and subterranean foes in the 1940s-1950s.  Too long winded?  

I’d have to say 1960s because the UK did see all these new characters appear & some were quite risky (we never had a Comics Code Authority), but then Marvel gave comics a creative kick in the ass. 1960s.
 Above: Terry along with an Alien friend at the 2011 Bristol Comic Expo

 QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?

 – I do all. I write and draw comics and publish them -- I also wrote for Marvel UK and other companies -- but I also write as a comics journalist, but also on specialist subjects such as wildlife, but also about the strange and weird things I’ve investigated over 35 years.  So I get to do all these things. Love it.  Prose books on factual subjects are harder as you have to include lots of research references and notes.  Now I do my comic journalism online!

QRD – Do you see mini-comics and indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?

Terry – Not any more.  A lot of the creators who are well known these days and who started in comics in the 1970s all began by contributing to fanzines as writers or artists and that gave them the experience they needed -- that applies in the UK and US.

Today, companies such as Marvel and DC are very restrictive about bringing in new talent and Dark Horse and Image can cherry-pick what they want.  With print-on-demand most people like the creative freedom: you can write and draw what you want and publish it -- no editor or moneyman saying, “Well, okay… but maybe if you changed…”  You also sell your own books -- whether for fun or to get the experience and feedback and make a few extra dollars -- YOU get all the money not a small percentage.

Below: The 2011 Big Draw event where I went to see how Paul Ashley Brown was getting on and ended up with about twenty youngsters teaching them how to draw spiders, worms and stuff in general.

In the UK the entire comic scene now is small press and indie comics and a lot of those involved in the small press have never even read a comic book.  It isn’t the same feel now and I think it’s easier to produce your own comic and try to get it to a company editor and see if they publish creator owned books because Marvel and DC do not.

It’s your choice which path you take, Grasshopper!

QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?

Terry – I never discuss print runs.  It is not important.  Sales are.  In the old UK comic days editors would tell you “We have a 120,000 copies print run!” or, later, a 60,000 print run. But that was print run not sales and when Fleetway still owned 2000 AD the editor and publisher told me “We have a 60,000 print run…it has a “cult” following,” which meant that the minimum number of copies a printer would handle was 60,000 but actual sales were maybe a quarter or half that -- and I may be being very kind with those figures!

Print On Demand means that you do not have to store thousands of copies of books -- just the original art!  With an online store or via Amazon or one of the other outlets who sell Black Tower Comics, what happens is that someone orders a book  that goes through to the print company who process the book and send it out.  That simple. For comic events you order as many as you think you might be able to sell -- so I have two big boxes here full of books for the next event.  Print runs mean nothing now.

QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?

Terry – Are we talking Marvel and DC?  They charge what they want and make up an excuse as to cover prices (read Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics The Untold Story!).

If you mean small pressers & indie publishers… there are a number of factors.  First is that, unlike mega big corporations like DC or Disney/Marvel, small publishers cannot call the shots on cost of printing.  We have to go by what the deal is we get offered.  With print-on-demand black & white comics are cheaper. If you had a 24 page b&w comic but decided to add 4 colour pages your cost goes up.  Printers charge so much per colour page but with print-on-demand all the pages, even if they are black and white, are charged as colour pages so your cover price has to reflect that.

You then, if you are buying in copies to sell at events or via mail order, you have to cost based on how much per copy and then add in postage of the books to you and then what it will cost to mail out a book someone orders from you.  Publishers get a small discount, so if you add together cost of postage of items to you, table costs and then divide it by the number of books you have to sell you ought to at least make some profit on each book.  I dealt with this in more detail in an online article:

I do not think there can be a standard cover price -- that went out the window when producing your own comics got easier.


QRD – How many books do you produce a year and how many would you like to?

Terry – I don’t go by a schedule. For instance, Ben R. Dilworth, who drew Mark Millar’s The Shadowmenback in the 1980s, sent me a completely drawn 28 page comic.  I read through it.  I then scanned and edited it and published it. Small pressers and indie comics do not get picked up by Diamond and we do not appear inPreviews and store owners really do not give a flying crap about us or our books -- they will when the mainstream industry implodes, which probably is not that far off and, as with the “black and white comics explosion” of the 1980s that saved all their businesses, oh they’ll love our books then.

But at the moment scheduling a book to be ready by such-and-such an event is done by many, however, we are our own bosses and so we can make our own schedule. At the moment, the online store lists 85 books -- these are prose books, comic albums of 24-70 pages, collected editions, and so on.  These have all been produced since I went to print-on-demand in 2009, so if you want a statistic that breaks down to 12.25 books per year!  I have enough material to continue publishing for a long while!

 QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?

Terry – I was brought up with British weekly comics so a series would run 2 or 3 or 4 pages in a comic each week.  You might have to buy 12 comics to get a full story. We never had monthly US comics in the UK, just the occasional copies that found their way here, so The AvengersFantastic Four, etc., were serialised.  So when I found colour Marvel and DC comics it was like “Wow -- it’s all in one book!”

I think indie comics have the choice of a trade or serialised.  I have always said that I would never publish or start publishing a comic until I had every part in my possession.  The reason is simple: I collect all sorts of odd comics from companies and people going back to the 1960s and you find part 1… part 2… and that is it.  With the internet, IF you can find reference to those titles you can find out what happened, but a lot were just cancelled -- never sold many copies or whatever.  So you have two parts of a series that goes nowhere.

Below: rough page for Heroes Of India

If you have parts 1-4 of a series, then you have no real problem.  I, like many other comic fans, wasted so much money getting into and buying a series that, “Don just didn’t want to draw comics any more so that was it,” which is an excuse from a moron.  I think that if you are going to ask someone to buy your comic, then you owe it to them to make sure there is a complete series or else you are just making a fast buck and running off.

Black Tower Adventure had series divided into parts such as Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes.  But I knew there were people who would only want to buy the super hero series or the fantasy series, but did not want the rest.  Whereas others wanted the whole contents as a series of books.  So, the various strips were taken and put into collections – Return came to 135 pages, but I then expanded that so the book came to over 300 pages -- but was still cheaper than buying all the issues with the original story parts. 

Other books I bring out as a single book. A fairly priced book packed with goodies. To me it made more sense.  People might buy a book so they can read a story from start to finish (we do NOT have ads in our books). Paid for and there to read over and over if they wish.  For those who like the anthology title I began publishing Black Tower Super Heroes so they can still enjoy that “part works” experience.

It is up to individual publishers and as a rule I go for all in one book.

Below: Rough page for an Indian publisher: Heroes of India

QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books and which medium do you prefer?

 – That’s confusing.  You need to define what you mean. Comics are comic strips -- Love and Rockets is a book with a comic strip by Jaime, another by Gilbert, and maybe one by Mario.  Anthologies are made up of a series of comic strips.  Monthly comics such as from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image are single stories or a main story with a back-up strip.  In either case I like them -- I’m a comicker!  If you mean as in a newspaper comic strip, then I do not buy newspapers but I used to enjoy Garth, Axa, and a few of the other old newspaper classics.

QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?

Terry – Again, it depends on how you work. When I worked for Eros Comix on Two Hot Girls and Maeve I would sit down and, in the case of the former title, I would type up the script for four issues starting from 8 a.m. and working til about 2 a.m. and then that would go to the artist -- Art Wetherell -- and to Eros’s editor and once the editor approved, I had to wait for it to be drawn and the publisher to print it (I had no say in anything after the script!) and that took six months?

Now, if I want to sit down and draw a comic (I do not use scripts for myself, so it’s straight to work) of, say, 24 pages; then I would do that in two weeks -- pencilled, inked, and lettered and then publishing it would take a day so it can be that fast.  These days, as no one is paying me, I can take a few days off.

QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?

 – I draw better than 40+ years ago when I was trying to work in comic publishing or as a scriptwriter.  I don’t use the computer for any part of the creative process other than lettering, which in my case is heaven -- my lettering was bloody awful.  Making a PDF is the main use of the computer after that, so I’d guess lettering and drawing.

Below: Krakos The Egyptian

 QRD – Do you do thumbnails?

Terry – No. Never have done.  I just draw straight to paper and if it fails dismally I chuck that out and start again.

QRD – At what size do you draw?

Terry – A3 which is twice the size of the printed book -- our standard size is A4.  A3 measures 29.7 x 42.0cm or 11.69 x 16.53 inches and A4 measures 21.0 x 29.7cm, 8.27 x 11.69 inches.

QRD – What kind of pens do you use?

Terry – I use a variety.  As a jobbing artist you have to use what is best & achieves good results at the cheapest cost to you because those pens are coming out of your pay-cheque!  At the moment I am using Uni Pin Fine Line pens with tip sizes from 0.05, 0.1, 0.2 up to 0.8.  I’ll also use other fibre tip pens and to speed up work I’ll not use a brush and ink for large areas of solid black, but a thick tipped permanent marker. I still use brush and ink for some work and I also use hard bristle toothbrushes for ink spray effects -- a very old technique used by artists going way back.

 I did a post on Comic Bits Online on this a couple years back:


QRD – What does your workstation look like?

Terry – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…oh, you’re being serious?  Well if you are a working artist and deal with paper, pens, brushes, ink, and glue -- yes, I still use cut and paste -- then your “work station” is going to look like a bomb hit it. I have a photo if you need to see the “tidy” area?  Most artists you’ll see Facebook posts from reading: “Took hours, but the room that looked like a hurricane hit it is now tidy. Now back to work so it will all be a mess by tomorrow!”

It’s how it goes.  You work and things mount up. I make hot cups of coffee put it on the desk and start work then remember the coffee… with now has ice on it!  Artists tend to live in degrees of mess, filth and total chaos -- people know where I work is called Room Oblivion.

Terry Hooper-Scharf 

a table..

QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?

Terry – I use my digits (I am so clever at times) all the time.  No, as I wrote above, I letter my computer and then the scanner to make the PDF. I prefer the ink stains on my hands and fingers and the smell of paper and crisp ink.  Digital is a rude word.

QRD – What do you think of digital comics and webcomics?

Terry – I work too much, so I’ve only seen a few web comics such as the enchanting Donna Barr’s Desert Peach After Dead (which I highly recommend…. web comics are okay if you like them, but I really am the sort of person that will not read comics via the computer.  I love books and comics in print.

Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes!

QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black and white?

Terry – Black and white.  For UK weekly comics the format was 79% black and white. I have done some colour, but I prefer black and white -- you see the old Marvel Essential or DC Showcase Presents titles where the art is in black & white and it looks superb.  Colour is okay, but hides a lot.

 – How many different people should work on a comic and what should their jobs be?

Terry – One. Seriously?  If someone can write & draw their own comic and do the covers, then just one.  If it’s a writer who cannot draw, then there has to be an artist… who generally does pencils and does not letter… see, we old school were taught to pencil, ink & sometimes letter (mine was too bad) and these days I get looks of shock when I say I pencil, ink, letter by computer, and if I colour a cover I use inks or paints. They keep calling it “old school”, but you had to know your job. “Ken has fallen and broken a finger -- we need pencils fast!” so no problem. “Hey, Ron just got diabetes in his inking fingers!”  No problem.  You had to be a jack-of-all-trades.

So number of people on a comic varies -- as does any profit from sales when it needs sharing.

 – How do you find collaborators?

Terry – I don’t. Not any more.  I used to get one artist after another contact me and, quite literally, beg for a script (I used to be a creators agent from 1985-1995) and a project to work on.  I used to go through every aspect of a project with them and I got the commitment to draw the series, which would be completed and more sellable to a publisher.  I wrote so many scripts that I still find them and can’t remember them. But I also have a huge box full of part or full issue art that was done before the artist either changed their minds because they had no idea how hard it is to draw a comic or they were simply “play-at-being-comic-artists”.

In 2009 I stopped doing scripts for other people -- unless it was a publisher paying. Someone who shall remain nameless, but went on to do work at Marvel, kept pestering for a script. I relented and wrote one and sent it to him. “I’ve changed my mind,” he then wrote back.

There are only two people I’ve cooperated with as writer -- Gavin Stuart Ross, who drew the Chung Ling Soo and Dene Vernon books and Ben R. Dilworth who I have worked on-and-off with since the 1980s. A superb and vastly under-rated artist.

So I no longer look for collaborators on books.

The Cross Earths Caper 

QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?

Terry – I tend to write tight scripts when it comes to dialogue and descriptions of scenes but I always allow an artist I work with a certain amount of a free hand. If action involves something taking place that is important to the plot, I’ll write that tightly; but action scenes apart from “the two fighting move from the castle keep down onto a steep winding stairway” I leave drawing the action scenes to the artist --they have to draw it!

I have, however, several times, had to write a tight script, but also provide art breakdowns and even character illos for artists.  You need to be flexible and if you are a good writer or know how artists work then you should be fine!

Below:art by Dean Willetts but colour work by Terry Hooper-Scharf see:

QRD – Do you think it’s important to have a full story arc completely written before starting to draw?

Terry – Absolutely!  As I wrote above, you absolutely must have that story completely written because artists may need to do research work on things like weaponry, uniforms -- if that is needed I have a big stack of those books so I’ll include references -- or even vehicles or locations mentioned.  The artist also needs to see the complete script from start to finish because if she/he sees script #1 then something may be drawn in a certain way, but script #3 gives a description that makes the previous interpretation wrong -- it can happen for various reasons.

An example: I was in a meeting with about twenty artists and writers and we were told the theme of an anthology book.  We all had to write our own chapters, but we all had to have an old airship somewhere in the background.  I asked, “What type of airship --there are many different types and we all need to be producing the same thing in our individual chapters?” Without hesitation the editor waved his hand and said “We’ll sort that out after all the chapters are in!”  Now that made no sense.  He should have decided the type of airship and supplied a copy illo to each of us, but he was saying “draw it all and you can change the airship to what I decide later” -- and this was on a tight deadline. A lot of people who have never worked in comics like to pretend they are "editors"*

So full story and all the reference the artist will need.

QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?

Terry – I seriously cannot answer that.  It’s been said over-&-over that I have no ego to speak of.  With comics I do the work that needs doing.  My artistic influences come from all over -- Europe, the United States, UK artists and even the Spanish artists that worked for the UK industry.  We should -- should -- have our own individual style as writers to a degree, but as artists definitely our own styles.

I think it utter egotism and arrogance to say or write “I’m more a Sal Buscema type artist” or “Well, I like to think I draw more like Gene Colan”.  I’ve had young artists say, “I’m going for a Dave Gibbons look to the art,” or a Finch style and I say, “NO! Draw in your own style & unless it is essential to the book you are working on, develop your own style!”

I would never, ever compare myself to another comics creator.

QRD – What do your friends and family think of your comics?

Terry – Well, my main supporters were my grandparents, who are long dead now but they used to encourage me to draw and -- to my utter embarrassment -- tell people how good I was.  My parents are dead and what’s left of my family I never get feedback from about my comics.  

I think artists or writers who have partners who support them and realise being a creative person you need to concentrate and be left alone a lot of the time and you’ll be very messy, miss meals, or leave them til they are cold -- and still want to live with them -- they are very lucky.

QRD – What do you think of superheroes?

Terry – Real life ones or in comics? I’ve met some of the “real life” UK superheroes and they are lovely, but I wouldn’t trust them to cross the road.  Comic book super heroes I love.  I’ve been collecting The Avengers andFantastic Four & Justice League & so on since the 1960s (no new Marvel or DC, though).  So long as people remember that super heroes are not all comics are about, then no problem -- there are many great indie titles out there covering many genres.  People need to realise that and support indie publishers.

QRD – Marvel or DC?

 – Up until about 2005 I was a Marvelite from age 6, so a lot of my life invested in Marvel comics and characters. I did read JLS -- loved the JLA/JSA team ups, read quite a lot of 1980s DC books.  Over all it used to be Marvel.

QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?

 – Only if the original characters not the rebooted & rebooted & rebooted ones… uh, I was going to say JSA since Avengers will never happen (like JSA would!).  Hmm. I have to say a good few of the old US Golden Age characters -- not Timely or National.  So much potential there.  Or the more obscure Marvel characters like Wood God and so on.

QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?

Terry – I do.

QRD – What conventions do you try to attend and why?

Terry – Conventions in the UK tend to have the same old guests, exhibitors, & creators which is stale.  I’d like to, one year, go over to Europe for a couple conventions -- maybe Erlangen in Germany. Not to forget the Netherlands. I would certainly love to go to a couple of small US comic conventions… but money!

QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?

Terry – Done that all my life.  For other people, if I get paid I love them!

QRD – What do you do to promote your books?

Terry – Wow. YouTube videos, postings on Comic Bits Online (almost 2 million views so far and 2-3000 views a day to which you can add almost 2 million on Google+) and Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook -- I have Yahoo groups I post to and various blogs, so I do a lot!!

QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?

Terry – Comic shops are not interested.  It doesn’t matter if there are super heroes, horror, or whatever.  They are indie, black and white and NOT DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, or Image.  Shops don’t care, so I no longer consider them.

QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?

 – I wrote scripts for a couple of UK TV series but they never came to be as it was at the time how TV was run changed –de-regulization.  I worked with an animator in South America on a project called The Paranormals, but I think that studio went bust.  Not lucky, am I?  I think an animated series where gradually a rotating cast of characters could be used.  TV -- well, how many British or European live action shows are there? It’s very unlikely but a bit of fantasy now and then helps!

QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?

Terry – I read comics & I try to find missing back issues and whereas I cannot afford issues 1-60 of Marvel’sThe Avengers, it doesn’t matter as the Masterworks editions fill in the gaps.  It isn’t about value, bagging, boarding & boxing or even having comics graded. 

I know people who have 4, 6, or even 10 (TEN!) copies of one comic; not because it is important, but because they want to get a better and better grade that gets graded, slabbed in plastic and hidden in a box somewhere.  Until I was in my late 40s I had no permanent home, now I can sort things out & when I finish current projects I intend to sit back and read The Avengers from #1 up to the end of volume 1 -- 400… no, 502(?) comics.

When I slip this mortal coil, all the books will be sold off or dumped, so I enjoy reading them without the collectors mania -- I have the complete Silver Age Sub-Mariner series now & it’s lovely to read.

QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?

Terry – Well, hopefully, Diamond’s monopoly will be shattered.  It tends to make the rules which are: “You WILL buy what makes US money!”  It does not care for the small press or indie publishers.  In the UK it has the monopoly as all other distributors have been forced out (monopolies are supposed to be illegal in Europe). Basically, most store owners do not either.

I think that, so long as postal services do not get any more expensive, comic buyers for indies & small press will do business online unless some distributor comes in and treats us fairly without robbing us -- and they can get stores to treat these books with respect.  I would like to see that, but will it happen?

QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?

 – Making more for youngsters, to get the next generation of comic readers in.  Not Marvel or DC, but indie publishers need to be trying to do this, but most want to publish exactly what they want -- “Ain’t our business to bring in new kid readers!” But it is.  In the UK there are far more small press events organised locally, but they tend to all be people who know people & friends -- almost little cliques.  These could do a lot more to bring readers in; but, as I wrote, most small pressers have never read comics.  At one event no one knew who Jack Kirby was.  No one knew of Steve Ditko. John Byrne? No. Stan Lee…”Oh, that old guy fromThe Big  Bang Theory!”

We need to get comics -- free comics -- to groups who help kids from poor families because a comic can provide hours of escapism, maybe even be a way out of poverty by encouraging these kids to create comics.  Hold free comic open days (not Free Comic Book Day ) to encourage families to get into the medium.  Comics could do so much for kids -- and adults -- but everything at the moment seems to be self, self, self and “let’s grab those dollars!”
That would make comics a very soul-less medium.

QRD – Anything else?

Terry – Yes. Please buy my books.  Make me rich. Other than that, enjoy reading and making comics.

*As the chapter I did out raged the, uh, "editor" because I wrote, pencilled and inked it (!) and it involved my Zero Heroes, it and another (rejected by the same person) are adapted and going into Black Tower Super Heroes -all inter-linked into The Green Skies and another story!

all photos/illustrations (c) 2016 T. Hooper-Scharf

Zero Sum Bubblegum

Writer: David Robertson. 
Artist: David Robertson, with 6 short stories drawn respectively by Eileen Budd, Paddy Johnston, Tim Kelly, Neil Paterson, Ludi Price and Pam Wye.

Publisher: Fred Egg Comics, in Dundee, Scotland.

Format -book size: 6”x9” (A5/Digest)

Black and White / some colour

page count: 60


According to David Robertson: 

"Zero Sum Bubblegum is a one man anthology – at least as far as the writing goes. “A Book with Death in the Title” causes trouble in a library. “Tiddlywinks” is presented as the most popular sport in the world. A teacher explains “Rights & Responsibilities” to her pupils. A spaceman is left behind by his parent ship. A prankster runs amok in a virtual reality environment. A casually violent carnival worker causes distress in “Why, Waltzer Man..?”, Bruce the Rat stars in “One Adventure Too Many”. 

There is a brief history of “Frankensteins”, and some tips in “How to Make Comics Part 14”. I also pay tribute to Big Country singer Stuart Adamson in “Stay Alive”. 

And there's more! I have 6 different short stories written by me, with art by 6 others as listed above, on topics such as lost knives, victory laps, stamps, the UK economy, exam invigilators and celebrities on social media."

Now the name may sound familiar? Back in 2014 I reviewed David's other book, Dump

I think I was a little hard on the first issue I saw but that last issue of Dump had me writing that, in many ways, it reminded me of something from the 1980s in its style. That is not a bad thing. The colours on the cover had me flash back toSkate Board Muties From The 5th Dimension because some of their covers were quite flourescent!

There is a nice mixture of black and white and colour strips in this book. That in itself is good because it immediately lifts the book out of the pile of Small Press comics that abound these days.  The Ascent Of Man was a bit...blunt. Mind you, it does make a point. Eileen Budd's Lost Dirk was very well drawn and the punch-line...yeah, I have been there. Can't find anything out about Budd, though I know there is a Fine artist by that name.  Laren Guild by Ludi Price is b&w/grey tones and well drawn -again no info on the artist, though.

My Troubles With Men, by Robertson. The colour toning was very similar to that used in some old 1960s/1970s comic annuals and slaps the eye straight away.

I'm guessing, as Robertson is the writer of 28 (?) strips, that this is a collection of old and new material mixed around.  That isn't such a bad thing because you can tell which is the earlier artwork by him and which the later -including where he is trying different techniques.  The style is developing so the next book should be interesting.

For £3.00 you get 60 pages which is quite nice.  And, it's early on a Sunday, so I'll recommend it. For £3.00 you ought to be happy with what you get and check out Fred Egg Comics other books!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

So How Do You You Get Into Self Publishing...and SHOULD You?

Back in the 1980s there was an explosion in the number of Small Pressers both in the UK and beyond. Prose, comic strip, fan publication, poetry there were so many that the term "Zine" (abbreviation of "magazine" -noting the original fan newsletter publications).

Here is the thing.  The main thing really. Earlier we had used gestetners to produce publications. How to explain these? In fact, I found videos on You Tube!  The sound is a little rough on this one but I'm sure you'll find better ones! If you can't wait scroll down now!

A mistake on the stencil could be corrected with nail varnish if no Tip-Pex was around.

Illustrations usually meant going and looking for a rather costly photocopier in a local shop or business -that or not so great stencilled images (it's been over 40 years and I can't recall how we did that! Essentially, unless you produced your publication through a school, college or other source, the Gestetner was not cheap -back then (in the late 1970s I had one offered to me for £5 and later another for £7 which is nothing today but...) it could also be smelly and messy.

Here is a video of one in action:

But then came the photocopier breakthrough. There were ups and downs because you would often, uh, use the office copier when no one was about at work. Small shops might let you use the copier without supervision but then...Xerox and other photocopier shops opened up everywhere and in just one small area of Bristol there were 20...there are none today.  Seriously, any other country and there are copier centres but in the UK they seem to be find and go to places.

However, back in the 1980s you could pop into a copier centre on the way to the Westminster Comic Mart and copy off pages or zines and get your stapler out there or at the mart and there you were -a zine publisher!

We all took it very Actually, we had a lot of fun.  "Hey, I need 2 pages to finish the zine off -anyone help?" and within a week you might get enough pages to publish two more zines! We all knew each other and corresponded via mail -phones were too expensive and (do not panic youngsters!) there was no internet or email.....did someone just pass out?

And it is odd that we all kept in regular contact and helped each other out -whether you were in the Scottish Highlands, Cumbria, Leeds, Derby, Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Bath or London.  Everyone knew each other - or was introduced by others.  It's all so much easier now with email, attachments and so on yet that camaraderie spread across the UK is no longer there and certainly not on the international level we had back then.

But, back then as now, an individual can produce their own work and sell it. Big publishers have had their day and have made sure that new talent will find it harder to break into publishing and that is damaging for everyone. 

Let's say, however, you have great story ideas but cannot draw?  Publish your work either in parts in an anthology or (if short stories) single prose zines. You can find out of copyright or free to use illustrations online for covers or even for the odd interior page.

You can draw but no one will give you a break? Again, publish your own comic or artwork. Add an intro note stating that you are not a writer but wanted to get your work "out there".

I have seen people produce great poetry and yet they cannot find a publisher -poetry tends to be run by a very petty minority who will criticise every aspect while having no interest in publishing your work. Luckily, I've no inclination toward poetry other than reading it but those creating poetry see their work crushed for no reason.  Well, now you can publish your own work, promote and sell it and by-pass the cliques.

Film or TV reviews, horror stories -whatever, you can do this yourself now.  And with Print On Demand (POD) you can produce even better looking publications.  Black Tower books are often 'accused' (I call it praise) of looking too slick and professional.  Although I publish in the A4 Coffee Table format (in other words, bulky books with illustrations!) or A4 Comic Album size you can publish in paperback format, digest (A5), Magazine and so on. 

Do not be put off because it is not the most difficult thing to do.  Its quite easy.  Check out where you get a free store front -you can check mine out here though there are a couple different Layouts and themes they offer -

There is also Ka-Blam!

The thing with Lulu is that you get an Author's Discount price -a book that might cost someone £10 to buy from your online store you can buy for the printing cost so you can buy copies to sell at that price but sell at the full £10 at events (remember that when you price a book to sell you need to also take into account the postage it cost you).  No big sum of money for 500 books that you then have to store and hope you can sell!  Print On Demand means that a book is only printed when ordered which is why there is usually an "Allow 3-7 days for delivery".

You cannot get a table to sell at? Organise an event of your own and put the word out to other Small Pressers. A church hall, scout hall, or any place where you can hire a room -find out how much it costs to hire for a day then make sure tables for use come with that. Hall or room cost you £70 then charge ten tables at £10 each and you make back your money.  Never go over the top and ask for a huge amount to hire a table at your event -you'll soon find people really do not want to attend as sellers any more.

The point is that you can put together and publish your own publications now from your own room (so long as you have a computer.  If you don't have a computer are you reading this??) and it does not matter if you are not a top quality professional artist or writer so long as it is all fun for you and if you sell a few copies -why not?

Once you've got your book/zine the hard part is publicising it and that means sending out a review copy so budget for that and check to see who will review books and do so impartially (a-hem).

Do not expect to be the next J. K. Rowling or whichever computer hack is the current top comics artist.  Do this for fun and anything else is an extra. If you've a body of work you can show and it is good you never know.  Also, unless your parents support you, get a job. Publishing will not make you rich and if you are human then you need to eat and pay bills.

But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain. But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain. But if you have any questions I have over 40 years of experience and I have also still got full control of my brain.  What was I typing?

Just have fun!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Why A Zine Zone Blog?

The purpose of this blog is to take all the Small Press postings from Comic Bits Online and place them here.  In fact, anything Small Press related.

Small Pressers, though not all, tend not to have much interest in comic books so, hopefully, a full blog of SP postings ought to make them happy -books for review contact Terry at

Small Press events -let us know about them!

Comic Artists and What To Draw With -Berol, Uni Ball and Rotring Tikky Graphic

Okay, you see an artist uses pure sable brushes or this tech-pen or that one -all very highly priced.  The thing is that unless you are rich or have stepped right into a very well paid long term art job you are wasting money.  For an artist every single penny counts and job security is …well, not something artists get very often!

I have used Rotring pens (over priced and not great -this was in the 1980s), Guillotte nibs, caligraphy pens and even the very cheapest fibre tip you can get. I HAVE used brushes and still do but mainly for inking in large areas or effects. I used to go to the old Westminster Comic Mart in London and visit China Town to buy cheap brushes and b-i-g bottles of black ink.

However, if you try Berol you can find Broad and Fine tips but also Handwriting pens that allow you to draw using an even finer line.  You can do almost everything the very expensive pens can and quickly.  The only thing I would say is, once you’ve inked art using a Berol pen give it time to dry and do not try to erase pencil lines straight away as it can smudge.

Since the 1980s I have (despite the fact they seem to be harder to find in Bristol) used various pens but the main ones have been Berol Fine and Broad -the line is so good (until the tip wears down) that other professionals have sworn blind that I am using brushes!And when I say “use” them I mean a lot -the last little stationer I used sold me the pens in the boxes at a discount after the owner saw me looking at the pens and said “You’re an artist, arent you? You can get a trade discount”!

You can also take Berol pens around with you for sketching.

The colour Berol pens I have had little experience with as they are harder to find. However, I knew one artist (Paul Slydel) who only used Berol colour pens to colour and when I first saw his work I thought he had been using brushes and colour inks.
Image result for Berol black Broad tip pens
Of course, you have to find the bloody pens first but I’ll come back to that in a while.

 At the moment there are a selection of pencils/pens on my table because I do like experimenting a bit -the joy of being your own publisher is that you can do this. However, the main items I use are these:

 There is the Uni Ball “Eye” which is about 0.5 despite saying “Fine” and most “fine” pens you’ll find in stationary shops and W. H. Smith are 0.5 which is not what I call fine at all.

In fact, the Berol Fine is about 0.3 when new but after usage will get to a 0.5 line but the good thing is, if like me, you live in a cluttered working area with LOTS of brushes, pens and pencils, if you lose your Berol Broad -good for filling in large areas of solid black though BIG areas of solid black I still use brush-ink, then the Fine can handle the Broad’s job!

The effect? Well, I tried drawing with a migraine the other day (the current weather is **** up my head) and my eyes…yeuch.  But I did a rough for a cover I wanted.  Yes, I can see the faults in the illo but no one is perfect and I’d not use this one any way!

I posted it on Face Book and another site and then came the comments -was I using a “dip-pen” (Guillotte nib)? What type of brush was I using?   I explained but some still think I’m joking. Seriously, this was all Berol Fine.

 I did, at one point, use Papermate Rotring Tikky Graphic -these are designed by Rotring but came in a pack of three -0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 -a nice range of nib sizes though I would have loved a 0.1 and 0.2 combination as well.  The three pens cost about £4.95 in Summer 2011 but have currently hit £7.90-£8.00 in Tesco and other outlets so, for me, that is getting too pricey.
Image result for papermate-tikky-graphic-rotring-lichtbestaendig

There were problems with these pens. I bought about three packs in 2011 and I found pens from different packs began seeping ink from them -just by the red seals you can see in the photo below.  Now, unless they are clogging like the old Rotring pens (and you wonder why so many artists stopped using them?) then there has been a problem in filling them during manufacture. Each 0.7 from two packs got two uses out of them and then…no ink.  This also happened with all three 0.3s which realled **** me off.

For, now, £8 a pack of three I just simply would not recommend them. Put it this way, okay, they look sleek and well designed, but a Berol Fine, used properly can do the job of all three -skillfully used the Broad could replace the 0.7 if you had to.

“Spatter” effect.  No, I do not use a computer created effect (NEVER!!!) it is the traditional old way -ink on toothbrush and careful use of the thumb to get the spray right -experiment if you want to try this BUT make sure everything is covered up first and that includes other panels of art on a page you are trying it on!!!

At the moment I have a big tub of about 50 pens -if you work like me then use a pen. Put it down. Lost,. Next!

 A better view from the side!

These the basics I use:left to right -Uni Pin Fine Line with nibs 0.05/ 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.5/0.8.

Pen #7 is a Pilot Marqueur A Dessin 0.2.

The next a Uni-ball Eye Fine.

Then the Luxol Micropoint 0.5.

The legendary Berol Fine (blue) is next followed by the Berol Broad.  

Now I do have a big tin full of all sized brushes mainly for large solid black areas but you then have to wait for the ink to dry.  So, for speed, that big chunky grey pen is a bog standard Permanent Marker -Berol did them but they are far too pricy.  You can pick these up for 35p each or even packs of four for £1.00.

Nice effects can be achieved with biro pens but that is something you’ll find out eventually through experimentation.

Also, I have used Spirograph effects.  Enlarge them or same size.  Nice results.  In fact, last time someone asked me how I achieved certain effects in an interview people started going out buying sets!  Mad but...

Kahootz 1001 Spirograph Deluxe Design Set
But as freelance artists tend not to make a lot of money they need to keep costs down so Berol pens are perfect -as are various nib sized gel pens.

Back in the 1980s-late 1990s you could not walk into a supermarket, newsagents or other store without seeing the tubs of Fine and Broad (black as well as the other colours) but today..  Saturday morning I went into W. H. Smith in Broadmead, Bristol and was astounded at what little selection in pens they have -all sorts of brands and prices but generally all 0.5! There was a big  (b-i-g) box of Berol colour pens but at the price Smith’s were asking I didn’t even consider them.  But Broad and Fine black? No. Not one.

In fact, I spent around an hour looking around City Centre shops -not one Berol pen in sight.

This is a great pity because I think that for a working cartoonist/ comics artist/ illustrator there are no better pens. I’m told Berol may no longer be making Fine or Broad pens but as this only came from two store owners who did not seem interested or, at first, know what I meant, I’m hoping they are wrong.

In fact I can add an up-date to this item.  Everyone seems to be stocking Sharpie pens and they are relatively cheap but I hate them.  Firstly, they smell!  Secondly, with fat nibs they are nowhere near as versatile as Berol pens.  A Sharpie cost 65p. A Fine Berol pen set me back £1.00!!!

Berol produce excellent products but they do not seem to be pushing them at all.  Who ever is in charge of promotion and sales -bad job.  Over thirty years I've championed and recommended Berol pens and I still do and it's great to hear budding artists have tried them because of recommendation

Berol needs to get on the ball because I would hate to see those Sharpies be the only pen out there!!

(c)2016 Terry Hooper-Scharf

Golden Age Of The British Small Press

This 2008 posting from the old Word Press CBO should have been saved here but I can't find it so let's do another reposting shall we?

Well,you will have to excuse me and the fact that this is going to be a lengthy text/illo item.  The article was written a year ago for someone but never used.  As I looked through my boxes of Small Press items I realised that there were some publications I missed out -unintentionally.
In reality,the article I wrote would make a hefty little book!
The joys back then were getting the latests from Hawarden,Cheshire -from Rich Holden’s Caged Comics -A5 and mini comics.  They were a riot of fun.
The same can be said of the great Merv Grist and his Gristavision comics.  I still have the classic cassette tape he sold at the time -”The Slugs That Ate Manhattan” -WHERE are you,Merv?!
And Cosmic Comics produced by Steve Lines between running his band Stormclouds [I still have the cassette tapes from back then and they are still a great listen];Blake The Egg was the oddest lines character -and Steve’s music zine,The Marden Beat,was a source of much interest if you were into Indie music at the time.
Fran Ashcroft.  What can one possibly say about Fran Ashcroft -or creation Spoonsy?!
So,to all of those I’ve missed out:my apologies.  You made the 1980s great!
Above:brother Mike,publisher of Zine Ager,to the rear Doc N,scribe of Vigilante Vulture,
the superb John Erasmus and some bearded maniac;Tom “lovely” Elmes. Westminster,c.1987
above:a rare newspaper photo c.1988 from the Bath mart:Jerry Holliday of KYO Comics,brother Mike,Sally & David Johnson and Dave’s dad.
And now -the article!
British Small Press –The Golden Age
Terry Hooper-Scharf
It can truly be said that the 1980s to early 1990s was the Golden Age of the Small Press,or Zines as they were known.
The term “Zine” was derived from “magazine”,basically because the fan press was mainly text and illoes only at one time –and later we saw “strip zines” added to these. But Zines was an all-encompassing term.
One of our [UK] first,if not the first fanzine was Heroes Unlimited in 1967.  This was a gestetner copied publication and the major contributing illustrator was none other than Paul Neary –a memorable Justice Society of America cover amongst his contributions.  Fantasy Domain in 1973 was a kind of “what comics are out now” and reviews along with “for sale” ads.   Blitzine was Phil Elliott and Paul Chester’s gestetner [look it up on the internet,kids!] magazine from 1975.  Paul E. Schofield came along in 1979 with the A5 [Digest] sized New Aeon.
It has to be remembered that the gestetner printer was,for many years,the only way of producing your fan magazine.  Basically you typed cutting into the stencil sheet which eventually went onto the roller of the hand cranked copier.  Any typoes had to be corrected using such stuff as nail polish!  My own school magazine from 1972 was produced by using the gestetner –don’t try looking for copies because the magazine was banned while being printed.  Starkers –The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth would,I am sure,have lived on in infamy!
In the mid-1970s I well recall that fantastic new machine the photocopier.  You could walk into a printers or stationary shop and they would copy off your pages!  Copies became cheaper and so more and more would-be publishers decided to leap into the future!
Our mainUK news,reviews and articles publication would have been BEM and then Fantasy Advertiser,published by Martin Lock [the Harrier Comics publisher] and later Martin Skidmore. And for those looking for style and distinction there was Paul Gravett’s Escape magazine –now an online site.   
Strip-wise,we had the superb Super Adventure Stories published by Michael Gibas –which gave us classics such as Johnny Kurzman’s “Red Dragon”,whose saga was great fun and pre-dated both my own and Grant Morrison’s [Zenith]Red Dragon.  
 But it was in the 1983-84 period that things really went crazy.  We had great zines from Shane Oakley [ofAlbion fame] and Andrew Yoxall in the form of Hardware –which featured the very early work of Matt [D’Israeli] Brooker,Art Wetherell and the “where is he now??” Iskander Islam;and I must mention the inimitable John Erasmus. But there were other contributors –including the Oakster and Yoxies  own mad-cap work.
Dan Rickwood and Adam Thomas brought us the insane and often near legally prosecutable Bum Comic!  The often ‘saner’ contributions came from Matt Brooker and Ben Dilworth.  There was even an experimental Landscape format one off REQUIEM with a Dilworth dash of water colour added for colour.
Mark E. Ford produced,before being told to stop by DC,Eat The Magic Batzine which was a fan mag with covers and illoes by…Ben Dilworth!  Steve Lines produced his spooky,pop art orientated Fantastic Stories and Creepy Crawlies –again,Ben contributed and so did I with a Christmas tale featuring my sorcerers Kotar,Sabuta and Lady Silvana along with the “Keeper Of Tales”,The Creeper himself!
Of course,Ben produced his own publications under the Penguinflight banner.  A Letter From Siberia was A3 [larger than US B3] in size and in the middle was stapled the Digest sized Picasso’s CafĂ©.  This publication was produced using colour washes,ink washes and even colour pens.
Later,Ben and I designed acetate covers for my Preview Comic wherein we used stencilled images and car spray paint!  Ben was probably one of the group of ground-breaking creators responsible for the “Golden Age” of British Small Press and when he moved toJapan things were never the same.
But we also had Help Shark! And titles such as “Love Given Lightly” and “Splendid”,
both by Steven Martin.  Cally Stapleton produced wonderful art using linoleum cutting and Myra Hancock was…well,fab!
Cover designs and even art style techniques were experimented with and there was a huge interest in British zines from the US,Europe and beyond.  Ed Pinsent ran Fast Fiction but in 1985 I joined up with Jerry Holliday,Paul Brown and Darron Northall [on copying] to create the news,reviews,previews and interviews mag Zine Zone,which also became a mail order and mart service.
Zine Zone and the “Zine Zone Zoot Suit Crew” actually started out-selling Fast Fiction and promoting creators such as Rich Holden and his Caged zines and Fran Ashcroft’s Fenlock,Paul Grist’s Dancing Elephant Press and other new creators that were emerging kept the scene fresh.  I used to have “open house” in the apartment I was living in and anyone involved in the Small Press passing through or near Bristol popped in –the door bell ringing at anytime [including 3am in the morning thanks to my legendary insomnia!].  I could get 30-60 packages of publications or art samples a week
Bristol tended to be the place to be and 1984 had seen school kid Jerry Holliday and pal Joe Leigh produce Knock Yaself Out Comix –this developed into one of the best mixed-bag publications around and spawned some spin-offs such as Jerry and Joe’s Doxi The Dog [something Jerry is still working on over 20 years later].  How the magazine ever got published between the drinking bouts seems incredible!
The legendary anthropomorphic series Vigilante Vulture was written by Darron Northall and drawn by Paul Brown –based in the urban war zone known as Kowle West!  Even today,after so many years,it’s still a good read!  Interestingly,at one of the UK Comic Art Conventions,Shane Oakley and Andrew Yoxall were overjoyed to meet Brown and Northall –apparently,VV had been Oakley’s favourite “pick-me-up” read during his college years!  Sadly,the plans of Seattle based MU Press to publish the series in the US came to nothing. 
Tom Elmes,last heard of heading for France,produced the often gorey Post War Funnies,Post War Casualties and even the wickedly named [nothing to do with the contents] shocker titled Incest!  The Worm sticks in my mind.  However,the most cringable was without doubt “The Man Who At Himself To Death” –and he did! These days Tom is back in the UK and working on some award winning animation projects.
Another creator who liked to shock to see the reaction was Stephen Harrison and he drew the Andrew Yoxall written “The Little Git With The Chainsaw” –inspired by the Daily Mirror newspaper strip Andy Capp and the film ”The Evil Dead”!!!
It seemed that everyone knew everyone else in the Small Press back then,if they didn’t then either Ben Dilworth or myself quickly introduced them.
By the early 1990s most of the creators were either working in other media or had gone on to professional comics.  Zine Zone had become Zine Zone International covering the Small Press from around the world.  The UK Small Press,however,was deteriorating fast. 
Probably the most successful,or best publicised,Small Press comic of recent years has been the O-Men,seemingly inspired by the great Silver Age comic series’ such as Doom Patrol –for those who missed out,the early issues have been compiled in “trade book” style.
Magic Malcolm is a US sized comic of superb quality which,from issue 10 onward will only be appearing in graphic novel style books.  Blink Twice Publications are Robin Etherington [creator and writer] and Lawrence Etherington [co-creator and artist].  This is a superb series that looks like a combination of Little Nemo,Alice In Wonderland and much more –but even that doesn’t do it justice.  You can check out more at and learn not just about Magic Malcolm but also Tusk and Moon!
Dutch born,Bristol resident,Willie Hewes,has even featured in the local press with her stylish Amaranth comic;the story of a young woman living in Bristol who discovers she is a demon trapped in a human body and gets whisked off to meet the Lord of Hell.  A book that has achieved a cult following.  Learn more at Willie’s site
My personal favourite,not just because it has Goth chicks,but because of some superb black and white artwork is Marcus Jones’ ZELTA.  Not for the faint hearted,this is definitely an adults only comic under Jones’ Screaming Demon Comics banner.  The story is about unhappy tattooist,Alex,who meets the girl of his dreams [or is that nightmares?],Zelta.  However,Alex starts getting strange dreams and visions….is Zelta really the Devil’s daughter??  Check out
The big problem is that,with easier access to photocopiers and,of course,computers and printers,creativity has given  way to the more boring and mundane.  More and more Small Press items appear with “biographical” on the cover and high prices for just a few pages.  At one time,I can recall there being so many zines of quality that it was hard to select which to buy!  Talking to others who have been buying Small Press since the 1980s,I’ve heard the same thing “99.9% of what’s out there is crap” and “There is nothing out there these days”.
Well,there are a few,as I’ve noted,but where has all that creativity gone?  Staff at one comic shop that stocks Small Press items came up with the comment “we keep getting sent all this rubbish”!
When I had the chance to promote Small Pressers in the UK on the internet and via printed publications I put the word around –to publishers and even a service selling the publications.  It was now I learned just how much had changed.
The service promised to forward the information to publishers via its newsletter.  It never did.  Publishers who did respond [and that was unbelievably few] said that,yes,they would like their zines reviewed and publicised…..and I could buy those review copies direct!  Buy review copies?!! 
Unbelievably,the opportunity to let,potentially,thousands more comic buyers know about their publications was not good enough. The attitude was “why should I give away a copy of my comic  –you want to review it then buy a copy” 
And the mail order zine service I’ve had no explanation from.  Theirs was the “purchase from” address I was going to give. 
In all my years reviewing Small Press publications,from Zine Zone to Comic World,Comic Collector and Comics FX,I have nevercome across such negativity and lack of support to publicise zines.  It may be controversial but I think it safe to say that over-priced,uncreative publications are the norm in the UK these days with few exceptions.  A pity considering the
UK once led the way.
am still interested in the Small Press!  It would be interesting to know what is being published in the US,Canada and elsewhere so,if you are out there and publishing,email me or send me a copy of what you’re publishing.  But don’t give up –if you want to produce your own zine:do it!
Terry Hooper-Scharf