Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals, hosted by me, James Redington.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; so please email them to [email protected] and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from Bart Thompson and is as follows:-

When you first got into comics, were you a Marvel Zombie or a DC head? What the comic that got you interested?


Peter David writes:

Neither. Harvey Comics. Casper, Wendy, those titles. My first exposure to comics was as a kid reading old comics sitting around the barbershop while I was waiting for a haircut, and those are the ones they had. I knew so little about comics that I didn’t understand when Casper was depicted as an outline with little broken lines, that was supposed to indicate he was invisible. I thought it was a connect-the-dots activity thing. So I’d sit there with a pencil and connect them.

Peter David is a writer. He writes comics and books, he is currently writing The Incredible Hulk for Marvel, the excellent Fallen Angel at DC (currently, but not for long) and he is also my Dad’s favourite writer of Star Trek Novels…


Kev F Sutherland :

Marvel throughout my peak comic reading years. This is because I lived in the UK and Marvel produced excellent weekly reprint editions of classic titles throughout my childhood.

From 1973 until sometime in the 80s, Marvel UK produced weekly titles, each 40 pages long, all in black and white litho, costing less than a US edition, and up to 10 titles a week. They began with Mighty World Of Marvel (which contained Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, from first episodes on) and titles included Spider-Man, Conan, Dracula, Planet Of The Apes, Avengers, The Superheroes (which ran Silver Surfer stories) and more.
These were so clearly printed, in crisp litho, that I maintain British artists of that generation saw that Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Kane, Adams artwork far better than their US predecessors got the chance to. The pages were bigger too (A4 size, 11.5″ x 8″)

Both low-point and high-point was Captain Britain, which started in 1977. A Marvel strip produced especially for the UK audience, and in colour!

Wow!

Such a shame it was dreadful. The worst thing Chris Claremont ever wrote, and with art by Herb Trimpe and Fred Kida? I shiver at the memory. That said, the back up strip was Jim Steranko’s classic Nick Fury strips, they’ve rarely been reprinted so well since. Collectors Item classics.

DC had a belated stab at a UK reprint title in the 1980s, which lasted less than a year. It wasn’t until the growth of comic shops in the UK and the direct sale revolution that Brit readers could get a regular supply of DC comics. Then we invaded them, took them over, invented Vertigo, and the rest is history.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.


Sean O’Reilly:

I was a Marvel Zombie. I loved how their characters had great strengths, but also really obvious weaknesses or at least consequences. Having superhuman strength, but looking like a blue fur-ball or the power to shoot kinetic blasts from your eyes, but never being able to look at someone unprotected. Ok so mostly it was X-Men that defined me as a ‘Marvel Zombie’ always collected X-Men, Spider-man (and Marvel Team-Ups) as well as Transformers. I guess I was always pretty mainstream.

Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.


Frazer Irving:

Marvel. It was the British b/w reprints that got me started. Probably Spider-man, but the first comic to really take over my life was the X-Men.

Frazer Irving: Essex boy, artist, philanderer. Did the small press
for 5 years, then 2000AD for another five, moved onto the glorious silky pages of DC recently. Not one for pigeonholing, he rejects the penciller-inker-colourist team-up and has merged 3 clones of himself into 1 so that he does all jobs. Possibly known for work on 2000AD’s Necronauts, Judge Death and The Simping Detective, currently doodling Klarion the Witch-Boy for DC.


James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

I was a DC head. The comic that got me interested was Batman 205, with the amazing Nick Cardy cover that made my four-year-old brain hurt! I knew that I wanted to do comic books from that day on.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.


Bart Thompson:

I have to admit I was a Marvel Zombie early on. I didn’t read many comics as a child but I enjoyed many cartoons and shows based on comics. Bill Bixby and Lou F. as the Incredible Hulk… that crappy Spider-Man show where the guy spun rope for webs and crawled up “walls” that you could tell was the sidewalk… Spidey & his Amazing Friends… so on and on.

One of the first comics I bought was Sleepwalker #1 at a grocery store. A young guy I could relate to with a dog and a pretty girlfriend and school demands and then, BAM- Alien police guy from another dimension comes and messes all of that up. I started collecting it faithfully and acquired other comics from friends here and there (I was given stuff like the West Coast Avengers and such… it’d take me a while to force myself to read them, but afterwards they weren’t so bad). I was more of a spectator type collector and I didn’t really “get into” comics until high school and the early Image comics (the Maxx & Stormwatch come to mind). But I never could get into DC much besides Batman and the Bat-Family. I did read a lot of Robin… I could relate to Tim Drake and I ended up reading cheap back issues of Dick Grayson and the Teen Titans. But I’d read almost anything Marvel would put out, not really as a loyalty to the company, it just happened that I liked pretty much everything they put out.

I’m still more of an indy book reader and lately I’ve been reading a whole lot of books that happen to be DC comics, I still have a soft spot for Marvel.

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the writer of Lethal Instinct from Alias Enterprises and publisher of Myriad from Approbation- in stores now!!


Gary Spencer Millidge:

Growing up in England in the 1960s was somewhat of a comics paradise.
From an early age my parents supplied me with a constant stream of British comics – my favourites of which were Odhams Press’ Power Comics; Wham! Smash! And Pow! Which by the time I was reading them around 1966 contained a mix of domestically produced humour strips by great such as Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid and oddly anglicised Marvel reprints. Pow! also included Batman newspaper strip reprints alongside the Spider-Man retreads. A heady mix which inspired now as much as it did then.

I also enjoyed vast numbers of the exotic coloured DC comics, second-hand copies brought back from the market by my dad, and being anything from a few months to many years old – Superman and Batman titles were favourites, especially some of the wackier Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen issues.

I didn’t really discover US Marvel Comics until I was about 12 and my parents were horrified that a WHOLE issue of Avengers they had bought me was part of a continuing story rather than the several self-contained stories that DC comics had offered … but I was hooked and caught up in the whole Stan Lee Soapbox Marvelite thing until I was about sixteen when Heavy Metal and Raw transformed my vision of comics forever.

Gary Spencer Millidge is the creator of the weird and wonderful Strangehaven comic, of which issue sixteen is coming imminently….yay!


Alan Grant:

When I was 4 or 5, my cousin who’d immigrated to Canada started sending me US comics–mainly Batman, Superman, and Justice League. Batman gripped me from the start, although I always disliked Superman. Stan and Jack launched Marvel in 1960, and I don’t think I read another DC comic until Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams began their run on Batman.

However, it was British comics which first pulled me in, specifically the Beano, Dandy and Topper (which was close to tabloid size, at least for a kid).

Alan Grant, writer of Dredd, Batman, and the slightly mad Doomlord, can be seen currently with Arthur Ranson on Judge Anderson in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the superb Com.X trade collection of The Last American.


Stephen Holland:

Oh, sorry, I misread this question last week.

Last week’s question was about breaking into the comicbook industry, and that’s what I took this one as being.

It doesn’t matter, both produce the same answer. Half the team responsible for Page 45, the comic shop where superhero comics account for but 10% of the shelf-space, right at the back, purely because superheroes are just a fraction of what the medium has to offer, have had waaaay too much publicity over the last forty years to the detriment of all the other genres and the medium’s profile, and because if they were any more visible they’d put off most of our potential customers including almost every single woman out there… half of the team responsible for all that (i.e. me)… was a Marvel Zombie.

Through and through.

I was a Marvel Zombie from the ages of 3 to 18, at which point I discovered what was then Marvel’s (the Epic imprint) and is now DC’s (the Vertigo imprint) glorious Moonshadow.

And that’s how I first found employment in the industry. I was working as a barman in a very dodgey pub, needed out very quickly, went into a comic shop for my weekend fix, and saw a notice saying, “Full-time assistant needed”.

“Gi’s a job!” I begged.

“Why?” asked Mark.

“I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel comics.”

“Thank Christ for that.”

Mark can’t stand superheroes (he was neither a Marvel Zombie nor a DC Head), and no one else he’s asked had said anything other than, “I want cheap comics”.

Coming back to what Bart Thompson evidently asked, the first comic that shuttled me into Marvel as a universe was Fantastic Four. I picked a couple up, some six issues apart, and quickly grasped there was a history I was missing. That was what got me hooked: the lure of finding out what had happened in between, and indeed beforehand to get them into that mess.

That’s why I maintain you don’t need all the awful, artificial exposition you find in most superhero writers’ dialogue: “Blue Lantern, my good friend for several years, why are you holding the yellow artifact that bears a strange resemblance to your brother’s – Captain Nonceface’s – childhood toy which was stolen for him at an early age by Black Masticator who I saw steal a baby’s dummy last month?”

My version? “Oi, put that down, you weirdo!”

We’ll work it out, guys.

Stephen Holland and Mark Simpson run Page 45, a comic shop in Nottingham, UK, with Tom Rosin. Put the last two Panels together and you have their secret origin, give or take the timely intervention of Dave Sim and Gerhard (Cerebus). Stephen also appears monthly in Comics International. If you’ve been reading his columns there, you’ll know all about the timely intervention.


Donna Barr:

The answer to the first one, though controversial with some is as it has always been: “If God is for us then who can stand against us?” So the answer is Jesus.

I didn’t read comics. I did… um… illustrated manuscripts? With 2000 words on a page? Bitty drawings?

Steve Gallacci thought my stories would sell in the comics form.

Thanks, Steve!

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!


Jesse Leon McCann:

I was Marvel all the way. DC bored me when I was nine, except for Bob Kane’s BATMAN. The comic that first got me interesting was ARCHIE and its many spin-offs. I loved to read about the older kids, their trials and tribulations. Especially fascinating were Archie’s romantic entanglements

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.


Roberta Gregory:

My favourites were Uncle Scrooge, Sugar and Spike, and Little Lulu, but that was long before Marvel. I liked the whole DC Super-family back in the early60s, especially Supergirl, since she had a Super-horse! But around the age of 10 or so, I was hardly a discriminating reader. Later on when Marvel appeared I liked Spider Man and Silver Surfer, (and I wish I had kept more of those issues now!) but a lot of it had to do with the fact that I could identify with the adolescent over-emoting of these characters, and once I got a bit older I found them boring…. A lot of my comics reading history is Age-relevant.

Roberta Gregory is the creator of “Bitchy Bitch”, who not only stars in Roberta’s Naughty Bits comic book (ex from Fantagraphics), but also appears on television worldwide in animated adventures, the latest being the “Life’s a Bitch” series on the Oxygen Network.


I was always a DC Head, I started my sick obsession with Superman: The Movie and the old re-runs of Batman (Adam West) on Channel 4. I think one of the first real comics I remember buying was a British re-print of Man of Steel #1 with a free badge from the local newsagents in Bush Fair Harlow, Essex.

Next week, probably on Monday or Tuesday we will have a special panel just in time for the UK Comic Expo (http://www.comicexpo.net) make sure you pop back then to check it out and let me know if you plan on going to the expo… it’s going to fun, the crew from SBC, Portent Comics (http://www.portentcomics.com) and a number of the panellists will be there, including Alan, Gary and Frazer!!


“The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it – James”


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