Summon the Deathlords!

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Following on from my recent 'Doomlord' post, I hereby present a brief interview with collector of British comics, and publisher of the Deathlords of Nox reprint, Mr. David McDonald. I was intrigued to find out how a Doomlord-enthusiast from Co. Mayo had managed to resuscitate a strip long consigned to (unwarranted) obscurity, and David kindly agreed to answer a few questions relating to the project.

So without further ado…here is the inaugural fustar.info interview (there will, I hope, be more to follow) -

fústar: What was the inspiration/motivation for the reprint of Doomlord: The Deathlords of Nox? How exactly did it come about, and was it difficult to obtain the rights?

D McD: About a year and a half ago Titan Books put feelers out through the net looking for people with collections of comics for them to scan for their proposed Spider and Steel Claw books. I got put in contact with Titan through a mutual acquaintance who knew I collected British comics. I lent my Lion and Steel Claw collections to Titan, and they used them to bring out the recent hardback volumes.

Spider and The Steel Claw

This got me thinking, if Titan can do it so can I! I found who held the copyright, got in contact with them, put my proposal to them, and they liked it enough for me to make a mock up and send it to them. When they got it, they approved it, I paid the licence fee UP FRONT, and away I went and printed them up.

fústar: What is it about 'Doomlord', do you think, that makes the strip as fondly remembered as it is?

D McD: Doomlord was an easy choice as I always felt that it was a 2000 AD story trapped in the Eagle. It was written by Wagner and Grant (who are responsible for Dredd and Strontium Dog, to name a few, in 2000 AD) and drawn, for the most part, by the legendary Eric Bradbury. Doomlord was the one truly great strip in Eagle and virtually none of the stories have been reprinted.

Deathlords of Nox

To be fair Eagle had a lot of great self contained stories such as Tower King, Hard Men and Comrade Bronski etc., but it had very few solid continuing stories.

fústar: You decided to skip the early photostrip/fumetti period and go straight for the first conventionally illustrated Doomlord story. What was the thinking behind this, and what are your thoughts on the photostrip format?

D McD: I didn’t reprint the Photo stories for two reasons:

1. The pages don’t scan so well.

2. Opinion is split on the photo stories. Some love them, some hate them, and I wanted to appeal to the largest amount of people possible.

As for whether or not I liked the photo strips, when they came out I didn’t really like them, but looking back they were a brave experiment, and quite good…but I am glad they had to change to regular comics.

fústar: People, like myself, who grew up reading comics in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, were really the last generation to enjoy a robust and (reasonably) healthy British Comics Industry. Where once there was an impressive array of titles, we now find 2000 AD as, pretty much, the 'last man standing' in terms of 'action/sci-fi' comics. Is there any 'way back' for the industry on this side of the Atlantic do you think, or has the market changed irrevocably?

D McD: The market for what I would have bought as a kid in the mid 80s is dead and gone, I picked up the Dandy when it relaunched and I was disgusted. Four panels per page, remember when there were twelve?

Grumpy old man mode over…

The Dandy and Beano are still alive and appealing to a new generation of readers, the nursery market is booming, and there are a lot of these mags aimed at boys about TV and computer stuff, with a few pages of comics…so there is still hope for new comics, especially from D.C.Thompson. They are really the only big publisher in the U.K. with the skill and interest to produce any new comics, and I believe they are possibly toying with the idea now, especially when you see the likes of Billy the Cat in Beano (which hasn’t had an adventure strip for decades).

Anyway if a new comic does come out I’m sure I wont like it, because it won’t be like the one I used to buy as a kid! (Note: I’ll probably still buy it!)

fústar: Finally David, have you any other reprints planned?

D McD: There hopefully will be more. I don’t have the luxury of having credit with printers, so I’ve had to pay for everything up front, but as soon as I approach break even, there will be another book.

Many thanks to David for taking the time to speak to us, and I wish him the very best of luck with his subsequent publications. For those that would like to order a copy of the reprint in question (go on, you know you want to) David can be contacted at the following address: doomlord@eircom.net

David's mention of hardback reprints of King of Crooks (featuring The British Spider) and The Steel Claw is indeed encouraging news for fans of those British comics long ill-treated as disposable (and insignificant) ephemera. If one also takes on board the publication of the recent Dan Dare and Charley's War collections, it would appear that Titan/IPC are finally realising that there's a neglected treasure trove of material 'out there' (pretty much) unseen since its initial release.

Finally, a further notable development in this mini-renaissance, is the newly-published Albion: potentially the most significant resurrection of British 'super-heroes' since Grant Morrison brought them back from the grave in 'Zenith: Phase 3′ (only for him to slaughter most of them again in their battle with the 'Lloigor')

It's 'plotted' by Alan Moore, written by Leah Moore & John Reppion, and illustrated by Shane Oakley & George Freeman. Since I have yet to see a copy I can't say more than that, but any comic that features Robot Archie, The Steel Claw, Captain Hurricane etc. (not to mention the involvement of the Moore family), has simply got to be worth a look.

More news when I get my (greedy) mitts on it.

January 18, 2006

26 responses to Summon the Deathlords!

  1. Servitor Vek said:

    Thank you for the informative interview. I am glad my work from your 1980s is finally being acknowledged. It makes me glad that I continue to protect human existence from the judgement of Nox.
    Any chance of some more tea?

  2. copernicus said:

    Fair play to David for taking the personal risk and publishing this volume. I think he hits the nail on the head when he characterises Doomlord as, in essence, a 2000AD story. He’s also bang on about the travesty of a four-panel per page Dandy. Part of what I loved about Dandy, Beano, Whizzer and Chips etc. was the sheer density of them and the frenetic slapstick (ahem, I’m interpreting the enthusiasm of my five or six year old self here through an adult’s mind’s eye), and it is a pity kids today aren’t deemed capable of being challenged in the same way (although I have my own cynical theory about that).

    Marvel and the Distinguished Competition are no slouches when it comes to exploiting back catalogue, and you can get pretty much anything in a variety of formats, although things seem to be looking up for those of us who grew up more on the British stuff, with only occasional forays into the Avengers, Superman, Batman and Spiderman.

  3. fústar said:

    Servitor Vex,

    Glad you could pop in. I’ve just put the kettle on.

    Copernicus,

    ‘Twas indeed a brave, and noble, venture to stump up the money and reprint the adventures of a neglected character. Projects such as this can’t but help to breathe new life into a market that is currently dominated by TV-tie-ins and Pre-school (‘free gift’) publications.

    I’m sure ‘Albion’ will have some impact too, at least in terms of British comic characters, if not British comics themselves.

  4. copernicus said:

    You’ve just reminded me. “Foolhardy’s” bro was saying he wanted to find old “Anne and Barry” books (remember, our national school readers?) and resurrect them as comics with modern dialogue, or something.

    If anyone knows where he can get his hands on copies of the books, you could let this site know and the info will be passed on.

  5. Londoner said:

    The Anne and Barry readers were published by Fallons, along with the rest of the National School curriculum, on glossed toilet roll bound by prit stick.
    Presumably this poor quality was a hang-over from the age of protectionism which saw Irish governments create virtual monopolies for a small number of well placed family owned enterprises – who could then knock out any old shit. I remember a time when the full set of Basta keys could have opened half the locks in the country, as indeed could a good kick.
    Ireland up to the 1980s must have been the only place in the world where buying from a state company was the way to ensure some level of quality – state produced Solus bulbs were not only superior to all rivals but their eye catching packaging would hoover up awards for design and graphics if launched today. Did anyone even dare to taste non-Siúcra sugar pre-1990?

  6. Londoner said:

    solus & siúcra, hilarious. the boys & gals on the product naming teams must have had the softest job ever.
    take that madison ave.
    fallons (i think) also issued a series of ‘comic’ books which they sold through schools- the hilariously misnamed Spraoi & Súgradh.

  7. fústar said:

    For those not familiar with the Irish language I can decrypt ‘Londoner’s’ comments.

    Solus = light/lamp, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a fairly apt name for a brand of light bulb.

    Siúcra = Sugar, see above.

    As for the ‘comics’ in question, I remember them well as they featured a host of Irish-speaking woodland animals (and some natty puzzles). They may have been rather lame, but I still recall the excitement when they arrived in our primary school…”Look! It’s a badger, and it’s speaking Irish!!”

    The titles break down as follows:

    Spraoi = Fun/Sport.
    Súgradh = Playing/Fun

    Hmmm…perhaps they did misrepresent themselves.

  8. copernicus said:

    Oh Jesus, I remember spraoi agus súgradh. I think my love of comics faltered somewhat on encountering them. Where was the 8th Army? Where the genetic infantrymen fighting bitterly on alien worlds? Where the dystopian cold war science fiction paranoia?

    Oh, don’t worry about that children, seo é broc, agus tá sé ag caint as a hón beag liath!

  9. foolhardy said:

    I don’t know if it’s just me but in my day (or, at the very least, in my school in my day [as far as I recall]) Anne and Barry were known as Tom and Nora. And they had a dog called, of all things, Spot.
    As for Mr McDonald – sure isn’t he from Castelbar where brave and noble ventures careen about the vasculature?

  10. fústar said:

    Have had a quick t’internet search but sadly (or perhaps happily) there were no images from Spraoi or Súgradh to be found…

    All this talk of British comic book heroes of times’ past begs the question: Where are their Irish equivalents? The ever informative internationalhero.co.uk has Cúchulainn as the sole entry for Ireland. While he certainly fits the bill in terms of heroism, he’s not quite Spider-Man, is he?

    There have, of course, been (super-heroic) Irish characters in the Marvel Universe…Banshee, Boulder, Rapscallion, Highlander (ed: The Highlands are in Scotland…but never mind) etc., but they’re almost universally of the “Sure and Beggorah” school of cack, and fairly cringeworthy.

    Mick and John Kelly have come up with the (Hellboy-esque) Colometers Davis I suppose…but there really aren’t any iconic Irish-produced super-lads and lassies.

    I guess the idea of superheroes and villians battling it out in Eyre Sq. (Galway) just isn’t quite as evocative as Dr. Doom squaring off against The Fantastic 4 in downtown Manhatttan.

  11. foolhardy said:

    Fret not Senor Fústar, I have recently noticed that RTÉ are flogging off DVDs featuring Wanderly Wagon no less. Nothing like a spot of the Pickarooney to stimulate the memory and induce a dose of the runs. For the younger viewer (You can’t lie to me Fústar!) there is also a, no doubt shite awful, collection of Bosco moments. Surely Gregory Grainneog, Corrie Crow, Charlie Crown and the lads make an appearance. Class. I believe upcoming RTÉ titles include; “Mailbag – whingeing for Ireland”, “Mart and Market – I’ll fucking ebay you”, “Garda Patrol – step away from the veh-hicle”, “The Angelus – the angelus”, “Children and the improbable places they drown” and, lest we forget, “Ads featuring profoundly deaf children and the nuns who wrangle them”. mmBAH!

  12. Simon McGarr said:

    If helpful, I can confirm that on watching both Wanderly Wagon and Bosco on DVD, it is the latter that better stands the test of time.

    And the Magic Door is still magic.

    Except for the bark rubbings. I hated the bark rubbings.

  13. copernicus said:

    Recently watched Wanderly Wagon and have to say its surreal qualities were welcomely intact.

    It gave me a bit of a start though to see how young O’Brien was to my 31 year old eyes.

    A nice dvd extra would have been the safe cross code with Judge.

  14. foolhardy said:

    Simon, many thanks although, frankly, I’m shocked. Granted, I have yet to watch the DVDs in question but I think you must surely be barking mad. The only thing I can credit Bosco with (aside of course from the noteworthy ability to remain perpetually 5 – Bart Simpson eat your little yellow heart out) is that it was years ahead of the pack on the whole gender non-specificity issue. RTÉ were never so hip! This is scant consolation for the trauma and shame of my having never so much as seen a roll of double-sided sticky tape.
    Wanderly wagon, on the other hand, featured a rather convincing snake!

  15. copernicus said:

    Fústar, can we not claim Sláine from 2000D as an “Irish” superhero? On reflection, the term “superhero” is probably the preserve of characters from (and set in) the 1930s and onward.

    I think Mick and John have sold film rights to Hollywood for colometers, so maybe we’ll have one on the big screen afore long; helping to get the sour taste of Leprechaun in the Hood out of our mouths.

  16. copernicus said:

    Foolhardy, I bet we could decode Wanderly Wagon’s by determining which adornments of the Irish political firmament characters such as Sneaky Snake and Mr. Crow were supposed to represent.

    I think you’ll find it was not a million miles away from Donald Duck’s Atomic Bomb (see fústar’ interesting post on this) in terms of its subversive content.

  17. foolhardy said:

    Copernicus, let’s not get carried away. As great and all as Wanderly Wagon was, it was no Anything Goes. Nothing sums up life in 80′s Ireland in quite the same way as some punter trying to eat a cream bun without licking their lips.

  18. fústar said:

    Chaps,

    It’s funny the subject of the Wagon that is Wanderly has come up. There will be a tasty Wanderly titbit forthcoming from fustar.org soon (hopefully).

    I watched the DVD recently myself and, aside from the whole thing being cheerfully made for tuppence ha’penny, the surreal and magical qualities copernicus speaks of were delightfully present and correct.

    Watch this space…

  19. fústar said:

    Simon,

    I never got over the time that Philip (or whoever it was) popped through the ‘Magic Door’ and came out the other side in…….a sausage factory!!

    The only way it could have been less magic, and more disturbing, was if it had been an abattoir…

    I didn’t touch a banger for the next 15 years…

    foolhardy,

    I also bore the indignity of never having double-sided sticky tape, or pipe cleaners, in the house. I attempted to fool myself (and my friends) with single-sided tape (looped back on itself) and bendy straws. I’m not the better of the shame yet…

    copernicus,

    Thought about Sláine but he doesn’t really cut it. I mean, he didn’t develop X-Ray vision from exposure to massive doses of radiation or anything like it. He falls more into the Cúchulainn camp (although he did/does have that natty warp spasm thing going on).

  20. copernicus said:

    The magic door had a kind of anti-midas touch all right (yes, I know the Midas touch was a disaster for Midas).

    Phillip would pop through in his electric lemon pants and fetch up in an ice-cream factory, but instead of being a place of Willy Wonka style delights, it turned out to be all aluminium and distrubing looking “chocolate”.

  21. foolhardy said:

    Fústar, ah the old single sided “sticky tape” (Sellotape) back looping trick. It never really did work properly, particularly if a lengthy piece were needed. The only solution was loads of little loops which meant bulk and, ultimately, a rather disappointing make-and-do session. As for the pipe cleaners – was Bosco sponsored by the tobacco industry?
    Out of interest, where does one’s career go after serving time on Bosco et al I wonder?
    Hollywood?

  22. foolhardy said:

    As a young garsún a friend of mine appeared (in yellow dungarees) on an “episode” of Pat’s Chat and another once made a thorough clown of himself reviewing videos on Jo-Maxi. Does anyone know of the archived availability of such things as I fancy honing my blackmailing skills?

  23. fústar said:

    I’d say availability is fairly limited, given that most of the W.Wagon tapes (for example) were erased and re-used (as was the cost-cutting practice at the time – see early Dr. Who for details).

    Having said that, Jo-Maxi was a fair bit later, so it’s possible that tapes still exist. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

    Funnily enough, my proudest moment as a child was having a drawing of an elephant I’d done held up to the camera by Pat Ingolsby (on either his ‘Hat’ or ‘Chat’ show). It was all downhill from there…

  24. foolhardy said:

    spotted this on the guardian:

    [Link]

    finally the boffins have turned their collective attention to the ultimate question – why am I not funny no matter how hard I try?
    If they persist perhaps they will come up with some class of formula which will finally allow me to charm some lass out of her breeches. I wont have to make do with the ho’s once i make with the ho ho’s.

  25. Sinéad said:

    Really enjoyed reading both of your posts about Doomlord.

    I have a friend that read this growing up and I’m trying to source a copy of this reprint for his birthday, just wondering if you could be of help in this regard? I’ve emailed doomlord@eircom.net without response, understandably, as this WAS reprinted a good few years ago.

    Do you by any chance know of anywhere else I could get a copy?

  26. fústar said:

    Sinéad,

    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed ‘em. You could try David on hiberniabook@eircom.net. Think he’s using that email now.

    I’ll email him myself to nudge him into action and tell him to get in touch. Hopefully he still has still has copies left. It’s classic stuff.

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