Tuesday, November 09, 2010

One bat, two bats, the Bat triumphant !

Well, I had planned to do this post for quite some time but as usual reality collided with my plans. The idea was to first do a post on JACK STAFF and use that post as a segueway for other posts about British comics.

As usual I got sidetracked, first by the TORCHWOOD comic by Paul Grist and then I wanted to write about KANE which was the first Paul Grist comic I read. Still haven´t gotten around to do that. So, in our last post we had a lot comic news and since I try to mix the topics a bit it´s time for a comic review.

So I want to talk a bit about THE BAT TRIUMPHANT published by Terry Hooper at Black Tower Comics. It´s weird but the black tower thing keeps coming up in pop culture. Stephen King used it for his bestseller series, there is a German comic publisher called DER SCHWARZE TURM ( which is the black tower in german ) to which I have ties and Terry Hooper´s comic company is also called Black Tower Comics.

One of the reasons why it took me so long to write about THE BAT TRIUMPHANT is that it was difficult to do the research. Since it has its roots in the British comic scene I´m not so familiar with it and it´s not like I can go to my comicshop and do some research there. There are really a lot of confusing informations on the internet. You see, the character THE BAT in this comic was not created by Terry Hooper. As far as I can tell it was created by William A Ward, a British artist who created a lot of famous comic characters but seems to have faded into the murky British comic limbo.

There is more information about the publisher of the original THE BAT comics Gerald G. Swan. He was one of the most enterprising of wartime publishers in Britain. Although he established his publishing company in 1938, he stockpiled his books rather than distributing them and thus had a supply of paper when it was rationed during the war. As a result he virtually cornered the magazine market and released hundreds of publications in all fields of fiction. Most of his inventory was compiled in the 1940's from a mixture of home - grown talent and reprints from Columbia magazines, even though some of them were not printed until the 1960's.

Here is a small checklist with some of the titles he published :

  • Gerald G Swan checklist

  • Having a comic character named the Bat the first question you have is - of course - who was first ?

    The Bat or his more famous American colleague the Batman ? And who influenced who ? Since I couldn´t find any facts to prove otherwise I´m going with the story that Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics 27 in May 1939, was the inspiration for the Bat whose first appearance was in Thrill Comics 1 published in April 1940.

    Another thing that made the research a bit difficult is that there were also two other comic characters called THE BAT. One, a British hero who has come back from Hell

    the other a superburglar who battled the Phantom ( a British hero, not the famous creation of Lee Falk ).

    And of course there are a lot of other bats in comics, first and foremost, the most famous Batman. Then there are all forms of other characters which are derived from him like Man - Bat a.k.a. Kirk Langstrom one of Batman´s rogues.

    There is Die Fledermaus, a clear Batman parody on the indie comic THE TICK.

    And here in Germany there is FLATTERMANN, written by Kurt Kofron and drawn by Wenzel Kofron for the German Polischansky Verlag.

    I´m not sure how successful the comic was but it managed to get three albums printed and probably anybody who reads comics in Germany knows of this comic.

    And that´s not counting other derivates like WATCHMEN´s Owl Man or the Owl Man of the Squadron Supreme, the Justice League´s evil counterparts. Also there was a character called Owl Man in some issues of THE OUTSIDERS, but since I left the title before that I don´t know much about it.

    But back to THE BAT TRIUMPHANT ! It´s a new original story of William A Ward´s THE BAT, written and drawn by Terry Hooper under the name Terry Hooper - Scharf. The size is european album size ( about DIN A 4 ), 66 pages black and white. Originally a back up strip in Black Tower Adventure in 1994,The Bat proved very popular as an anti - hero. The story was never completed. It is now. And there was another Bat.

    1952 saw George McQueen’s Bat appear to fight any and all supernatural menaces. This book contains an original strip plus a new one drawn in 2007. This is the complete book of The Bat!

    Now what´s the story all about ? Since his beginnings are in 1940 it´s a bit difficult to have him walking around in our modern era. But Terry found a clever solution for this dilemma without resorting to the old " son takes up the mantle of the father " trick. Although that possibility still exists for a possible sequel.

    In 1941,The Bat sets about modernising the backward Duchy of Stahl, over which his dynasty has ruled since 1410 A.D.. The Bat is soon involved in experiments with the infamous Count Cogliostro. One of these experiments involves suspended animation; The Bat deciding he will be the test subject. When he wakes, The Bat finds that not days have gone by but 51 years !

    Worse, his kingdom is in ruins and an enclave of Kamora. The Bat tries politics to win back his homeland and when that fails he decides to fight for it! However, he is unaware that some old - and new - enemies ( who have such great names as Schwarzadler, Blaurabe and Stanislaus the Werewolf ) are lying in wait to stop him and all of them want one thing : The Bat dead !

    Which is not as easy as they think. The Bat is really a badass hero if he´s really a hero. Mostly he´s described as an anti - hero which is probably more fitting since he has no qualms about using swords or even guns and ( unlike Batman ) has no problems with killing. I mean he liquidates one of his opponents for pulling a knife on him. You so don´t want to mess with the Bat, dude !

    Ten lives for a life ! Twenty groans for a groan ! Such is the Bat´s vengeance !

    Even as a reader who was not familiar with the previous adventures of the Bat I have to say that this is one fun, action - packed read. Terry Hooper manages to evoke the feeling of Silver Age heroes whose roots lie more in the pulp genre like the great classics without resorting to silly stereotypes or parody. The story is a faithful ( at least as far as I can tell ) addition to the lore of the Bat that doesn´t negate what has come before.

    Too often writers think that they have to update characters to modern audiences by deconstructing everything that has come before - so that everything you thought you knew turns out to be wrong ! Like Grant Morrison in ALL STAR SUPERMAN Terry builds upon the existing foundation, filling the gaps in continuity and adding another layer. As well as evil villains, werewolves, the always mysterious Count Cogliostro ( who has appeared in uncountable works of fiction from SPAWN to the latest film about french masterburglar Arsène Lupin ) and a touch of the supernatural.

    Artwise it reminds me a bit of the comics around 1940 which sometimes were drawn a bit crude ( you have to remember that a lot of the professional artists were drafted ) but still had a lot of energy and excitement. I mean on the Gerald G Swan checklist ( link above ) it says that all his publications were of irredeemably poor quality. So I don´t know how much of that is intentional. What I can say is that it has solid storytelling and that I especially like his use of blacks.

    One of my favorite pages is this full page spread where the Bat confronts three soldiers at the Jugo - Hungarian border. It´s such a great composition. You can find more pages here

    Besides the main story THE BAT TRIUMPHANT ! the comic also includes an introduction that explains the genesis of the story, a very brief history of the Bat & Stahl, an article about Bat creator William A Ward and one about the history of Cagliostro as well as other goodies.

  • interview with Terry Hooper - Scharf about THE BAT TRIUMPHANT

  • order from lulu ( with preview ) german page

  • the Terry Hooper - Scharf lulu storefront

  • order links on ComicBitsOnline ( for England )

  • order from pothi ( with preview )

  • So next time we will get to the second part of the comic news with all the creator interviews and the ever popular top 10 lists and other fun stuff I promised.

    In my last post I put up the clip for Gary Mitchell´s song IN BRIGHTEST DAY which could become the anthem for the new Green Lantern movie. Here´s another one that could be included : Ring capacity by the band Kirby Crackle.

    New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN :

  • top ten posts

  • more posts of interest

  • 1 comment:

    Terry HOOPER said...

    WHAT??!! Someone has a character called Batman!!!! I'll sue them..maybe not.

    I have to tell you that when the young price [Blue Raven] pulls the knife on the Bat it's viewed as utterly common,like a low-life. But,the Bat and how he kills the prince actually got a lot -a LOT- of reader feedback. "Man,what a complete bastard!" and "I thought he was going to help him -but treading on his fingers so he lost his grip? The Bat is a total psych ****!"

    Lords know what these fans will do when they see Krakos!!!!