Monday, November 21, 2011

D - Gruppe returns and it´s about time !

So, last time I didn´t get to write much about the first issue of D - GRUPPE issue 1 REVENGE OF THE ICE QUEEN because as always I got a bit sidetracked by one of my usual rants about German superheroes. But now that we have covered all of that - at least for the forseeable future - we can concentrate on the comics.

Originally planned as a 50plus page collection it was split into 3 issues for two main reasons. Firstly, as it was an old strip from the early 1990s, it had to be cleaned up and doing that with over 50 pages would have delayed the comic immensly. Second, and more important, publishing the story in 3 parts means that the cover price is much, much lower. You can read it all more in detail here

The first issue of D - GRUPPE by Terry Hooper - Scharf, Benjamin R. Dilworth and John Erasmus published by Black Tower Comics Group is a european album sized ( about DIN A 4 ) comic with 32 black and white pages plus a color cardboard cover and color backcover priced at 5.78 EUROS. The strange price comes from converting English Pounds into European Euros I guess. The issue contains 2 stories : REVENGE OF THE ICE QUEEN, a 14 page story that introduces the team of D - Gruppe and FESTIVAL OF DEATH, a 5 page backup featuring DEUTSCHER MICHAEL ( which more correctly should have been DEUTSCHER MICHEL ). The second story was originally done in color and you can see one of the gorgeous original color pages as the back cover.

Additionally the issue also contains a 2 page introduction to D - GRUPPE, 6 lost pages of D - GRUPPE artwork by Ben Dilworth and ads for DENE VERNON - THE THING FROM BELOW.

I have to say, the first issue contains some of the best art I´ve seen so far from the BLACK TOWER books. While on THE BAT RIUMPHANT the art by Terry Hooper was more reminiscent of the 1940 pulp comic due to the nature of the comic ( a superhero created around that time ) in the lead story it looks more like 80s John Byrne on UNCANNY X - MEN at the height of his fame. Which in great part has to be accredited to the inks by Ben Dilworth and comparing him to John Byrne would really be selling him short. There are clear traces of Byrne and also a bit of Barry Windsor Smith there but at the same time he has his unique look that is much more realistic than comicbook looking.

Like I already said, THE REVENGE OF THE ICE QUEEN, introduces all seven members of the team and they go up against their first villain. While the story has not too much character interaction you get a pretty good idea how the team members relate to each other, what their powers are and what the purpose of D - Gruppe is. And of course you get a good dose of action. But like ALPHA FLIGHT ( which may be the reason I automatically thought of John Byrne when I saw the art ) it has it´s own national quirks and unexpected group dynamic. It begins with the unusual team leader Kopfmann ( Headman ), a superintelligent dwarf and continues with Waldmeister ( Forrestmaster, additionally " Waldmeister " is also an ice - cream flavor ), Insektenkönig ( I guess this would be the German name for Insect King ), Goldener Soldat ( Golden Soldier ), Sturmgeist ( Stormghost ), Sternenengel ( Star Angel ) and Einsamer Wolf ( Lone Wolf ). I´m not sure but I guess Einsamwolf is just a typo.

Lastly we have Bluebird, which would be " Hüttensänger " in German or more specifically Rotkehlhüttensänger, Blaukehlhüttensänger or Berghüttensänger depending on if we´re talking about an eastern, western or mountain bluebird. Which is the reason why I´m okay with Bluebird instead of the German translation.

Aside from the German names there are also other bits in the story that show a clear knowledge of Germany ( yes, nobody wanted to appear on GOTTSCHALK ) and a familiarity with the look of various German cities that appear in the stories like Lemgo or Hannover . It´s a nice change of pace from most of the American comics that take place in Germany which always looks like Bavaria. Seeing the spot - on depiction of German everyday life it comes as no surprise that Terry Hooper partially grew up in Germany and the genesis of D - GRUPPE came from a lack of German superheroes at that time :

Growing up in rural Germany wasn’t so bad. No British comics, of course, but I had access to Bastei comics such as Silberpfeil,

Buffalo Bill,


Schwarzer Wolf

as well as the ubiquitous Disney comics and those produced by Kauka Verlag. But in the UK I’d been used to The Purple Hood, Billy The Cat, The Steel Claw in British comics as well as US super hero comics. Wastl was the only German character in a costume I could find and it turned out he was Belgian!

In the 1980s came Mykros

and Fotonik but they were French. There simply were no German super heroes. Of course, later in the 1980s Helge “ Herod ” Korda ( writer ) and Stefan Dinter ( artist ) produced the parody HEROES FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. But that was a loong time later.

Fairy tales were big on German tv and there were quite a few involving dwarves. So I created a German dwarf hero who was quite an acrobat. Later I thought that rather than just make him athletic I’d make him a genius - Klaus von Happe ( “ Kopfmann ” ) was born.

The second story FESTIVAL OF DEATH also has wonderful art, this time by John Erasmus and like I said, check out the color page on the backcover. All in all a great issue that introduces a complete team ( something most writers at DC seem incapable of, now that I have read more of the NEW 52 books ), has lots of action and is fun to read.

Issue 2 of D - GRUPPE has the same size but it has only 24 pages plus color cover and contains a 20 page story ZEIT - GEIST ( not to be confused with german podcast ZETTGEIST to be found on the blogroll ), a one page introduction that contains more information about D - Gruppe and a backcover pin up drawn by Terry Hooper and inked by Jim Beanranko, all for 4.05 Euros. ZEIT - GEIST is a 3 part story with the 3rd part coming out in issue 4. The art is once again done exclusively by Terry Hooper

and the new team, with some new members who have joined the team since THE REVENGE OF THE ICE QUEEN after Kopfmann decided his team needed more power ( that´s a nice piece of continuity from isue one right there ) , goes on its first Crisis - like big crossover adventure. The story spotlights the new members a bit without spoiling too much and introduces the main threat.

Issue three also has 24 pages plus color cover and has the second part of Zeit - Geist, ZEIT - GEIST STRIKES ! with 21 story pages, also for 4.05 Euros. Here the story is continued, the concept of the parallels is introduced and the fighting begins in earnest.

Like the best crossovers the story involves multiple earths, in this case called " parallels " that are inhabited by heroes of mainly german origin, and the whole of creation is in peril.

It´s not the most original concept - which could have been the case if it HAD come out in the 1990s - but that´s not really the important part. Because the really fun part is all the different variations of superheroes that interact and seeing characters from Germany´s classic literature / fairy tales like Rotkäppchen, Barbarossa or Baron von Münchhausen as part of a supergroup to save the universe interact. I mean we´ve seen all the big battles in such stories like JLA / AVENGERS but for me the best bits were Sue Dibny and Sue Richards chatting about life with an elongated husband or Snapper Carr and Rick Jones teaching Jarvis the finer points in grilling a burger.

Of course it wouldn´t be a true BLACK TOWER comic if things weren´t different from what they seem at first. Like in SAVAGE DRAGON things look really familiar down to strange forces " whiting out " existence like in Crisis only to take a turn for the unexpected.

As with most of the Black Tower Comics output a big part of the appeal of the stories is nostalgia and I won´t deny it. This may not be the right reading material for all the new readers out there who expect their stories to drag out everything for six issues to fit into a nice paperback and who are accustomed to flashy art and " brave " page layout instead of solid storytelling that puts the story first.

I might even say that part of this nostalgia may come from remembering a time when comics were bold, daring and exciting. Reading the issues I felt the same " energy " for lack of a better word when I read the first issues of a new comic company like iMAGE or CROSSGEN. It´s also a bit of a chance to look into a possible universe as you can imagine how comics in Germany could have been if this series really had been picked up by Bastei.

It´s interesting to see all these German superheroes who usually get the short end of the stick getting more than their 15 minutes of fame, especially for German readers. The price is only a bit higher than most mainstream comics offered by Marvel or American independent publishers and with the bigger size you can´t even argue with that. Also there will be no reboots, relaunches or other marketing schticks involved so you can get them without fear.

And really, don´t you have a few empty spots on your pull list that could be filled up by new books, now that most of the good part of DC has self - destructed ?

Now you may ask : but where do I get those fantastic comics ? Since I have gotten my review copies directly from Black Tower mastermind Terry Hooper by mail I had to research this a bit ( I can´t tell my readers to start a blog in the hopes of getting some copies as well, can I ? ) and finding them wasn´t easy. As expected I couldn´t find it on amazon but I was a bit surprised that I couldn´t find it on LULU since i know you can get the Black Tower comics there. So I used the link to the Black Tower comics and books online store that can be found on the Black Tower comics and books website link on the blogroll. It can be a bit difficult to navigate so here are the direct links for issue 1 , issue 2 and issue 3 of D - Gruppe where you can see some preview pages of the issues. Of course you can find all other publications by the Hoopster there. I also found some pages from the Zeitgeist story here but from the look of it those are the original pages, the cleaned up version looks much better.

For more about D - Gruppe and Terry Hooper here are the links that helped me greatly in making this post :

d - gruppe issue 1 : revenge of the ice queen

d - gruppe issue 2 : zeit - geist

d - gruppe issue 3 : zeit - geist strikes

terry hooper profile on lambiek

terry hooper interview by phil latter

As is the tradition on this blog a video at the end, but instead of the original 1944 black and white version of LORD OF THE RINGS ( which will be posted at some other time ) I really found two from Black Tower comics. The first one is from the horror anthology TALES OF TERROR and since lately the posts tend to dabble in that territory I found it appropiate.

The second one is from Black Tower´s PURPLE HOOD series with art by Benjamin R. Dilworth. Enjoy.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

We need raw power and I mean to get it or else D - Gruppe is a joke.


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Wow. What a write-up -THANK YOU. I almost missed it because Jamie Lee curtis is just too distracting in those photos!
You note that "Michael" should be "Michel" for Germans. Okay, off the top of my head:
Singers Michael Beheim, Michael Holm (with no "e"?). German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender. Sport there is Michael Ballack and you have the playwriter Jakob Michael Lenz. So, its not a big mistake!
Blau Vogel. Right, she is NOT named after any particular species of bird. Her name was a nickname because she is into blues as well as punk (old school) music -she sang in a blues nightclub in Bonn so Kopfmann called her "Blues Bird" which she decided was a good name and, being English called herself "Blau Vogel".
Einsam Wulf is a typo though the character has called himself "Einsam Wulf" -he's part of an acrobatic duo recruited by British SI/Ex Intelligence -his brother was murdered and he moved to Germany
HEY -weren't all the guests on Gottschalk FORCED to appear???
Issue 4 will see some of this covered so German readers will know I'm not a complete dope!
I am trying to contact Helge (Herod) Korda who did a parody "D-Suppe" in the late 1980s -I want to see if he still has the art and if I can use it.
Waldmeister. LOVELY green lemonade and jelly as I remember. It is a point Korda mentioned waaaay back but I based it on the local ranger I used to work with. Any problem with boar or deer the locals always said "Mussen sie der waldmeister sehen" (yeah, my German is crap) and I thought "He's called "The Forest master -coool!"
I now have a need for a cold glass of Waldmeister!!!

SUBZERO said...

Yes, the distracting power of Jamie Lee Curtis.

You are right that normally Michael is more common than Michel. But since the origin of the character lies waaay back at that time it was Michel. And it wasn´t changed. There are a few famous Michels in German culture like the German Michel or Astrid Lindgren´s Michel from Löneberga ( Astrid Lindgren wrote the BEST children´s books ever ) and that doesn´t get changed to Michael. Even if the name is more common now. But let´s not put too much importance on that.

I don´t know if the guests on GOTTSCHALK were forced to appear but I know that the former German Late Night host Koschwitz was waaay better than Gottschalk and they conspired to get rid of him. And since GOTTSCHALK was the only Late Night Show on German tv at that time it was that or nothing. So they were kind of forced.

And yes, Waldmeister DOES taste great. :-)

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Right. Bit of news for you on the D-Gruppe front. I found the original "rough" strip I drew for a Bastei ghost comic. This one features Kopfmann outside of D-Gruppe along with Sondra Anacker (Panzer) going for a quiet holiday in the alps and encountering...aliens!
I'm re-lettering it for inclusion in D-Gruppe 4. Also,Prentiss (The Mummy)news: I'm going to republish his origin as printed back in 1986!
There will also be the start of a back-up bio phile on D-Gruppe members and I start off with Kopfmann.
All this plus the end of The Zeitgeist story.
Issue 5 will be a bumper book featuring all of the "Resurrection" story.
And not a swastika in sight!

SUBZERO said...

Thanks for the update.

Not really D - Gruppe related but the last time I ordered some comics online I also went to the section of german comics for the zero issue of GEISTER SCHOCKER. And I was very surprised to find out that apparently they are reprinting the early issues of SILBERPFEIL.

I have to see if I can check out some issues the next time I´m at my regular comicshop.

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Don't worry -D-Gruppe 4 will be sent to you for review. I tried, desperately, to get Jamie Lee Curtis wrapped up for you for Christmas but as she pointed out -"If he unwraps me I'll just be naked!" Sorry.

SUBZERO said...

For some reason this comment doesn´t show on the post :

This design is wicked ! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog ( well, almost .... HaHa ! ) Excellent job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool !