Monday, October 10, 2011

Germany´s first Super Hero Team

I´m a terrible, terrible human being. No, really. On one side I keep bitching about Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image and all the other comic companies not drowning me in review copies but when I finally get some comics to review it takes me like ages to do the reviews.

Case in point : D - GRUPPE by Terry Hooper - Scharf, Benjamin R. Dilworth and John Erasmus published by Black Tower Comics Group. I got the first three issues some time ago ( shame on me, it´s been so long that I have no idea when exactly ) well after issues 1 and 2 of BLACK TOWER ADVENTURE but since the story in D - GRUPPE takes place before the TWILIGHT OF THE GODS saga I thought it best to write about them first.

With all the noise and news bombardement about DC´s new 52 it is time to step back and look what else is happening in the comic world. There are a lot of comic readers out there who have stopped reading DC books or have reduced their DC reading pile so they might look for something new to read. So how about a comic universe that´s under the helm of one mastermind that doesn´t have any reboots ? Okay, it´s in black and white but the storytelling is way better than some examples I have seen in some of the new DC books. But what´s most important - they are fun to read.

When was the last time reading a comic book was fun ? I wish I had some of the new DC issues other than the new JUSTICE LEAGUE 1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee to compare. But in the first story of issue 1 of D - GRUPPE, a 14 page story called THE REVENGE OF THE ICE QUEEN, all seven members of the team are introduced 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.

Now before we go further into analyzing D - GRUPPE a few of my readers from outside of Germany may be wondering why the title of this post labels them as Germany´s first super hero team. I´m not really a historian of german superhero comics but my research points to it that there is no german comic book about a german super hero team that predates D - GRUPPE which was created in the 1970s and first published in the 1980s. Now why is that ?

The german comic market has always been mostly imported comics that were translated and while there were german comics by the big publishers and later by the independent press superheroes were a terrain most german comic creators were afraid to enter. Or if they did superheroes it was mainly for parodies of the existing american superheroes. Because the american comic creators - let´s face it - were the top dogs in the superhero area and most german comic creators didn´t think it was worthwhile or even possible to do german superheroes in a serious manner. And that´s not something that I´m making up since it was one of the many obstacles we faced when doing the now infamous first - and so far only issue - of POWER FREAKS.

As I said, I´m not a comic historian who knows everything about german comics and I´m not saying who influenced who but between the end of the 1990s and 2000 ( which was when we did POWER FREAKS ) there was a sudden spike in german comics in the independent comic scene that also contained some titles that featured superheroes or characters with superhero - like characteristica.

The first was HELDEN ( HEROES ) by Ralf Paul and Guido Paul which started in 1997 and was announced as " Germany´s answer to super hero comics by the country that brought you Blitzkrieg, Bratwurst and Heidi Klum " in the PREVIEWS catalogue. Although as far as I can remember the story is about the adventures of some rolegame playing team´s characters and as such rather a fantasy comic than a superhero comic.

In 2001 IPP Productions started DORN ( THORN ), their real, full - on superhero comic that took place in Cologne but there was no team involved.

In 1998 Infinity Verlag began publishing DIE VERGESSENEN ( THE FORGOTTEN ONES ) but as far as I can remember that book was more about conspiracies in the vein of X - FILES than straightforward superheroes and I guess nowadays it would be filed under " mystery ". Most books tried to do superheroes without putting too much attention to the superhero aspect.

A series that wasn´t afraid of being labeled as a superhero comic was NEW ARDEN CHRONICLES from Final Art Comics in 1999 which clearly showed it´s influences like the art of Todd McFarlane and the Image comics of the 1990s.

The same year Karicartoon Verlag started with KOPECK that had some superpowered people in it and although the main character was a mercenary I´m willing to let it count if somebody as Grifter is in the superhero category.

There also is UNION DER HELDEN ( UNION OF HEROES ) but while it does feature more than one superhero I´m not sure if it really qualifies since it´s a webcomic and not a drawn comic but a photo comic.

Now why have german superhero comics taken so long to surface ? To tell the truth I can only speculate but in american superhero comics there aren´t many german superheroes because most germans that appeared were villains. Because germans make the best villains. They are well structured, tidy, efficient, always on time, they have culture and come on.....Nazis, how can you beat that for a villain ? From Baron Strucker to Dr. Doom ( where Bavaria was changed to Latveria ) to the Red Skull most german comic characters were Nazis.

Or sometimes Nazi collaborateurs like Baron Blood who was not only a Nazi ( although from british heritage ) but also a vampire and aristocrat. Combining three evils in one person he was like the turducken of supervillains.

Aside from all the evil germans there have been a few attempts at creating german superheroes by american comic companies which ranged from the slightly embarassing E - Blitz from Düsseldorf, later called Blitzkrieger

to the more painful Hauptmann Deutschland who was later called Vormund who together were part of the Schutzheiligentruppe ( troop of patron saints ). Wile one of the possible translations of guardian is Vormund, in the german language Vormund is almost exclusively used in the sense of a legal guardian. The better translation would have been Wächter because Vormund just sounds ridiculous a a superhero name.

And do I even have to mention Bundesadler who appeared in a few panels of JMS´ Morlun story as food and to show how ridiculous the idea of a german superhero is ?

Okay, at this point most of you - or at least some of you - may be screaming : What about Nightcrawler ? He´s a popular superhero and he´s german. Right, this one was ours but they killed him off.

And let´s face it : he wasn´t the best looking one. In one of my earliest posts about the NIGHTCRAWLER miniseries by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and Darick Robertson ( and I can recommend the two trades of it for all fans of Nightcrawler ) I wrote :

I think it´s no coincidence that Nightcrawler looks like he does. Come on, he´s the german guy on the team. Canada has the übermacho with Logan who is just slightly taller than Yoda, Africa got the goddess with Ororo, Ireland got the fighting drunk Sean, Russia got the iron worker ( because of the iron curtain ) with Pjotr, the native americans got Warbird ( who did not last that maybe he was worse of than Nightcrawler )...and what did Germany get ? A bluefurred freak who looks like the devil's pet demon, a cross between papa smurf and Mephisto with the soul of a saint. Which is how Germany may appear to foreigners : ugly and cold on the outside. But once you get to know it a little better it´s full of warmth and beautiful things. Except Bielefeld which doesn´t really exist.

So historical speaking germans in comics are mostly Nazis and when they are heroes they are either ridiculous, disfigured, meet an untimely demise or - all of the above. I think at the moment Maverick is the only german superhero left in the Marvel universe and let´s see how long he lasts.

Keeping in mind the bad track record of german superheroes in american comics and the bad translations ( for names as well as for dialogue ) it´s a nice change of pace to read a book like D - GRUPPE with correct use of names and a real knowledge of the german culture and history. One of the reasons why I liked reading JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE was that they were travelling around and you could see many foreign countries. Or rather what american comic creators thought other countries looked like.

I remember that I had an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE with me on the trip to Venice ( Italy ) with the art school and one of the other pupils leafed through the comic and complained that the indian city where the story took place didn´t look like indian cities look. Which was only natural since the most the artist knew about India was probably from what he had seen in some old Technicolor movie from the 1970s, like Fritz Lang´s THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR or THE INDIAN TOMB ( or JOURNEY TO THE LOST CITY ) which starred the sultry Debra Paget who did a really rauchy bellydance in the second movie.

I really don´t know how her outfit passed the censorship of that time.

Debra may not have been the biggest star but after the release of THE INDIAN TOMB the amount of fan mail for her received at 20th Century - Fox was only topped by that for Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable.

Like I said, in most cases comics that take place in Germany are either poorly translated like the one with Spider - Man and Wolverine in Germany where Spider - Man thinks a guard is talking about the people he killed while in reality he´s only complaining about his wife being a lousy cook.

Or it´s done by someone who doesn´t know that much of the history and the country - both of which is clearly not the case in D - GRUPPE since Terry Hooper partially grew up in Germany.

Man, once again I didn´t get to the review part but I guess we´ll have to leave that for the next part as it´s already pretty late and I have to wrap this post up. But we will get to talk more about D - GRUPPE in the next installment and maybe I´ll even have time to mention that I almost came to be part of the comic.

As I have mentioned Debra Paget in this post I absolutely have to post the clip of her dance scene in THE INDIAN TOMB for all readers who are too young to have seen the movie.

I couldn´t find a video about the SPIDER - MAN VS WOLVERINE comic but they did square off in the animated series from the 90s. I tried to find the full episode but the only ones I could find were in bad quality, the latino dubbing or the wrong format. Or all of the things I just mentioned. Luckily I found this clip which is in good quality and the right format.

Speaking about that comic, I tried to find a video about german super heroes but the only one was from the GERMANY VS USA channel and while it says it´s about super heroes it doesn´t really mention any german super heroes or how super hero comics were published in Germany. So because americans who can´t read german really think those soldiers are talking about all the people they have killed I thought it appropriate to post a video about all the other lies about Germany foreigners are told.

Even though I didn´t really get to talk about D - GRUPPE in this post I wanted to include a video about them but I couldn´t find one, not even on Terry Hooper´s own video channel. So instead I´m posting a video about the Purple Hood which is at least super hero related.

And last but not least here´s the second Spider - Man movie. When I was growing up this was the pinnacle of comic book achievement.

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


Geier said...

Der "unheimliche Kakerlak" von undergroundcomix ist auch noch ein lustiger Superheld. Und ein Vormund hat ja wohl nix mit Wächter zu tun.

thirtyseven said...

There is also the "Engel" from Tomppa with two issues published by THENEXTART.
Thank you very much for mentioning my "Union of Heroes"! That made my day. Nevertheless I think that the linked youtube video is a little bit missleading because it is the only video we have created in this style so far - I myself consider Union of Heroes to be a Superhero Comic, too. (Ok, it's photographed - but it has speach bubbles, the special effects are created by hand with wacom tablet and pen and I layout my pages like any other comic artist, too).

Dann gibt es da noch den "Engel" von Tomppa von dem mittlerweile schon zwei Ausgaben bei THENEXTART vorliegen.
Besten Dank für die Erwähnung meiner "Union der Helden" hat mich sehr gefreut. Wobei das von Dir verlinkte youtube Video ein bisschen in die Irre führt, da es ja keine weiteren Videos dieser Art von Union der Helden gibt. Ich selbst betrachte Union der Helden übrigens ebenfalls als Superhelden Comic. (Ok, die Bilder sind fotografiert - aber es gibt Sprechblasen, die Spezialeffekte werden auf einem Wacom Tablett mit einem Stift erstellt und ich layoute meine Seiten so wie jeder andere Comic-Zeichner auch.

SUBZERO said...

Wie gesagt wenn man " guardian " in die Übersetzungsmaschine gibt kommt sowohl Wächter ( oder Hüter ) als auch Vormund als Ergebnis. Da hat der Übersetzer einfach daneben gegriffen.

Stimmt, den Kakerlak hab ich vergessen, mal sehen ob ich da noch nachreichen kann. Das Thema ist ja noch nicht abgeschlossen.

SUBZERO said...

Also ich war in letzter Zeit nicht so oft auf deutschen Comicmessen von daher kann es schon sein dass ich nicht alle Hefte von The Next Art habe. Ui, Schande.

Union der Helden hab ich gern erwähnt, ich hab ja jetzt ein paar Folgen im COMIX gelesen. An sich sehe ich es schon als Superheldencomic mein Problem ist da eher dass es nunmal in erster Linie ein webcomic ist. Und von daher gibt es bestimmt etliche Superheldenwebcomics aber die meissten kenn ich wahrscheinlich nicht. Und ich schreib nicht gern über Sachen von denen ich keine Ahnung hab ( könnte man jetzt nicht glauben wenn man den blog liest. )

Zum Video : ich hatte ein paar von Union der Helden gefunden aber in dem war einfach am meissten Action. Ich glaub in der anderen wurde viel geredet und herumgessen. Von daher war´s einfach am interessantesten.

thirtyseven said...

Laut gibt es im Moment ganze 10 deutschsprachige Webcomics über Superhelden (David Bollers Tell und Dorn von Ipp inklusive).
Gut, mir fallen jetzt vielleicht noch 4 oder 5 weitere ein die dort nicht eingetragen sind - aber die Anzahl ist doch sehr überschaubar und die meisten der dort gelisteten fallen dann auch noch eher in den Bereich Parodie/Funny...

memoirreviews said...

The lack of domestic superheroes in Germany is linked with the German need to turn away after World War II from the Nazi's concept of a supposed Aryan super race. The very term "Superman" was problematic because of that German concept in France too.