General Jumbo, The Smasher and Supercats are just some of the classic British heroes back in print this month, thanks to a team of Scottish comic creators, DC Thomson and Comic Heroes magazine.
The Glasgow League of Writers has teamed up with publisher DC Thomson to create new versions of some of their most beloved characters, hoping these modern incarnations will appeal to modern comic book readers. For most on the roster of updated characters it will be the first time they’ve been in print in decades when the series debuts on 14th March, in Comic Heroes’ digital magazine Comic Review.
It was GLoW’s founder, Gordon Robertson, who first approached DC Thomson with the idea of reinventing some of their characters. “‘Project Lazarus’, as we’ve named the project in recognition of the resurrection of many characters thought of as dead,” he explains, “came from an idle daydream on a train when I had an idea for a story for the old DC Thomson character The Smasher.
“DC Thomson has such a varied and rich universe with characters like General Jumbo, Johnny Jett, The Supercats, my beloved Smasher and many more,” he continues. “They’re quintessentially British characters that were unique and didn’t deserve to remain forgotten and so I suggested to other GLoW members that we write stories for these characters to see if we could ‘reboot’ them.
“We did, and the quality of the stories that we told led us to take a chance and speak to DC Thomson. Luckily they agreed with us and gave us permission to bring the characters back to life.”
With their scripts being given the green light by DC Thomson the members of GLoW were able to team up with some of the best up-and-coming artists from the UK to bring the new versions of the characters to life on the page.
“We have some amazing teams working on the project,” enthuses Gordon Robertson, “and I honestly believe that we not only do the originals justice but that we make them modern and relevant as well. That the characters work so well in a modern setting is a testament to the work of the original creators and the strength of their creations.”
The finished versions of the comic book strips caught the attention of Future Publishing’s Comic Heroes magazine and they will be publishing one strip a week in their digital magazine off-shoot Comic Review starting with Invisible on Friday 14th March, inspired by the innocently-named “Invisibel Dick” who featured in The Sparky in the 1960s and 70s.
“I’m thrilled to be part of this project,” says Gary Chudleigh, writer of Invisible. “We get to bring unknown characters to the modern world and shed some light on the rich history of British comics.”
The initial characters to be featured are:
• The Smasher by Gordon Robertson (writer) and Cuttlefish (artist)
First published in The Victor, and, later, Bullet, The Smasher is an eight foot tall, powerful, steel robot that is controlled by various madmen, who are intent on using the mechanical machine for evil purposes. Under the control of its different masters, the Smasher true to its name is merciless in its destruction of humans, animals and structures. The large white circle in its head emits a powerful light beam that enables the robot to ‘see’ in the dark. More info: www.victorhornetcomics.co.uk/smasher.html
• General Jumbo by Gordon Mclean (writer) and Andrew Docherty (artist)
First published in The Beano in 1953 (but also part of Buddy‘s line-up in the 1970s), “General Jumbo” was schoolboy Alfie Johnson of Dinchester – nicknamed ‘Jumbo’ because of his stocky build. After he rescued Professor Carter from being run over by a speeding bus, the professor took Jumbo on as his assistant, impressed by the youngster’s pluck and bravery. A terrific job, as it involved testing out the prof’s radio-controlled army, navy and airforce of miniaturised models. More info: www.beano.com/retro-beano/general-jumbo
“These characters were simply far too good to be left lying in the past as part of comics history,” says writer Gordon Mclean. “With a little tinkering, they fit the modern era beautifully and there’s still so many things you could do with them and brand new stories to tell. Many of them are beloved childhood favourites and their acknowledged influence on such big name industry stars as Grant Morrison just goes to show how important they are to the British comic book industry.”
• Invisible by Gary Chudleigh (writer) and Graeme Kennedy (artist)
Obviously trying to avoid silly snickering from a modern audience, this strip is based on DC Thomson’s innocently-named “Invisible Dick”, a character that enjoyed two incarnations, first in the Rover – published in 1922 – and The Dandy in the 1930s. But it’s The Sparky’s incarnation that I suspect most will remember, featuring Dick Dixon, a schoolboy who is given a torch brough back from space by his astronaut father. The torch’s beam renders things invisible and got him into many scrapes. More info: www.internationalhero.co.uk/i/invisdik.htm
• Johnny Jett by Luke Halsall (writer) and John Grieve (artist)
First appearing in Hotspur in 1959 drawn by Dudley Watkins, young Johnny Jett was shipwrecked as a young boy on Signal Island and brought up by scientist Samuel Holmes, who trained him to be a superboy. Returning to civilisation ten years later to be schooled at Manton College, Johnny embarked on a series of adventures. More info: www.internationalhero.co.uk/j/johnjett.htm
• Supercats by J T Mirana (writer) and Fanny Bystedt (artist)
First published in the 1970s girls comic Spellbound, The Supercats were the all girl crew of the Spaceship Lynx of the Cat Patrol, operating out of Moonbase 4, some with super powers. Helen Millar was an Earthling and team leader. Electra could generate electricity, Hercula had super strength and Fauna could alter her body like a chameleon. More info: www.internationalhero.co.uk/s/supercat.htm
“I’m excited to be writing characters I love,” says JT Mirana, writer of Supercats, “with a history in British comics, and with so much potential to grow.”
• Scarlet Star by Sam Read (writer) and Leonie O’Moore (artist)
While STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine revived Hotspur‘s “King Cobra” last year (written by myself, with the published episodes drawn by Wamberto Nicomedes and two episodes awaiting publication drawn by John Ross), this is the first major revival of DC Thomson adventure characters for many years.
“For the future, we hope that this is only the beginning,” says Gordon Roberston:, “and that our creations go on to long and fruitful lives in the pages of comics around the world.”
• Comic Heroes: www.sfx.co.uk/tag/comics
• Glasgow League of Writers: www.glasgowleagueofwriters.com
• DC Thomson: www.dcthomson.co.uk
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.