Over on his Elephantmen blog, Active Images’ Richard Starkings has posted a fascinating insight into the history of Marvel UK’s early attempts to publish US-style comics, which led to publication of titles such as Dragon’s Claws and the about-to-be-remastered The Sleeze Brothers.
The launch of the first titles, Dragon’s Claws and Death’s Head appear to owe as much to Marvel US management’s determination to remain Number One in any market as much as the oft-crushed enthusiasm and energy of the creators involved in the titles who not only include Richard, Simon Furman, Geoff Senior, John Carnell and Andy Lanning — to name but a few — but also US Marvel staff such as the late, great Archie Goodwin.
Richard details the long, tortuous road to getting Dragon’s Claws off the ground and the background to the launch of The Sleeze Brothers via Marvel’s Epic imprint, a feat that owes much to Goodwin’s support.
“At this point in the 1980’s, comic creators on both sides of the Atlantic were looking for better treatment and better deals,” Richard recalls. [Fleetway’s] Crisis was offering creators ownership of their creations and I felt that Marvel UK should be offering that kind of deal too.”
Meeting Archie during a trip to London in 1988 for the UK Comic Art Convention, Richard pointed out that Watchmen had recently been a critical and financial success. “As Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins had all worked for Marvel UK in the early 1980’s, I argued that, had we treated them better, we might have been in a position to publish a hit like Watchmen.
“Archie was impressed by The Sleeze Brothers and offered to go to bat with management on our behalf… Archie spoke with management, management approved The Sleeze Brothers as an EPIC title. It was as simple as that!”
Richard also notes that while the recent release of a Dragon’s Claws collection suffers from being culled from page scans (downthetubes sources tell us that the original film used to create the book was consigned to a skip along with a lot of other materials when Marvel UK left its Arundel House headquarters in London for Tunbridge Wells in the early 1990s), the remastered Sleeze Brothers will benefit from being based on scans of the original art tracked down by artist and co-creator Andy Lanning.
But Richard says the very possibility of a new Sleeze Brothers collection still owes much to Archie Goodwin, even though he sadly passed away in 1998 after a ten year battle with cancer.
“He remains an inspiration to thousands of creators in the comic book industry to this day,” Ricard aclknowledges. “Archie taught me more about creator rights by his example than anyone before or since. There would be no Elephantmen without The Sleeze Brothers and no Sleeze Brothers without Archie Goodwin.”
• Here’s a short animation for The Sleeze Brothers mobile project, first uploaded to YouTube in 2007
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.