Make mine Marvel

It was a chance conversation on Twitter that started it. Who was the best artist who ever drew Silver Surfer? Jack Kirby or John Buscema? Of course it’s a popular discussion among comic book aficionados and even had a scene dedicated to it in the major Hollywood movie Crimson Tide.

It was when I tweeted this divisive question that West Yorkshire’s secret millionaire came clean: that he, like I, was a comic book obsessive.

Carl Hopkins has many guises: advertising agency guru, prolific Apprentice tweeter, secret millionaire, coffee with Klooger, wannabe Dragon and comic book collector and connoisseur.

Now I like to think I’m no slouch in this world – as a young boy, I avidly collected Marvel comics and I have a huge collection stashed away and a not too shabby knowledge of the Marvel universe. So we agreed to spend an hour or so talking comics – not business or creative industry, but Marvel (with a little DC thrown in, but not much). It was a wonderful indulgence and quite exceptional to be engrossed in conversation about nothing other that superhero characters, artwork, writing, paper, printing techniques and the perils of being a collector.

Carl began collecting whilst at Jacob Kramer College in Leeds (we worked out he was in the year below me I think) whilst studying Graphic Design on the same course. For fifteen years Carl built an impressive collection of modern and classic titles until he realised his obsessive collecting was perhaps a little bonkers – classic sign: buying three copies of a single comic, two for the archive, bagged and sealed, and one to read.

Ever since I was a young lad, I loved collecting too but for some strange reason I was never that hooked on the pristine comic book collection. I always liked the fact that they’d been read and actively swapped comics I’d read for ones I hadn’t. I’ve never been the ultimate completist – but Carl is pretty much the closest I’ve ever met to one.

For Carl it was family reasons that the comic book collecting came to an end (and maybe a realisation it had become more than just a hobby) and now, he has behind a sliding door, a highly enviable collection of books spanning 30 years or more. Anyone who collects comics will be green with envy with the pristine set up: no damp, every copy lovingly wrapped, characters stored in sections- ‘you want Daredevil? Here he is, just here – Frank Miller…?’

Daredevil and Spider Man loomed large – and I can’t disagree with that. These were my two favourite characters from the 1970’s. Matt Murdoch and Peter Parker were the ultimate heroes for a young teenager who didn’t feel exceptional in any way and liked the thought of being an outsider without actually being one.

We agreed to disagree on the best artists for the characters and the names of these artists came readily as you’d expect from a couple of art school boys. For the record, I will always love Ditko and Romita for Spidey and although I confess Miller’s Daredevil is off the scale in terms of coolness, the early Daredevil yellow costume gives me goosebumps.

On this snowy afternoon, I brought along some of these new fangled graphic novels, on shiny paper, showing some of out best-loved old characters reinvented: Thor, Captain America and the marvellous Avengers. Carl caressed the books like an alcoholic who’s not touched a drop for twenty years. I left them for him to take a look at and we swapped books like old collectors do.

For people like Carl and myself, I think comics inhabit a space that hasn’t been entirely filled by the modern world. Movies like Inception are amazing and the effects are incredible, we talk about them for weeks on end. But. And there is a but. Comics created worlds that were so inventive and exciting and weren’t limited by the special effects on the screen – it’s all about the mind and how you create it for yourself.

Inevitably though, comics are bound to be all about escapism they created in the relatively austere times we grew up in the 50/60/70s. But the characters endure and when they are effectively translated to the big screen, the results can be eye-popping (Iron Man is the best adaptation to date) and be as genuinely creative as anything ‘brand new’.

So, the comics were packed up, lest Carl’s young son might find the bright colours too attractive and we finished our coffee and both wondered if it was wise to re-acquaint ourselves with the insistent world of comic collecting. Although I’ve found the instant fix of all the titles wrapped up in a graphic novel just right for me and the my life, I think that Carl would see that as cheating in some way.

Having said all of that, it seems to me in this world the relentless searching, completist collecting and sublime discovery of the comic is almost as good as the read itself.

One thought on “Make mine Marvel

  1. Small world Phil. First Prague (Yorkshire Forward 2005) and now our love of comics. It seems we too ALL have something else in common, us ‘designers’. I had an idea Carl collected comics (would love to see his collection) yet had no idea how big this was or that you was a fan too. My fave in 2010 was Dynamite’s Lone Ranger, and yes I have two sets, both bagged up and the novels – want to borrow a copy? Swap shop time!! (You must also visit Strange Tales n Things in Dewsbury some time. Say hello to Tas for me if you do – Weds or Satdi is best. Well worth a trip). Ah, the wonderful late 70s and 80s. (Us 40 plus year olds!) For me it was Roy of the Rovers (Melchester Rovers) and 2000AD, Judge Dredd, Mean, Rogue Trooper and of course Tharg the mighty – that is where I got ZARJAZ from on my Gut-o-meter. I will spare you all the details other than to say I still have some of my school comic drawings and use them in various ‘creative’ talks for business and now in schools – the best being a superheroes day last year. (Thanks Mum for saving the drawings in the loft.) And then of course Bulletpoint Design (1989-present), our superheroes themed studio and finding my alter-ego Bulletman, an Ebay search for ‘bullet’ in 2008, a comic book superhero from the 50s (I have a copy) and Action Man in the 70s (I have three action dolls!) and dare I say he was a bit of a flop apparently, they cheated as he was a reboxed GI Joe. And finally Design Your Own Superhero – a project for schools – the video we made and making use of the Kirby dots from Silver Surfer 🙂 (Still not found time to do the story/blog on this – on the TO DO List.) Oh and my 4 year old son (Joshua) now collecting Marvel Superhero Squad figures and the games we have made up. Any more sado’s out there – sorry, I mean ace comic lovers – here is some more info on Bulletman. (If you think I am advertising Phil pls feel free to delete this last para)…and do pop in for a coffee this spring? So…who is Bulletman? – enjoy. Passionate eh? As you can tell from my waffling 🙂

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