|THE MAKING OF GOLDEN GANG
This entire section contains spoilers for the stories in the first trade paperback, and some clarifications of the events portrayed here which could also be considered spoilers.
It's taken the Golden Gang 28 years to get to this point. It was in 1984, inspired by the John Byrne and Chris Claremont run on Uncanny X-men and the swedish version of The Phantom that I started to create what would eventually become what you´re now holding in your hands. (Sidenote: The X-men while very popular in the states struggled in my home country of Sweden. The Phantom on the other hand was very succeful and the swedish version is developed in much greater detail than the american original. There's a small sidebar on super hero comics in Sweden later.)
In the beginning it was called De-7 (The 7) because the group consisted of seven people. My 10-year old imagination only went so far I guess. My five year younger brother would outdo me a few years later with his own super team De 20, which in turn were beat by his super villain team called De 30. I guess we should be happy it ended there.
The very first story I did became pretty long. While character designs and powers were inspired by X-men and other super heroes, the inspiration from The Phantom was more of a rip-off. The intro sequence was me imitating the intro sequence of an episode of the nordic version of The Phantom, probably drawn by finnish artist Kari Leppänen.
That first story was called ”Är Flygaren Fantomen?” (Is the Flier The Phantom?) Flygaren/Flier was the original name of Goldwing, who is the flying elf from this issue.) It didn't really revolve around that question, it was more about a fight against some monsters and villains from an organization who was inspired by Cobra from G.I. Joe/Action Force. (As was Detonator, the young sicilian boy who briefly helped Golden Gang against the Watcher.)
Later I redrew that story and made a ”real” comic book by folding papers and stapling them together. Three episodes were finished and they involved time travel, aliens and a guest appearance by the Fantastic Four. (There's a connection between the X-men and Fantastic Four, and probably the reason I choose them as guest characters, and that is artist and writer John Byrne who was my first artistic idol.)
After that I didn't do any more complete episodes but I had a couple of false starts, and I made a few other comics, alone or with my brother or some of my friends. Then I met a guy in junior high who shared my passion for super heroes and creating stories and worlds. We became very good friends and he helped me alot with Golden Gang. It was about this time that we started making super hero versions of ourselves (I´m Blackflash), which seems to be a common thing among comic creators. My friend and I started an ambitious project called Public Wars, as a sort of pastiche om Marvel´s Secret Wars and it featured a bunch of Marvel characters as well as our own. It was our favorite super hero universe so it was only natural for us to think that Golden Gang existed in the same world. Rights wasn´t an issue that came up back in those days.
Public Wars was supposed to be in 6 parts but only 3 were finished. In high school I started the first finished story in a long while called The Abyss Saga which ran for a couple of years in my role-playing games club´s fanzine. It featured the heroes, sent into the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's game's version of the Abyss, the dimension of demons. The main opponent was Warduke, a character from AD&D that had been made as an action figure in the 80's and also starred in the D&D cartoon and a role-playing game adventure.
After high school I continued to do comics, mostly by myself. I kept working on Golden Gang, trying to come up with the best possible intro story and developing the characters more. But it would take until the mid-2000´s before I made a really concerted effort to bring it all together. The superhero fanzine Svenska Superserier (Swedish Supercomics) had just started and I got the idea to try and make the definitive version of Golden Gang. Originally I planned for another series called Oakgrove Eight, but the fanzine had too many overly ambitious comics that were never finished so I wanted to make a few really short, complete stories instead. Golden Gang fit that setup much better since I had so much material developed and I had begun to really nail down what I wanted to say with my stories and what I wanted to do in the genre of super heroes.
Oakgrove Eight was about a group of heroes from a forgotten time and it was one of the missing pices of the puzzle that made Golden Gang's new origin concept work. (One of those heroes is the woman that is found dead by Heroes Union in the first story of this trade.)
The work that went into this definitive version of the group and it's stories is the result of a lot of thinking and a few sacrifices along the way. One of the most obvious things that had to be changed was that there were too few women in the series and that just didn't feel right. Originally it was just natural, girls wasn't important to me when I was 10, and later I just wasn't very good at drawing them so I avoided it when I could. Back in the day I actually had an event planned where a womens' universe merged with the men's universe. I really want Golden Gang to be a comic book for everyone who can appreciate it, regardless of gender, so this sacrifice isn't really a sacrifice but rather doing things the way I believe it should be done. I hope I´ve succeeded.
I basically went through all the established characters and changed the genders of those that wouldn't interfere with story ideas, or where new ideas appeared when I thought about it.
One such character that used to be a man was Lady Luck. The original version was called Marvel and had a similar power, to do the best possible thing in each situation. Marvel never featured much in my own stuff but he was redesigned a few times. In 2007 a Swedish fanzine started creating a superhero group comic were anyone who wanted could contribute. I liked Marvel's power so he got booted from Golden Gang and joined The North's Stars as the other group was called (he features alongside som of his teammates in one panel in this trade).
When I started putting together the new script for this trade, I missed Marvel's power, so Lady Luck was created as a replacement. Her character will play a bigger role than her predecessor ever did. On the opposite page, you can see some of the gender switched characters as they looked before.
Similarly the ethnic variation was a catastrophe so I went over the characters again, changing countries, race, and ethnicity in order to have the group feel truly international. (Or interplanetary as it were.) For any new character created I tried to spread them out geographically. I also had to read up on some cultures and countries in order not to get things wrong.
Of course, all of this could be seen as me being politically correct but for me it's more a reflection of how I would like the world to be, and what's important to me today, as opposed to 20 years ago. Golden Gang was always meant to have an international feel, their original base was in India and the members were from different continents and planets. Marvel and DC do a good job of representing and showing the US so I'll try to show superheroes from and in the rest of the world. As you probably already have seen, most of the events once the gang has formed take place in the US in the beginning of the story.
There are quite a few genre conventions in super hero comics and there are some I really want to avoid. I'm going to save the discussion for a much later trade but it's going to be interesting to see if you notice anything unusual. The intro story is pretty standard fare, but in a few trades time I think some of you might notice what I try to avoid. Some of the things I'm aiming for you can read about in ”My promises to you”.
For the very few of you that have read the Golden Gang short stories from the swedish fanzine Svenska Superserier, they will be reprinted here in the correct order in Golden Gang's timeline. Originally published in black and white, they will be in full color just like everything else.
The grand plan is for 100 episodes, and 3-6 episodes per trade paperback. In the end it depends on if people like it or not. If not, then I will at least get the main story out. In a shorter form than intended, but you will get the complete main story since I know how much being left hanging sucks.
There's been lots of jumps forward in time in this book's stories. From now on, about one year will pass for every real year. So when we meet the gang next december they will all be one year older. It will not be absolutely exact, the stories might take place over an extended period of time.
On the home page you can find more historic material from Golden Gang's creation, read about its members and their world.
Now to the real nuts and bolts of making Golden Gang. If you know how comic books are made, you can skip the rest of this paragraph.
The very first part, after getting an idea for a story is making a script. Scripts can be written in several different ways, and you can see two different types here.
When I create stuff that I will draw myself I combine the script stage with the page layout, and then I get something like this, called a thumbnail, where I have dialogue written too. I do basic edititing in the thumbnail stage, and then refine once I start the actual drawing. Final editing is when I do the dialogue text.
When someone else is drawing for me, they usually go through four stages, first they send some roughs, like my thumbnails, for my approval. Once I've made suggestions or ok'd them they start pencilling. Different artist do things differently but most start to rough in the basic layout of a panel, and then refine things in stages. When they're satisfied it's time to ink. Inking was a necessity for comics for a long time, taking pencils that don't reproduce well and make them legible for printing. A good inker also helps separate foreground from middle and background, add shadows and the like. Some artists ink themselves, others have separate inkers. In Golden Gang I'm the only one that have a separate inker. It's for two reasons. I don't think I'm good enough at it, and it's frightfully boring in my opinion. You can see some of my own inks on the interior covers and some of the sketches. Nowadays inking isn't necessary for printing reasons, but it's used for aestethic reasons instead.
After inking comes coloring. Coloring is done mostly on computers these days. While I like black & white comics I prefer color for superhero comics. One of the artists in this work, Devina does all the processes herself icluding coloring. The great benefit of this is that you can integrate color effects into the linework. Otherwise you have to communicate a lot with the inker and colorist if you have a particular effect or mood in mind. Most of the time, as an artist you hope that the colorist read your images correctly. All the other coloring is done by Un Hombre Studio.
Finally comes texting. For me this is where I try to set the stage and mood of the scenes, add a bit extra to the images. Dialogue is sometimes finished and sometimes not. Quite often I change the wording of a line or change it alltogether when something better comes to mind.
For a book such as this there's additional work, the main thing being layout, making sure that each page confirms to the printer's guidelines. I discovered Ka-Blam 6 years ago when I was one of the editors on that swedish fanzine I've mentioned. They are a US-based printer (or more like a copier) which specializes on indie comics. We've only had good experiences so I wanted to continue using them. It was also a big plus that they can distribute the material in the US, and digitally.
I mention that I pay for all of this myself, basically that meant cutting down on a lot of things. The cost of the sequential artwork comes to about, logo design, extra art is.
Work on the website started pretty late.
Addendum for swedish readers
I hope to get a swedish language version of Golden Gang out in 2013, and hopefully in 2-3 years time, be able to launch both language versions at the same time.