The latest in the Treasury of British Comics Specials is coming your way on 27 May with the return of a set of classic British heroes and anti-heroes in the SMASH! Special!
Inside the 64-page SMASH! Special you’re going to get to thrill to the all-new adventures of The Spider, Steel Claw, Mytek the Mighty and more, all brought to the page by a stellar line up of talent.
Inside the all-new SMASH! Special, it’s time to catch up with the paranormal investigator Cursitor Doom – first drawn by the great Eric Bradbury, and now updated by writer Maura McHugh and artist Andreas Butzbach…
Maura, Andreas, lovely to talk to you in these most trying of times, hope you and yours are all safe and well and you’re coping well in the viral apocalypse.
Maura McHugh: Thanks for the invite to discuss the story, and so far I’m safe and healthy in the West of Ireland.
Andreas Butzbach: Thank you, it is certainly not the apocalypse I was expecting, but it is okay. This way I can just continue making comics instead of roaming the wastelands with the warboys.
Now, the SMASH! Special comes out on 27 May and inside we’re going to be thrilling to the new adventures of Cursitor Doom. I must admit my relative ignorance of this one. And googling doesn’t help all that much – although I did manage to answer my first question of what the hell is a Cusitor. Of all things, it’s an ancient term for an officer or clerk in the Lord Chancellor’s Court in Britain. What I did find out was that Cursitor Doom was a mysterious hero type, based in a Scottish castle, who used his psychic powers to fight supernatural evils. He was the brains, his assistant, Angus McCraggan, provided the brawn.
Now, assuming we’re not going to see 8 pages of legal paperwork in the strip, first things first, who is Cursitor Doom?
MM: Cursitor Doom first appeared in SMASH! in 1969. He was written by Scott Goodall and drawn primarily by Eric Bradbury and Jim Baikie. He’s a paranormal investigator with some telepathic powers, and operates from a castle in Scotland. The original stories were very much of their time: spiffing action with mysteries and ghostly attacks. I love those kind of stories and characters so it was a lot of fun to dig in and ponder a new story for him.
And what can we expect from the storyline here in the Special? Any particular surprises in store for us?
MM: This story includes another paranormal investigator from the IPC archive: Jason Hyde. Hyde never appeared in comic book form but in illustrated stories, written by Barrington J. Bayley, and illustrated by Eric Bradbury. He’s a scientist with a fondness for gadgets and an unearthly vision (depicted as blue rays from his eyes) which allows him to see through objects and read minds.
MM: Creating a story in seven pages in which I put two such iconic characters together was a challenge, but I did my best to introduce them to a new audience and showcase their talents and allies.
The story has a folk horror vibe with a nod to the 1960s spy sensibility that tended to infuse the Hyde stories, and is called ‘King For a Day‘.
Were you both aware of the two characters before getting the gig to write this new strip for the SMASH! Special?
MM: I was vaguely aware of Doom but Hyde was completely new to me. It’s always enjoyable to root through older comics and become acquainted with new characters. I love reading comics from this era so it was a pleasure to do the research.
AB: I did not knew them prior to this, but quickly read everything I could get my hands on.
What was the thinking behind putting Jason Hyde into what will be his first comic story, so many years after his original appearances in Valiant in the late 60s?
MM: It was editor Keith Richardson’s idea to put the two of them together in the story, and since Hyde and Doom are both investigators of the strange and arcane they have a shared occupation.
It seems to me that both Cursitor Doom and Jason Hyde are more of those classic Brit characters who couldn’t be further from the goody-goody superheroes of US comics at the same time.
The two main characters here are an aging, bald figure whose look is part Bond villain, part terrible 60s TV magician and a paranormal investigator dressed inblack and carrying a walking stick who looked more at home in Victorian London than modern times.
AB: Which is what makes them so awesome. Mind reading x-ray eyes, how cool is that? Those two Guys fit together perfectly…
MM: I like Doom’s odd and enigmatic appearance, and it tallies nicely with a type of British eccentric character that’s a staple of genre fiction, especially detective fiction. British audiences doesn’t necessarily expect their heroes to be handsome and athletic, but they do expect them to solve crimes with panache and wit. Hyde was depicted as a bit sterner, which is why he pairs well with other characters who round him out. I love the British tradition of the boffin detective who doesn’t deny the weirder elements in the world (Quatermass is an example). There is always a sense of fair play and that a grander order of reason and justice should be protected. These stories were aimed at a younger audience of course, so the likes of Hyde and Doom were employed to right wrongs in strange circumstances and be on the side of ordinary people.
Andreas, when it comes to the artwork, I think it’s fair to say that your style is a long way from the fine, detailed, black and white work of Bradbury. Your artwork that I’ve seen from your website and The Romantic in the last Thirteenth Floor Special from 2019 – when you do b&w, it’s fabulously stark and angular, something I especially loved with The Romantic.
AB: Thank you, glad you like what we created for the Thirteenth Foor special. It was my first time working with Ghastly McNasty and Rebellion, I’m pretty proud of it! To see my name on the cover between Kyle Hotz and Kelley Jones, priceless!
So, what changes have you made here for Cursitor Doom, are you changing your style to reflect the look of the strip from the past or going your own way with a new look?
AB: I feel like my style always changes a bit, depending on what I’m working on and which tools are used. It’s a direct reflection of moods and feelings and all the stuff that influenced me in the past. I’m really into this sort of story and characters, I absorbed the original material and just let it flow. Keith does an outstanding job with finding cool material for me and Mr. Bradbury’s work is amazing, even more so when you realise how old that stuff is. His were big footsteps to follow in and I only hope I did the characters justice. Besides drawing the two main characters, I found great joy in designing Vio, Una and Oswin, the characters which Maura created.
Andreas, what process do you use for creating? Any changes for this strip?
AB: First I made sure to get to know the characters, read all the reference material and what I could find online. I worked out some character sheets to get accustomed to drawing the dudes and read the script. I then usually start with a rough page layout with a focus on panels and storytelling. After that, I sketch out the compositions in the panels. The rest is all about lines, filling black areas and making the editor and the writer happy!
And finally, what’s next from both of you?
AB: Until the COVID-19 chaos is over, I’m working on my personal project ‘BIGASSSWORD’ and do commissions here and there. There are also a few pitched projects for which it is too early to say something and hopefully more work for Rebellion.
MM: I’m truly excited to have a story in the next Misty/Scream Special. From my perspective Misty is a comic book treasure: horror aimed at girls, and it was a genuine honour to be part of a continuation of that tradition. I’m also working on other stories for Rebellion… more will be revealed soon!
Thank you to both Andreas and Maura for taking the time to chat to us.
The SMASH! Special will be out on 27 May – get it from the 2000 AD web store or wherever comic books are sold (or whatever stores are still open!) And remember – keep safe, keep everyone else safe, wash your hands, and wear that mask!