Following on from our interview with Peter Mennigen, one of the Most Prolific Phantom Creators we have embarked on a mini German and Bastei Publishing Phantom exploration which saw us review the latest Bastei Freunde magazine issue #50. Next up is Ulrich Wick, who is the co creator and publisher of the magazine.
(You can watch the Chronicle Chamber review of the magazine which is included in the interview).
Chronicle Chamber: Welcome and thank you for your time. Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself? What country and region are you from?
Ulrich Wick: I was born exactly one week after John F. Kennedy was shot - on November 29th, 1963. So it wasn’t me. I have an alibi - my mom did not let me out to play.
Seriously, I am German and was born right in the center of this country, in a city called Gießen. I have been working in a bank for nearly 37 years now, and retirement is getting closer.
CC: What is your background with comics in Europe and Germany?
UW: My first comic was - Sesame Street. The TV-series started in 1972 here in Germany, and was accompanied by a magazine. Later a friend at school introduced me to a comic magazine called Kobra. It contained one really special series - The Trigan Empire by Don Lawrence. You could really be drawn into and get lost into Don’s drawings.
Kobra was cancelled in 1978, and I switched over to Silver Arrow. I was 14 by that time, and had found an interest in the Native American cultures and the drawings by Frank Sels (1942-1986).
CC: What is it about the Bastei Publishing comics that appeal to you?
UW: Bastei Publishing had other western series, like Bessy, Lasso and Buffalo Bill. I started collecting by visiting at flea markets and then later switched over to comic conventions.
So it was not especially the Bastei Publishing label that I fell in love with. They were the big comics publisher here in Germany and had the biggest range of comics.
CC: Your main love is the comic Silver Arrow. Can you tell us about your love of this comic?
UW: The drawings are pretty good and I like the way the Native Americans are portrayed, in a positive way. It’s not reality, I know that, but I like it anyway. The series has a lot of humor and some unique characters, like the two trappers Harry and Jed who are, of course, mirroring Laurel and Hardy.
They have a cougar cub named Tinka who always causes chaos - and a young squaw (I know this term is not politically correct nowadays, but the original meaning is plain and simple “woman”) called Moon Child who learned Judo from a Japanese friend named Endo Kisuki. I like this “multicultural band”, because there is also a black man with immense strength, Jeremias, and other characters as well.
You could identify with Silver Arrow, a young Kiowa chief with a great responsibility. My girlfriend also liked the series as a child and fell in love with the very good looking young Kiowa.
CC: I am led to believe the Kiowa tribe we see in the Silver Arrow comic you have a relationship with? Can you tell us about that?
UW: I am publishing the collectors edition of Silver Arrow today and I try to correct all the mistakes Bastei Publishing made. I also try to make the series a bit more authentic by using the Kiowa language every now and then. Of course, I don’t speak Kiowa, just a few words. The language is tough to learn, especially if you don't have someone around who can teach you.
So one day I contacted the public relations officer from the tribe and asked for a bit of help. It started promising but subsided bit by bit without a definite answer. But in 2009 there were some Kiowa's presenting their culture here in Germany. Joe Hobay and his younger brother Ben Hovakah Wolf are great-grandsons of the two most famous Kiowa chiefs, Lone Wolf (Guipago) and White Bear (Sat-tiah-day, better known as Satanta).
So I just walked up to them and asked them directly. To cut a long story short, a friendship was formed, it was not intended, but that’s exactly what happened. In 2017 I was able to visit them in their homeland, and it was a quite amazing trip. Oklahoma, where they are residing today, may not have been the most spectacular place for a trip, but for my girlfriend and I, we met a lot of interesting people. Ben even introduced us to the tribal elders.
From left to right in the photo attached below, you can see Ben Hovakah Wolf, Deanie Lucero, myself and Joe Lucero Hobay. Deanie is Joe's second daughter (he has three girls) and was a 14-year-old schoolgirl by that time. Today she is a young woman of 25 and has just finished university. Ben is Joe's younger brother.
CC: Most Phantom phans will know of you because of the Bastei Freunde Magazine. Can you tell us about that and how it came about?
UW: I have been part of the German comic scene for about 40 years, and you meet a lot of people during those years, and also a lot of people with the same interests. I started back in 1986 by helping a well-known author of articles when he wrote one about the Bessy series. So bit by bit I got more used to that “journalistic” part.
There were several magazines about comics at that time, but there was very little that published about Bastei Publishing comics. Martin Hilland, who had written a number of articles about Bastei Publishing comics, came up with the idea to present them in his own magazine so that fans who were looking for background information had a source. I have been with this project right from the beginning.
Our magazine was done in a copy shop on a budget. We started by reprinting older articles, pretty soon we added checklists and began writing articles directly for the Bastei Freunde Magazine. Martin and I were the main authors, but there were also others, like Thomas Opitz. Soon the quality of our articles increased.
I took over with issue No.40, to coincide with me already publishing other comics for a number of years. We have reached No.50. Incredible. None of us could ever dream about that at the start.
CC: Bastei Freunde magazine #50 is a special magazine. Is it the first time you have published a previously unpublished story?
UW: I have previously printed a Silver Arrow story that was unpublished in Germany and recently printed another two completely unpublished stories in a separate hardcover collection.
As for the Bastei Freunde Magazine, we have printed eight missing pages of a Buffalo Bill story back in No.18, but this is really the first time we did a complete previously unpublished story. My thanks go to Thomas Opitz, who had the idea, and Peter Mennigen who agreed to collaborate on it.
CC: How did you find these previously unpublished stories?
UW: Let me put it that way: You have to be at the right place at the right time and meet the right people. I cannot go into specific details seeing I am not the owner of the artwork.
CC: Are there any more hidden gems of past unpublished Bastei Publishing Phantom stories?
UW: Yes, there are more. We have access to five unpublished stories by the artist José Maria Ortiz Tafalla, including The Slaves which was printed in Bastei Freunde Magazine #50. Another seven unpublished stories for the Phantom Regular series, nine for Phantom Spezial series (28 pages each) and one for the pocket series. That makes 17 in total.
[Editors note: An example of José Maria Ortiz Tafalla's artwork from Bastei #225 "Der Zwillingsbruder" ("The Twin Brother") written by Peter Mennigen.]
CC: WOW That is amazing! What are the plans for these Bastei Publishing unpublished stories? Will they ever be published?
UW: Currently we are thinking about publishing the 22 stories by the artist José Maria Ortiz Tafalla in a collectors edition, uncut and reworked (which includes the five unpublished ones). Bastei Publishing severally edited and cut the comics as well as adding advertisements directly between the comic story.