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Tales of Brok Windsor: Interview with Hope Nicholson

Last year, Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey launched the successful Kickstarter campaign Nelvana of the Northern Lights, reprinting the classic Golden Age Canadian Comic, that was thought to be lost. This year, Hope Nicholson is bringing back another classic Golden Age character Brok Windsor. The comic was created by Jon Stables and it was one most popular comics in the '40s . Today is the start of the Brok Windsor Kickstarter and you can click here to back this campaign. CBNAH spoke with Hope to talk about Brok Windsor campaign, Kickstarter, current climate of the comics industry and more.

CBNAH: Last time we chatted you were in the middle of putting the finishing touches on Nelvana and promoting Lost Heroes. Now, you're doing another Kickstarter and another documentary film. Do you sleep?

Hope Nicholson:  I will say, this makes me feel terribly guilty, but I always get at least 8 hours sleep a night. However, I rarely think of anything during the day other than my projects!

CBNAH: For our readers who are unfamiliar with Jon Stables, can you tell us a little bit about him and Brok Windsor?

HN: Jon Stables was creating pulp illustrations for serials featured in the monthly Farming Magazine called the Country Guide in Winnipeg, when he decided to move to Victoria and work in the shipyards painting signs for the war. Shortly after, he started working for Maple Leaf Publishing in Vancouver, where he created the heroes Bill Speed and Brok Windsor, as well as house ads and funny animal cartoons. Brok Windsor was named for a friend of his who died in combat overseas during the war. Brok Windsor was this gorgeous comic that showed a combination of his pulp and signmaking experience with lushly drawn illustrations. Brok was an outdoorsman and medical doctor who became a giant when he visited a futuristic land hidden in the wilderness of Canada. Here he was forced to battle all sorts of strange foes, with the aid of his new friends, the giants Starra and Torgon, who is a member of an advanced hidden aboriginal civilization.

CBNAH: Brok Windsor feels more like a pulp hero. Was Stables greatly influence by the pulp novels when he created Brok Windsor?

HN: Jon Stables had to have been influenced by pulp novels, as he worked with them so long in Winnipeg.

CBNAH: How many issues from the original series you will be able to restore?

HN: I have located 14 stories, and one script that was never turned into a comic! There should be no stories that I cannot find. There are 4 left I need to travel to Winnipeg and Vancouver to collect, but after that I'm done.  

CBNAH: How will you and Rachel approach Brok Windsor kickstarter differently from Nelvana? 

HN: This is a solo project, Rachel is not working on Brok Windsor with me. I have definitely learned a lot from my experience working with Nelvana, there are a few things such as printing comic issues or calendars that was too time and money extensive to repeat. In addition I'm giving myself a lot longer this time to make sure that nothing gets rushed!

CBNAH: What comics/titles did you know from The Golden Age of Canadian comics that are sadly in the sands of time?

HN: Honestly, I don't think any are completely lost! Or if they are, they are so lost that I don't know about them at all. Through luck and perseverance I have been able to find dozens of collections, and hopefully will continue to locate more as word spreads about my projects.

CBNAH: Do you think that comic industry is currently going through a new golden age?

HN: I think we're going through an exciting time for comics, but it's definitely not a golden age, but that's not a bad thing! The golden age was exciting because the entire medium was new and they had no idea what would work and what they were capable of. I'd like to think that the artists and writers now have learned from the mistakes made in the past, and are also aware that they are capable of so much more innovation in artwork and storytelling.

CBNAH: You're currently developing a documentary on the history of queer comic book representation. You are in pre-production mode and what can people expect to see in the film?

HN: Documentaries take a lot of time! We filmed some segments already at TCAF, with Trina Robbins discussing her history working with underground queer comics, and Zan from Northwest Press talking about creating a publisher that only focuses on queer comics, and both interviews were really fascinating. There's a lot more work to do on this project, but it's one that is constantly in the background of my mind, and I'll be very excited when I can start doing interviews again for it!

CBNAH: Is there anything you would like to say to the backers/fans of Nelvana and Brok Windsor?

HN: I hope if you backed Nelvana and were happy with the book that you will chip in again for Brok Windsor! It's a bit scary, choosing a character that is gorgeous, and fun, but incredibly obscure. I have no idea if he will resonate with the public like he did for me, and I'm going out on a bit of a limb. But if you do, I promise, I have even more amazing characters and history to share with you, much of which I discover day by day in my research, and is brand new information!

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