“Few fans or collectors remember Silverbeard, so, we’re bringing him back!” Pete Taylor on the story behind The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard and mystery of Catfood Comics

From the moment we saw the cover of The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard, with a wild eyed ape shot through with arrows we knew this was going to be the kind of book we would love. As we looked inside we found an incredibly rich and exciting world, rendered in perfect pulp/silver age detail. Keen to find out more about the story behind Silverbeard and it’s forgotten publisher Catfood Comics, we contacted founder Pete Taylor to find out more about why it’s returned via Kickstarter:

Where did you get the idea for The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard? Was it one of those that developed through different iterations or just one light bulb moment?

Pete Taylor: I’ve always drawn and created my own comics, I still have some of my sketchbooks from when I was a kid and some of those characters have actually found their way into the current Seven Sagas story line. With SB himself, the name came first and I originally thought of him as being solely a pirate, he looked a little more like the traditional ‘Treasure Island’ type in the beginning. I suppose it was a bit of a light bulb moment when I realised that didn’t need to be the case, that he could work as a more flexible fantasy warrior-type.

Once I started to think of him living and evolving through different periods, I imagined these adventures as being written and drawn by different creative teams. Those ideas definitely developed and changed, I started to add genre twists to the different sagas, so for instance the sixth saga, Shrouded, is planned to be full of horror-tinged stories, influenced by 80s British Invasion authors like Alan Moore, Jamie Delano and Grant Morrison.

It feels like a real love letter to pulp and silver age books, were there any titles or artists who particularly inspired you?

PT: Obviously, Conan, the Sphere paperback series in particular, also Barry Smith’s early issues, Red Nails and anything drawn by Big John Buscema. The 70s Marvel magazines, Savage Tales and Savage Sword of Conan and the like. Howard Chaykin’s Solomon Kane and Ironwolf stories plus Blackhawk, Dominic Fortune, hell who am I kidding? All of his stuff. I re-read Alex Toth’s Zorro before starting, trying to get some pointers. Hellboy! Mike Mignola is king of the monster artists. Genndy and Samurai Jack. The Kirby monster books and Kamandi. 80s Ka-Zar by Bruce Jones and Brent Anderson.

You make a lot of mentions about this being a reissue if an older small press series, can you tell us a bit about its history – or is it a bit of Coen brothers style made up true story?

PT: Catfood Comics was a small, New York based comic publisher established in 1944. It came late into the newly founded comic business and never really caught up. Catfood Confidential was their first title, a crime monthly starring Mike Wednesday, a private detective. This was closely followed by Catfood Attacks, a monster title with a giant gorilla named Silverbeard on the cover. Not a fantasy barbarian at this point, it wasn’t until the Catfood expansion in the mid 60s that editor Monty Fields re-introduced the Ape Eternal back onto the marketplace in The Savage Silverbeard #1.

The Simian Swashbuckler enjoyed enough success to stay in print over various titles until the company closed in 1994. Fans mourned but they still had their comics to treasure. Alas, not for much longer, it turned out the comics were incredibly poorly produced. The paper was cheap and reacted with the faintly toxic ink. Some collectors experienced house fires that they blamed on their Catfood Comic collections but nothing could be proved. Ultimately, no copies have survived and now 25 years later few fans or collectors remember Silverbeard.

So, we’re bringing him back in our Kickstarter! Retelling the lost tales of our youth (wink, wink 😉

Is this your first Kickstarter and even your first comic? If so what made you finally want to make the leap?

PT: It’s my first Kickstarter that I’m in charge of and running, I’ve collaborated on a couple previously. I’ve self published my own books and was published in volume 20 of Aces Weekly with Monster Kids: Show & Yell (available on Comixology :). Me and fellow Silverbeard artist, Mark Hughes co-founded the Swansea Comics Collective and we both contributed art and I designed and self published a load of comics for them as well.

I’d spent a long time working with other people on new projects that were moving too slowly or not getting anywhere and that was frustrating. I didn’t want to compromise anymore, I suppose. It was time to have fun doing comics the way I wanted and Mark was more than happy to jump aboard.

You’ve got some amazing pin ups from some amazing artists, how did you go about getting them involved?

PT: That’s another advantage of having Mark involved. He’s a super friendly guy who is much better at making friends than me! Mark has been to the Lexington Comic Con in Kentucky a couple of times and hung out with some big names, he’s still in touch with many of them including Jim Mahfood. Jim’s work is amazing, jaw- droppingly so and he’s worked on Tank Girl, swoon. We were both at Thought Bubble last year when Jim was attending and Mark told him about the book and asked him about doing a pin up “You had me at gorilla” said Jim. It was also at Thought Bubble that I approached Nick Prolix and Russell Mark Olson, who both instantly agreed. I’m a massive fan of both of them, they’re huge talents and have been two of the biggest cheerleaders for the book, so supportive. I can’t thank them enough.

I’ve met Nick Brokenshire a couple of times at cons and absolutely love his work. Nick was attending our local con in Swansea where he kindly looked through our work in progress and was really interested. I got his piece then. After we unlocked our first stretch goal we got extra gallery pages and again it was Mark who filled them. He’d been talking online and showing some friends our in progress mock up. I couldn’t believe it when he lined up Jonathan Edwards, Dimitris Zach and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell. Mark had met Dimitris online and we were both blown away by his work. And Jonathan and Warwick, what an amazing pair, and two more Tank Girl artists!

And finally what’s the long term plan for Silverbeard and any other titles in the works?

PT: I have this idea for Silverbeard’s story that it’s going to be told in a kind of linear but fractured way. It’s difficult to describe but I want to reflect what it was like back in the day when you couldn’t always find the next issue. Sometimes, those missed issues would leave gaps in your knowledge about a heroes life and you would get hints about what happened on letters page or in the little checklist blurbs or you might get a recap in a later issue. I’m planning to use these gaps as jumps across the sagas while still telling a coherent story.

The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard book would continue to have a lead continuing story and a back up tale that darts around different periods and characters. The first arc should be four or five issues. Ultimately, if Seven Sagas is successful enough, I would love to do a one shot Silverbeard annual with other creators doing an adventure from each era.

Over the years, my roster of Catfood Comics characters has grown to over eighty. Some are already planned to be introduced in Silverbeard but a Catfood anthology book with Mike Wednesday, Lizard Archie and Captain Catfood strips would be a hoot to do. You never know! 🙂

You can pledge support on The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard Kickstarter here.