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NEAL ADAMS and DENNY O’NEIL reveal the history of BATMAN’s arch-foe


Setting our sights on comics noir

and street-level heroes in our


The Ultimate Comics Experience!

Volume 1, Number 10 June 2005 Celebrating the Best Comics of the '70s, '80s, and Today! EDITOR Michael Eury PUBLISHER John Morrow

PRO2PRO: DENNY O’NEIL AND M.W. KALUTA ON THE SHADOW .....................................2 Learn the genesis of DC’s first “grim and gritty” series in this one-on-one chat

DESIGNERS Robert Clark and Rich J. Fowlks PROOFREADERS John Morrow and Eric Nolen-Weathington

SPECIAL THANKS Jason Adams Mark Tomlinson Neal Adams Jaume Vaquer Terry Austin Jim Warden Mike W. Barr Len Wein Spencer Beck John Workman Jerry Boyd Jim Young Mike Burkey Jim Cardillo Catskill Comics Howard Chaykin Rich DeDominicis Steve Englehart Mike Fleming Shane Foley William Foster Ron Frenz Dick Giordano Grand Comic-Book Database Jason Greenfield Mike Grell David Hamilton Allan Harvey Heritage Comics The Jack Kirby Collector Dan Johnson Michael W. Kaluta Mike Keane Scott Kent Joe Kubert Ted Latner Richard Martines Adam McGovern Brian K. Morris Stuart Neft Al Nickerson Dennis O’Neil Adam Philips Roland Reedy Bob Rozakis Rose Rummel-Eury Peter Sanderson Jeff Singh Roger Stern Roy Thomas

ROUGH STUFF: BATMAN PENCIL AND SKETCH GALLERY .......................................................16 The Dark Knight by N. Adams, Bingham, Bolland, Cockrum, Hannigan, Hitch, Mazzucchhelli, Nasser, Rude, Sienkiewicz, Simonson, P. Smith, and Von Eeden BEYOND CAPES: THE HUMAN TARGET ......................................................................................................28 Len Wein and Dick Giordano recall comics’ great imposter, Christopher Chance FLASHBACK: JON SABLE, FREELANCE ...........................................................................................................34 Mike Grell discusses his children’s author/mercenary, with gobs of great Grell art BACKSTAGE PASS: SABLE .........................................................................................................................................42 Jon Sable’s short-lived TV series featured Rene Russo and “Cheesecake” GREATEST STORIES NEVER TOLD: THE BLACK AND WHITE OF DC MAGAZINES .......................................................................................44 Why did DC bypass one of the biggest fads of the 1970s? We ask Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, Bob Rozakis, Roy Thomas, and Len Wein BRING ON THE BAD GUYS: RA’S AL GHUL..............................................................................................50 Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil analyze their megalomaniacal co-creation, with rare Adams artwork PRO2PRO: ROGER STERN AND RON FRENZ ..........................................................................................66 Rediscover the fondly remembered “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” through the eyes of its writer and artist BEYOND CAPES: DOC SAVAGE ...........................................................................................................................69 The Man of Bronze’s golden comics journey, courtesy of one of his writers, Mike W. Barr BACK IN PRINT: INTERVIEW WITH BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE’S STEVE ENGLEHART ...............................................................................79 An insider’s look at the reunion of one of the greatest Batman teams, with preview art and commentary by Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and John Workman—plus a review of Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 BACK TALK ..............................................................................................................................................................................86 Reader feedback on issue #8

Art © 2005 Chris Bachalo. Batman © 2005 DC Comics. Courtesy of David Hamilton.


INTERVIEW: HOWARD CHAYKIN ..........................................................................................................................9 With career-spanning insights and Chaykin art galore

BACK ISSUE™ is published bimonthly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614. Michael Eury, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: BACK ISSUE, c/o Michael Eury, Editor, 5060A Foothills Dr., Lake Oswego, OR 97034. Email: Six-issue subscriptions: $30 Standard US, $48 First Class US, $60 Canada, $66 Surface International, $90 Airmail International. Please send subscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. Ra’s al Ghul and Batman TM & © 2005 DC Comics. The Shadow and Doc Savage TM & © 2005 Condé Nast Publications. Jon Sable, Freelance TM & © 2005 Mike Grell. All Rights Reserved. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2005 Michael Eury and TwoMorrows Publishing. BACK ISSUE is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING.

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conducted December 17, 2004


by Dan Johnson

They Knew

The Shadow Knows A 2000 Michael Kaluta commission, courtesy of Jerry Boyd. Art © 2005 M.W. Kaluta. The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.

(Far right) Page 9 of The Shadow #1

A Kaluta Shadow

(1973) reveals the

sketch contributed

power of the character,

by Mike Fleming.

his writer, and his artist. Original art courtesy

Art © 2005 M.W. Kaluta. The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.

of Heritage Comics. Art © 1973 DC Comics. The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.




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What Evil Lurked in the the Hearts Hearts of of Men Men in

DAN JOHNSON: First off, what can you gentlemen tell us about how DC came to publish The Shadow? DENNY O’NEIL: I don’t remember how we came to do it. I remember the character had been enormously popular. I had liked him in his radio incarnation. I guess somewhere along the line, I became aware of the much more interesting pulp magazine incarnation. MICHAEL WM. KALUTA: Denny, I look back at the stuff DC was publishing at the time and I wonder, “Where in the

world did idea to publish The Shadow come from?” Except for the Batman, it didn’t sit with anything else DC had in its stable. O’NEIL: I think that’s one of the reasons it caused a stir when we first brought it out. That first issue got a lot of attention, probably because it wasn’t like anything else out there. KALUTA: I recall one of the unnerving aspects of that first issue coming out where the letters people wrote in saying they liked that the character was “judge, jury, and executioner,” something we hadn’t seen in comics up to that point, at least our kind of comics. It was something that certainly pointed towards the future, wasn’t it? O’NEIL: I think it was Jim Steranko who said, “The Shadow didn’t believe in the death penalty, he WAS the death penalty.” KALUTA: You did give [the bad guys] an out, that choice [to do wrong or not do wrong]. But, of course, the criminals

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The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.

It was midnight when the writer heard the rustling of cloth behind him. He turned around in his chair quickly, but saw nothing there. The writer shook his head. “I’m so tired, I’m imagining things,” he thought. As he turned back around to his computer screen and his latest assignment, the writer glanced up at the wall in front of his desk. That’s when he saw it, the dark shadowy profile with the hawk nose and hat pulled down over its brow. The image startled the writer, and a cold shiver ran down his back when a disembodied voice addressed him. “You are Dan Johnson, a writer for BACK ISSUE.” The voice stated it as a fact, not as a question. The writer nodded his head. Terrified, he managed to spit out a faint “Yes . . .” The shadow on the wall grew larger. “I have been in contact with your editor, Michael Eury,” the voice said. “After conferring with him, I have decided you will be the one to write about two of my most trusted agents: Denny O’Neil and Michael Wm. Kaluta. You know who they are?” The writer, too afraid to turn around, simply nodded his head. “Over three decades ago they wrote about my exploits for DC Comics,” the voice said. “They were most valuable in my war against crime. O’Neil’s scripts captured my essence as a dark avenger during the Depression. Kaluta’s artwork won me many loyal followers who share my disdain for the evil men do. No doubt both their efforts kept many a youngster in the early ’70s from straying off the path of truth and justice. The story of how they came to relay my legend deserves to be told. You understand what needs to be done, Johnson?” The writer nodded his head as the shadow began to grow smaller on his wall. “I expect your best work then,” the voice said as the shadow finally vanished. “Be warned. I’ll be back if you don’t give it. After all—the Shadow knows!”




generally did what the Shadow told them not to do. O’NEIL: Of course, this goes directly against all my “sissyCommie-Pinko-liberal” ideology [laughs]. My way of dealing with it, as a writer, was that we never got into [the Shadow’s] head. I always thought he was something a little beyond human. He was the guy who would not make a mistake, was not capable of making a mistake. Any soap opera came from the subsidiary characters, Margo, Shrevvie . . . who was the good-looking guy? KALUTA: Harry Vincent. O’NEIL: Yeah, Harry. Lamont [Cranston], or whoever his name was, it depends on what time period of the character’s arc you’re talking about, he was not exactly human, and he was not going to make a mistake. Batman might make a mistake, therefore he doesn’t kill. The Shadow, though, [made] no mistakes. KALUTA: My point of view as I was drawing the book, reading the stuff Denny was handing me: If the Shadow appeared to make a mistake, it was only because we, the readers, didn’t have all the facts. It only appeared that the Shadow made a mistake. JOHNSON: When the book was first announced, there was a promotional piece by Bernie Wrightson that looked awesome. KALUTA: It was brilliant. JOHNSON: Wrightson was attached to The Shadow at one point, as was Jim Steranko. Why did neither of them do the book? O’NEIL: I think the problem with Jim was he wanted more control than either DC or I was willing to concede. It would have certainly been a pleasure to work with Jim, but I couldn’t reach an agreement on how we were going to operate. I’m not pointing any fingers, [there] was nothing good, nothing bad, just a disagreement amongst peers. KALUTA: Had it been a case of nobody thinking about the Shadow up at DC, and Jim Steranko appearing and saying, “Look, how about we do this character, I’ve got this great idea. I can do this, that, and the other thing,” people might have said, “Not a bad idea.” As it was, Denny had invested his thought process in it, kind of gotten the ground softened up, and [Steranko] seemed to say, “This is a great idea, let me do it!” In that instance, Denny

Here’s an interesting team-up: Madame Xanadu and the Shadow. To see this painting in color, visit Art © 2005 M.W. Kaluta. Madame Xanadu © 2005 DC Comics. The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.

Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane in a Kaluta commission, courtesy of Jerry Boyd. Art © 2005 M.W. Kaluta. The Shadow © 2005 Condé Nast.




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and DC Comics had to say, “No, no, no! I’m/we’re doing this, but you can help.” O’NEIL: At that time, editors had to have control. They weren’t letting freelancers edit their own work. That seldom works. KALUTA: I was [Bernie Wrightson’s] roommate, and as far as I know, he was the man [chosen for the book]. As far as he was concerned, it was just the next job. It was going to be a good job, and a fun job, and he jumped right into it with that promotional piece that still haunts my work. Then Bernie and Len [Wein] started talking over doing Swamp Thing [as a regular series]. That was [their] baby, that was something they had done before and the bimonthly version developed all of a sudden. Bernie said, “I can’t do two books at once.” O’NEIL: That sounds right. I hadn’t thought about the Swamp Thing connection, but it makes all the sense in the world. JOHNSON: Mike, how did you come to be the artist on the book? KALUTA: I’ve been taken to task by Ron Sutton by not including him in this story. I do not recall that Ron Sutton was anywhere even in the same state, but he apparently was. This took place at the DC offices in the FDR post office building on Third Avenue. They had a coffee room that they shared with the Independent News Distribution Company, and that’s where I, being freelance, would hang out and just hope something would happen. Maybe a secretary might walk in that I could admire, or an editor might walk in with a job! [laughs] I was sitting with my friend Steve Harper, and Denny came in with Steve Skeates. While making small talk, I asked what was up, and I remember Denny said they were contemplating who would draw The Shadow. I asked, “Well, who would you want?” Denny said, “Oh, Jim Aparo, but he’s drawing everything else.” Harper started nudging me on the side,

My Lunch with

Howard Chaykin H

The Cover You Didn’t See Howard Chaykin’s cover to Atlas Comics’ The Scorpion #2 (1975) was not published; a different version by Ernie Colón (see inset) ran in its place. Courtesy of Jeff Singh.


by Philip Schweier

conducted on November 13, 2004

© 1975 Seaboard/Atlas.













In November 2004, the Savannah College of Art and Design hosted its annual Comic Arts Forum, a three-day series of seminars and portfolio reviews conducted by industry pros. Freelance writer and comics fan Philip Schweier took the opportunity to sit down with the multi-talented Howard Chaykin prior to one of his workshops, inviting him to reflect on his career in comics and adventures in television. PHILIP SCHWEIER: I just want to do a quick overview of your career. HOWARD CHAYKIN: Sure, okay. SCHWEIER: In the ’70s, in the early ’70s, you were doing comics. . . CHAYKIN: When I was 11. Let’s accept that right here and now.

SCHWEIER: (laugh) Okay. CHAYKIN: I was a tad, I was a child, I was the Mozart of comics. SCHWEIER: I always thought so. CHAYKIN: Well, there you go. What a guy. SCHWEIER: At a time when super-heroes dominated the landscape, you were kind of all over the place, what with “Iron Wolf” at DC, Scorpion at Atlas—“Dominic Fortune” at Marvel came later, I think— CHAYKIN: Hm-mm. SCHWEIER: —at a time when super-heroes were so

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prevalent, you took the road less traveled. Why is that? CHAYKIN: Well, I think I take issue with the superheroness of it all. One of the things that—and again, you ask me a question, a short one, you get three hours of answer—the reality is I’ve always said that as my generation came in, super-hero comics were being done by men our fathers’ age. The Marvel Bullpen in those days was old guys, and most of us were E.C. fans, or pretentious illustration fans, and came out of an entirely different world view. Very few of us were super-hero-based types. Rich Buckler was the most super-hero-appropriate character in the bunch. [Bernie] Wrightson was doing the horror and mystery stuff, [Michael] Kaluta was doing the same. [Walter] Simonson came in shortly after I did, with a science-fiction portfolio. So none of us were really prepped to do super-heroes. All of us had grown up on that material, but by the time we’d become professionals— and I’m speaking for myself, and fairly certain I speak for most of those guys—were interested in a wider range of material. Since we all assumed—and this is not a joke—that we were the last generation of comics talent. You’re probably too young to remember the idea of the paper shortage of the early ’80s. The perception was that paper would disappear, with the advent of the personal computer, hardcopy was going to go away. So what we didn’t realize we were actually playing the role of the 300 Spartans at Themopolis. We were holding

Star*Reach #1 (1974), featuring Chaykin’s Cody Starbuck. © 1974 Star*Reach Productions.

Beginnings: Assisting Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Gray Morrow, and Neal Adams

Milestones: “Iron Wolf” in Weird Worlds / Sword of Sorcery / “Cody Starbuck” / The Scorpion / Star Wars / miscellaneous Batman projects / American Flagg! / Black Kiss / The Shadow / Blackhawk / The Flash TV series / American Century / Mighty Love / Challengers of the Unknown

Works in Progress: Solo #4 (DC) / Legend (WildStorm) / City of Tomorrow (WildStorm) / Midnight of the Soul

down the fort until the generation after ours, like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, could come in and then do super-hero comics. So all of us came as Johnny-come-latelys to the superhero world, and I was a super-hero fan as a boy, but as I became a professional, the skills that I had weren’t really applicable to what was expected of a super-hero artist. So, I did everything else I could. I did pulp fiction, and I liked dirty stuff later on, and science fiction, sword and sorcery. I was just testing the waters on everything I could get. Told ya, ask a question, get an endless answer. SCHWEIER: I don’t mind that at all. Now, when you did [Marvel Comics’] Star Wars, the movie hadn’t broken yet. When you were working on it, did you have any idea where it was going to go, how big it was going to be, or was it just another job? CHAYKIN: Not the faintest. I was talking to Phil Noto about this, because he was six years old when the movie came out, for which I’m going to kill him. And I said flat out that I wish I’d been 15 when the movie came out because A) I would have been an obsessive fan, and B) my life would have been very different. I would probably still be a nose-picking geek— no offense. . . SCHWEIER: None taken. CHAYKIN: At any rate, I was in Burbank in ’75, before the picture came out, when they were doing the post work, and I went to the post studio, and met with George (Lucas) and Marsha (Lucas) and I guess it was with Gary and the whole bunch, and I walked away from that with a box of 4000 stills. They were great on-set stills, and the McQuarry portfolio, the Ralph McQuarry material. The stills were incredibly dead and inert; they looked like a high-school science project. They really did look sh*tty. What freaked me out when I saw the film—because I saw it a week before it opened at a special screening in New York City—was the film ended up looking like the McQuarry paintings, and that was the most profound effect, that they managed to do all the work in post. It’s a tribute to what was done to that film after it was shot. And I’m not talking about the added scenes and digitizing, I’m talking about what was done in the ’70s. So I had no idea. Had I known, I probably would’ve worked harder on it. I still haven’t gotten over the resentment of the fact that it existed in the pre-royalty times so I got chump change for those books and I sold millions. The book sold millions, I didn’t sell them. C’mon, I have no illusions about that, but I’m perfectly willing to attach my own ass to someone else’s coattails.

Photo by Scott Kent.

SCHWEIER: (laughs)

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CHAYKIN: Why lie? SCHWEIER: Now it was shortly after that that you started getting into more book publishing, like with Byron Preiss stuff, Empire, Stars My Destination, also paperback covers. When you came back to comics with American Flagg!, what new sensibilities and interests did you bring with you? CHAYKIN: You’re good. You ask good questions. You ask questions I feel like answering. My eyes aren’t rolling into the back of my head. SCHWEIER: The last thing I want to come across is as a fanboy, even though I am one.

CHAYKIN: At any rate, there was a period between that stuff, and when I went to do paperbacks, when I was back into regular mainstream comics again. I had a big screaming match with one of the mainstays with one of the major companies, and I was sort of driven out of the business for two years, and it was great. I went and made my living as a paperback guy doing Westerns and romance. . . SCHWEIER: I have some of them. CHAYKIN: I’d love to see some, I can’t find mine. Around the time that the Reagan revolution sort of, ah, whipped the ass of the American economy, the bottom fell out of the money in the paperback business. There was no money anymore, and also that coincided with a developing conservatism in paperbacks. It was the rise of Pino and Elaine Dewillow. Very, very slick, very unpainterly, almost photographic stuff. It was the year of the bodice-ripper. I was doing fairly graphic stuff, and more influenced by Bob Peak and David Grove, and those guys, and that disappeared. That coincided with a call from First about doing a new book for them. My then-wife and I had long talk. We decided that it would be an interesting process to work with a company with no baggage, where there was no history, and I would say I would take everything I’d been working on, all my notes— I’m an enormous note-taker, I’m a list-maker and I compile endless ideas—and it all coalesced, or some might say congealed, into American Flagg! Flagg was really the apotheosis of all the things I’d been reading, studying, learning since I’d been a teenager. I make no secret of the fact that I’m a left-leaning kind of guy and unfortunately, unlike a lot of my fellow left-leaning friends, I also have really complex ideas about multiculturalism, and I’m profoundly patriotic, because I don’t feel the right has any right to hijack patriotism, although they’ve done a fabulous job of doing it. So it was just an opportunity to vent all of my spleen and get paid for it. What a concept. SCHWEIER: We should all be so lucky. CHAYKIN: Hey, one of the things about my life and my career I’ve always said is I am absolutely blessed. I am one lucky bastard. And I look good, too. SCHWEIER: And a snazzy dresser. CHAYKIN: Actually, I used to be. I’m not anymore. I used to be a real clothes horse, and I stopped doing that because I realized that when I put on a suit I looked like an agent or an attorney. Nobody should look like an agent or an attorney without wanting to be one. SCHWEIER: So following American Flagg! you still eschewed a lot of the super-heroes— CHAYKIN: You used the word “eschewed” in a sentence. That’s fabulous. SCHWEIER: I try. CHAYKIN: Do you use “ennui” or “jejuen”? SCHWEIER: Not today. CHAYKIN: But you will. SCHWEIER: Getting into the late ’80s, you were doing Blackhawk, The Shadow, as I said, eschewing the superhero genre, except for Batman. With Batman you did Dark Allegiances, Night of the Flyer with Gil Kane, your mentor, and, um, there was a third one, Thrillkiller. Batman seemed

Chaykin illustrated the Shining Knight chapter of a multi-part Seven Soldiers of Victory story featuring contemporary artists drawing a previously unpublished Golden Age script by Joe Samachson. This page hails from Adventure Comics #438 (1975). Courtesy of Jeff Singh. © 2005 DC Comics.

Chyakin dropped in for this cover to Blackhawk #259 (1983); original art courtesy of Jim Cardillo. © 2005 DC Comics.

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© 2005 DC Comics.

lton Hami ” e n ambo id “H friends) v a D by (and



Pencil and sketch Gallery We teased you with this on our cover, and here, courtesy of Mark Tomlinson, is Bill Sienkiewicz’s amazing rendition of the Batman. Join us in saying, “Wow!!”

Batman TM & © 2005 DC Comics.

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© 2005 DC Comics.

D AV I D M A Z Z U C C H E L L I Batman: Year One, drawn by David Mazzucchelli and written by Frank Miller. Mr. Maz is another super-star from Hoboken, New Jersey (Sinatra’s the other). Fine example of David’s rough layout—with Catwoman! P u l p

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STEVE RUDE © 2005 DC Comics.

“The Dude” is one of the world’s finest artists—and here’s a penciled page from his unforgettable World’s Finest miniseries. Along the borders are Steve’s Batman roughs.

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In Your Face: The Story Behind Comics’

Greatest Imposter,

the Human Target by

cGovern Adam M

Nobody Does it Better From Who’s Who in the DC Universe #4 (Nov. 1990), the many faces of the Human Target, drawn by Dick Giordano. © 2005 DC Comics.

For as long as there have been comics, there have been

legendary Carmine Infantino’s first art job in some years

mortal adventurers operating in the shadows of the

(after becoming DC’s editorial director), and though he

super-beings soaring overhead. Their presence is only

left right after launching the series, Infantino’s elegant

fitting, since in fact these hardboiled detectives, big-

hand was matched by regular artist Dick Giordano,

game hunters, et al. predate the costumed characters in

whose tasteful realism suited one of the more sophisti-

the colorful medium they share. One of the most inter-

cated series of the time. Wein injected the stories with an

esting is Christopher Chance, the master of disguise

uncommon sense of humor at the absurd situations

known as the Human Target for impersonating clients

Chance found himself in (deep-sea diver! tightrope

marked for death with the aim of exposing their pursuers.

walker!), and instilled Chance himself with a nuance

Debuting as a discreet backup story in an everyday

quite apart from the at-most two-dimensional whole-

issue of DC’s Action Comics [issue #419 (Dec. 1972), to be

someness of DC’s contemporary heroes or fashionable

exact], Chance’s first run stretched across 14 stories in

neuroses of Marvel’s.

eight years, an under-the-radar character who nonethe-

Chance was an outwardly unflappable but oddly

less caught and held the attention of editors who gave

unknowable figure, committed to doing good deeds yet

the death-defying adventurer more than nine lives

coolly sarcastic with his hapless clients; solidly moral

between publication limbos. Though perhaps hard to find, the series itself was

© 2005 DC Comics.

nothing to ignore; conceived by respected Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein, it auspiciously began with the

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yet ever mindful of his fee; a dogged champion whose successes were almost a secondary satisfaction to his skillful (if patently bizarre) role-playing. In one typical case, Chase impersonates a threatened

orchestra conductor, eventually appreh e n d i n g t h e r e a l m a n ’s would-be assassin in the middle of a concert by using a bow-and-cello as a bow-and-arrow, only to be berated by his client for having given a lousy performance. In Chance’s world, nothing need be what it seemed, and anything could suddenly turn either deadly or humorous. These dimensions made the Human Target a “real person” not just in his

© 2005 DC Comics.

lack of superpowers, but in his unpredictable shades of mood and motivation, and thus more believable than many comics characters in or out of capes. BACK ISSUE spoke to two pivotal members of the creative team that first gave Chance flesh and blood, Wein and Giordano. Wein explained that the Human Target underwent the first of many identity swaps before even seeing publication. “Originally the Target was gonna be Johnny Double” [DC’s private eye first seen in Showcase #78 (Nov. 1968)], Wein says of the character’s formative name. “At the very beginning stages of my career it was pitched to [then-editor] Dick Giordano at DC when Marv [Wolfman] and I were working together. Dick was interested in doing a detective character, back when there was a range of kinds of comics you could do, but he wasn’t interested in the ‘human target’ idea. So he said, ‘Can I just use the name “Johnny Double,” and we’ll make it a straight detective [character].’ And at that stage, to get into the business, [we said], ‘Sure! Anything you want, whatever changes you want to make.’ [laughs] The name didn’t make any sense [any more], but that’s where the [first] character came from. “[Later], Julie Schwartz was [editing] Action Comics and decided he wanted to make some changes; they were going to rotate two or three backup features, “The Atom,” etc., and he was looking for a detective character; he said, ‘I want someone who’s not a super-hero, I just want some variety.’ And I still had the concept, [though] I didn’t have a name; I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this concept I’ve been wanting to use for years,’ and I pitched it to Julie right there in the office, and he said, ‘Oh, I like that, let me go talk to Carmine,’ and he came back ten

Giordano on Target A page from Dick Giordano’s first solo Human Target tale, and the character’s second appearance, from Action #420 (Jan. 1973). Courtesy of Jaume Vaquer.

minutes later and said, ‘Go, you’ve got a strip, go do it.’”

© 2005 DC Comics.

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This 2001 Jon Sable commission by Mike

A friend has a saying: “Hey! It was

Grell was contributed


Stewart ics Savant” m o C e h T “ Tom

the ’80s!” This is something he uses to explain away

for publication by Roland Reedy. © 2005 Mike Grell.

everything from Ronald Reagan to Flock of Seagulls to

both.) Ah, yes, the ‘80s! It was only 15 years ago (depend-

Rambo III. Usually he’ll throw in a headshake or a shoulder

ing on where you start) and is now being remembered

shrug, or both. (Most of what he defends would call for

all over again on VH1. Over and over again, usually by people you’re not quite sure were truly aware of the ‘80s at the time. For most it was a decade that seemed mostly to start out not wanting to be the ‘70s, especially in music and in fashion (they kept repeating the same formulas in TV, though, until MTV and Miami Vice, then they just repeated those, but I digress). For comics it was about not wanting to repeat the “business as usual” mantra that had typified the previous 40 years. Self-publishing, and true independent publishing (meaning not DC or Marvel), had been tried, failed, and tried again, and was now limping into a new decade. This was to be their decade, it was in the air. Eclipse was starting up, putting out one of the first graphic novels, Sabre, in 1978 (okay, I wussed out by saying “one of the first,” pinning down the first is one argument I don’t have space for . . . maybe in a future issue, or a meeting in a back alley where editor Michael Eury could hold my coat for me), and Pacific Comics started up with a coup, the great Jack Kirby writing and drawing Captain Victory, his first creator-owned title. It was the start of something big and exciting, and some creators stepped carefully into the water, while others had found exactly what they were looking for. Like Mike Grell: “I was the first to sign with them, but Jack beat me to the stands!” The company was Pacific, the title was Starslayer: The Log of the Jolly Roger. At the start of the 1980s, Mike Grell was restless with comics as the comics themselves were. Mike had created, written and drawn DC’s Travis Morgan, the Warlord. But he didn’t own it:

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“It was under the old ‘work for hire deal’ they had.” The Warlord was one of DC’s most popular titles, a pure

was not owned by Mike Grell; Travis was owned, lock, stock and winged helmet, by DC Comics, Inc.

Burroughs-like adventure story of a savage middle earth

Mike had originally thought out Starslayer for DC.

and the modern-day man that falls into the middle of it.

He was a sort of reverse Warlord: instead of the jet pilot

The title appealed to the coveted older and younger read-

Travis Morgan falling into a primitive world, Starslayer

ers. Before Warlord, Grell had been getting plenty of fan

was a primitive man adrift in a future world. When

notice at DC, as the artist of Superboy and the Legion

approached by Pacific Comics’ Schanes brothers, Mike

of Super-Heroes:

decided to change course and throw in with Pacific. He

“I took over after a popular artist, probably the most popular Legion artist and one of their best, Dave

© 2005 DC Comics.

could own his creation, and be part of the next wave:

A Mike Grell pen,

independent comics.

ink, and watercolor

Cockrum, walked off the book!” Mike laughs. The

illustration of Jon Sable

to accept change. “There’s some that still haven’t

“I Don’t Believe in Batman. I Don’t Do This for Free. I Get Paid.”

forgiven me for Cosmic Boy’s costume. But they were

The story is that a “certain executive” at the First Comics

full color on the site

loyal, they had heart; if they like you, they stick with you.”

would come up to would-be artists (and some pros),

of the art’s contributor,

While working at DC (Mike had a pencil in most of the

smile at them, and say, really, “I’m here to make you rich!”

Catskill Comics, at

characters that DC put out at the time), Mike man-

Such was the optimism of the early ‘80s, and the giddy

aged to sell his new strip (something he’d used for

excitement of independent comics that made many

his portfolio) “Savage World” to . . . Atlas Comics (?!).

people believe him, or want to. But the door on Starslayer:

Legion had a strong fan base that wasn’t always ready

that can be seen in

© 2005 Mike Grell.

Seems Mike didn’t think DC did well with the kind of fantasy that he envisioned with “Savage World.” He must have looked at the track record DC had with the Burroughs characters, and figured his concept would have more of a chance at the newly formed Atlas. Now Atlas was a company partly formed in revenge, partly as an exercise in ego. Martin Goodman started the company after selling Marvel Comics, the company he’d founded over 30 years before, to Cadence Industries. He figured that the new owners would keep his son on to run Marvel. They didn’t. Goodman started his own company, put his son in, hired a bunch of people like Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Steve Ditko, and Larry Lieber, and then ran the company into a ditch. Mike lucked out . . . sorta, when an Atlas editor called DC publisher Carmine Infantino to check up on Mike, something Mike did not want them to do. Barely had Mike finished his meeting at Atlas, barely had he walked back into the DC offices when Infantino met him in the hall, demanding an explanation of why he hadn’t offered the “Savage World” book to DC. While Carmine took a call, Mike rethought his concept, came up with a new pitch, and lobbed it at the DC publisher. Carmine swung. “Savage World,” now called The Warlord, would last over ten years, and would even get his own squat, pro wrestler-like action figure. But again, The Warlord

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The Log of the Jolly Roger was slammed shut after only six issues. Pacific Comics went

Mike conceived Jon Sable as a man haunted by guilt,

under after helping pave the way for

who smears on a battlemask of black soot from the cross

the crazy concept of “creator-owned

of his wife’s grave (“It scares the hell out of criminals!” Sable

comics.” Mike got a call from friend

says) then hunts down evil with a Mauser—for a price. His

Mike Gold who was Managing

best friend is a lonely ex-stuntman with a drinking problem

Editor at the brand-spanking new

who attaches himself to Jon and won’t let go. And after

company, First Comics. This time

failing to sell that novel, Jon turns to writing children’s books

Mike Grell would be the second

under the pen name B.B. Flemm. Books about elves who

creator signed to a new inde-

live in Central Park, and whose best friend is a wino. Sure,

pendent comics company.

© 2005 Mike Grell.

(I mean, I don’t remember it being done before), but it

signed up Mike Gold as

opens up a world of supporting-cast possibilities, not to

Managing Editor, then Joe

mention another side of what would have to be a pretty



dark character.

Joe the first creator signed), there-

DC editor Julie Schwartz used to refer to the world

by beginning its run as one of the

of the Warlord as the “Grellverse.” This time Mike would

most successful independents of the

take his African bounty hunter and base him here in

‘80s—and one of the few to outlive

America. Sable would be someone who wouldn’t work

the decade (all right, I know what you’re

in the pleasant DC fictions of “Coast, Gotham, Metropolis,

thinking, it barely made into the ‘90s, and that

or Star” City, but would be part of the real world, in New

was completely on fumes. So, write your own arti-

York, as real as he could make it. Sable would be some-

cle next time). Gold then made his call to the recently

thing different, a twist on the “Bruce Wayne

available Grell.

Vengeance” formula. Bruce was a playboy by day, an

Mike had an idea. A deliberate change of pace.

avenger by night, but Sable? Sable wasn’t Batman.

And after years of drawing guys in tights beating up

“Sable was in it for the money. He had to get paid.

other guys in tights, Mike was ready to try something

Even if it wasn’t much, he got paid.” One time it was

new. He would combine his love of hunting and his

50 cents for catching an armed robber.

fascination with guns (“My gun collection is legendary

. . . And Sable could use the money.

. . . or mostly legend!”), and put into to contemporary

It’s one of those things about comics that bug people,

setting. His new hero would be a mercenary; a pentathlete

especially people who don’t read a lot of them: money.

who was part of the 1972 Olympics; a game warden in

How do they get the money to pay for the tights, cars,

Africa who, haunted by the murder of his family by poach-

the caves, the arrows? “I made Sable a mercenary, some-

ers, hunts the killers down for revenge.

one who gets paid for being a hero,” says Grell. Sable

I know. You see the problem, too? A man, whose

wouldn’t be like Bruce Wayne, “who’s just flat out rich

family is killed by crooks/terrorists/assorted bad guys, goes

and doesn’t have to work.” And in being a mercenary, he

on a killing spree, wipes them off the face of the earth,

travels to the hotspots; he doesn’t have to haunt rooftops

then turns his attention to hunting down the scum of

to find his fights. Mike: “You have Superman, who’s a

humanity. Seen it. Many, many times. Grell and Gold knew

reporter, which is just brilliant, I think, probably the

this, they had been in the adventure business too long

best occupation for a hero because he’s always there

not to know the readers would have seen this coming

one the spot, or he’ll hear about it first, and Peter Parker,

and would be a mile ahead of them along the expec-

Spider-Man, who’s employed by the Daily Bugle to take

tation path. Grell would have to make his bounty hunter—

pictures of Spider-Man!”

his mercenary—different. His mercenary didn’t start out

Before the money from the books came in, Sable

to be a mercenary. He became one after failing to sell

would have to turn to what he knew—hunting down

© 2005 Mike Grell.

3 6

why not. It was really a brilliant move. Not only is it different

First Comics of Chicago

Staton as Art Director (making

© 2005 Mike Grell. Art courtesy of Catskill Comics.

his adventure novel.

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Don’t Ask— You Can’t Buy It Jack Kirby’s pencil rough for the unpublished second issue of In the Days of the Mob, courtesy of The

By the early 1970s, comics were facing an uncertain future. Newsstand exposure was dwindling and, whether as cause or consequence, sales were falling. The boost that Marvel had brought about by reaching out to the college audience—not to mention any interest spawned by the short-lived success of the Batman TV show—had faded. Comics publishers were desperately trying to find that elusive “something” that would bring back their readership. Black-and-white (B&W) comics magazines had been around as a niche market since the 1950s when E.C. switched its highly popular MAD comic to a magazine format. While E.C.’s other experiments in that direction (the “Picto-Fiction” magazines) quickly faded from view, MAD went on to ever greater success becoming something of a publishing phenomenon. In the mid-1960s, James Warren began publishing his magazine Creepy. Essentially a black-and-white re-creation of the E.C. horror line using many of the same creators, Creepy proved a reasonable success. A sister publication, Eerie, along with

Jack Kirby Collector. © 2005 DC Comics.

© 2005 E.C. Publications.

© 2005 Marve l Characters, Inc.

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y Allan Harve

titles such as Blazing Combat, 1984, and, of course, Vampirella, ensured Warren his place as the premier publisher of black-and-white fare. Perhaps inspired by Warren’s success, Marvel decided to publish a B&W magazine in 1968. Spider-Man was their bestselling character at the time and so was chosen to launch what was hoped to be a new line of magazines. Sadly, the time was not right, and The Spectacular Spider-Man sank without trace on the newsstands. A second issue was eventually published, but this time in color; it fared no better than its predecessor. In 1971, Marvel tried another B&W title: Savage Tales. They clearly felt that sufficient time had passed since the earlier magazine’s failure to risk another attempt. However, it should also be noted that, during the previous year, Marvel production chief Sol Brodsky had left the company to co-found Skywald, publisher of B&W horror magazines with titles such as Psycho, Scream, and Nightmare. In response to a recent email query, then-Marvel editor Roy Thomas explains that Brodsky “. . . saw [the B&W magazines] as a way to avoid [the content restrictions of] the Comics Code.” It’s probable that the rise of Skywald was instrumental in Marvel’s decision to go into B&W magazine production.

The lack of Code supervision also seems to have held some appeal for the publisher. James Warren himself viewed Marvel’s sudden interest in B&W magazine production to be something of a personal slight. “James Warren was livid about this competition,” continues Thomas, “since he understandably saw it as a threat to his very existence.” Savage Tales was not an immediate hit (the second issue didn’t hit the stands for almost two years!), but by the middle of the decade most of the major comics publishers had their own line of B&W magazines. Marvel alone had a dozen titles, mainly in the horror field, largely aping Warren’s output. Having been burned once, the company was less than enthusiastic about trying superheroes in the new format, so the magazines remained largely costume-free. Charlton Comics hedged its bets by using its B&W line to spotlight licensed properties such as Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man. Even young upstart Atlas made sure to have a range of magazines during its short life. Why the sudden popularity of B&W production? The answer is two-fold: Firstly, costs could be saved if printing books without color; and, secondly, sales figures could be lower and the book still remained in profit. This came about because the magazines were able to benefit from a higher cover price than the regular fourcolor comics. The higher price being justified on the basis that they were aimed at a more mature audience, and on the already-established price points set for non-comics magazines. As Roy Thomas points out, “That’s why, at least for the duration of the latter 1970s, Savage Sword of Conan was probably just about Marvel’s biggest money-maker, even while Conan the Barbarian was one of its top-selling color books.”

The Human Torch Combustible pencil art from the unpublished Spirit World #2, courtesy of The Jack Kirby Collector. © 2005 DC Comics.

© 2005 E.C. Publications.

Inc. l Characters, © 2005 Marve

Kirby is Coming! Meanwhile, ever mindful of the declining sales of regular comics, DC was experimenting with various—and often novel—formats for their output. They published 100-page comics, tabloid comics, digest comics . . . but they never really got into B&W magazines, even though, by that time, everyone else was having some success with the format. In actual fact, DC did have a brief flirtation with B&W; “brief” being the operative word! A disaffected Jack Kirby left Marvel in 1970 and arrived at DC brimming with ideas. For probably the first time in his 30-year career he was being given carte blanche to create the type of books he wanted. Living out on the West Coast he was to be his own boss, editing and over-

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© 2005 Unive rsal Pictures.



4 5


rson Peter Sande

Ra’s Plays Rough Neal Adams shared with BACK ISSUE his original cover rough for Batman #232 (June 1971)— compare it to the published version, seen in the inset. Characters © 2005 DC Comics. Art © 2005 Neal Adams.

The Batman is one of the few super-heroes whose basic mythos is well known to the general public. When most people think of Batman’s adversaries, they think of costumed criminals, thieves, and tricksters who wreak havoc in Gotham City: the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, and the like. But in Batman Begins, Warner Bros.’ summer 2005 relaunch of its Batman movie series, the public at large is being introduced to a very different nemesis for Batman, a commanding, charismatic figure who takes not a city but the whole planet as his stage, who is as dedicated to his mission as Batman is to fighting crime, and whose ultimate goal is to remake the world: Ra’s al Ghul, the towering creation of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams.

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THE ORIGINAL STORY In the comics, Ra’s first appeared nearly three © 2005 DC Comics.

and a half decades ago. The saga began with Batman’s initial clashes w i th th e Lea gu e of Assassins, an arm of Ra’s worldwide network of operatives, and the League’s president, Dr. Ebenezer Darrk, who first appeared in Detective Comics #406 (Dec. 1970). The Batman tracked Darrk to his lair in Asia, where he first met Ra’s daughter Talia in Detective #411 (May 1971).

by Greg Rucka), Ra’s al Ghul has returned time and again, for over three decades, both to combat “the detective,” as he calls Batman, and to offer him further temptations to join his quest to purify the planet.

CONCEPTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS Ra’s al Ghul has had such a powerful presence in the time readers may feel they know the character quite

Watching “the Detective”

well. But readers are likely to have made assumptions

Ra’s al Ghul was

about Ra’s that, surprisingly, are not true. Let’s examine

an uninvited Batcave

them one by one.

guest in Batman #232.

Batman books for more than three decades that long-

THE NAME: Did Denny O’Neil coin the name “Ra’s

© 2005 DC Comics.

al Ghul”? O’Neil and Adams may be the co-creators

Having fallen out with Ra’s, Darrk had kidnapped Talia in retaliation. Batman rescued Talia, who returned the favor by killing Darrk to save Batman’s own life. Only a month later in real time, Ra’s himself made his debut in a story written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams in Batman #232 (June 1971). After the original Robin, Dick Grayson, was mysteriously kidnapped, Ra’s al Ghul appeared in the Batcave, much to Batman’s shock. Ra’s calmly explained that he had discovered Batman’s secret identity, and proposed that they join forces to find both Robin and Talia, who he said had been abducted yet again. This led to a series of adventures around the world, ending in Batman’s discovery that it was Ra’s himself who had had Robin and Talia kidnapped in order to test Batman’s skills. Having witnessed Batman’s prowess for himself, Ra’s declared Batman “worthy” of marrying his daughter Talia and thus becoming his son and heir. But Batman soon learned of Ra’s ultimate goals: to wipe most of the human race off the planet and to begin civilization anew, with himself in command. The original O’Neil-Adams storyline culminated with Batman and Ra’s’ dramatic swordfight in the desert, with Batman ultimately emerging triumphant. Yet despite his defeats and even his seeming deaths (most recently in Batman: Death and the Maidens [2003], written

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What’s in a Name? Julius Schwartz’s editorial note in Detective #411 helped readers understand the name of Batman’s newest adversary. © 2005 DC Comics.

of Ra’s al Ghul, but it was

every story, I would take photographs for the story:

their editor, the late Julius

essentially they would be photographs of myself. I

Schwartz, who came up

didn’t want to draw people who look like me in all

with the villain’s distinctive

the drawings. So what I would do is take my head as

name, which in Arabic means

a model and I would resculpt it in drawing, and I

“the Head of the Demon.”

made a person out of it. Girls, if I did the right kind

As for exactly why

of character, would romantically fall for him.” So this is

Schwartz and O’Neil decided

how Adams taught himself not only to draw realistic

to create Ra’s, the reason is

faces, but to keep them consistent in a story and to

lost in the mists of memory.

express the character’s personality through them. “Every

“I wish I had taken notes!”

person that I draw in a comic book,” Adams says, “is a

O’Neil exclaims. As he explains, back in the early

person that you can relate to, so that when you see him,

1970s no one thought that people over 30 years later

you know how he’s going to respond and how he’s

would want to know the details of how certain

going to be. . . And if you make those things a little

characters were created or certain stories came about.

bit of a caricature, then other people can follow.”

However, O’Neil hypothesizes that he and Schwartz

By the early 1970s, Adams continues, “I had learned

saw a need for a new Batman villain, a mastermind

that. . . I could do it without starting from a photo-

who would be different from the Joker and the other

graph. So now I could basically create a character and

costumed crooks associated with the character. “Robbing

stay consistent with the character all the way through.”

banks doesn’t cut it anymore” as O’Neil says; such

In the case of Ra’s al Ghul, Adams explains that

thieves no longer seemed to pose a sufficient threat for

“Normally when you have something like the Joker

Batman. “The business had evolved enough that we

or Sauron or these various characters, that are certainly

had a sense of major villains and minor villains. We

based in fantasy, you have a lot of flexibility.” But, he

weren’t ever going to beat the Joker as the perfect Batman

says, Ra’s was meant to be “a character who is based in

villain. We didn’t want just another street thug with a

reality, which is sort of what our goal was at the time.

costume and a fancy name. We were going for grandeur.”

In other words, come up with a villain, like Superman

THE DEMON’S FACE: Neal Adams gave Ra’s such

has Luthor, who is in some ways the equal of Batman,

a distinctive physical appearance, so different from the

[and] not put him in a funny costume, but still make

cookie-cutter faces that so many comic-book artists

him striking.

give their characters. Was Ra’s look inspired by any

how can I take a human, and make him sufficiently

real person?

© 2005 DC Comics.

“At the time I didn’t have a visual in my mind for

striking that people will step back and go ‘Whoa!’? Now

him,” Denny O’Neil says. “It was a surprise when I saw

there are [real] human beings who are like that. If

what Neal had done with the idea, but it was a very

Sean Connery walked into the room, you’d go ‘Whoa!’

pleasant surprise.”

There are certain people who have that kind of presence.

In fact, Adams created Ra’s physical appearance entirely from his own imagination.

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“So I realized it was a bit of a difficult problem—

“So I said, ‘Well, there are things that I know that I would be impressed by. I’m impressed always by a person

Adams was well practiced in devising realistic-

with a high forehead.’ Not necessarily receding hair,

looking characters by the time he first drew Ra’s. He

but receding hair is good, too.” A high forehead is often

explains that “Before I did comic books, I had a syn-

regarded as a signifier of high intelligence, as, say, in

dicated comic strip. It was based on the Ben Casey

portraits of Shakespeare. But Adams views it differently.

television series. One of the things I did in almost

“There are some people with a high forehead who are

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not intelligent. But at least it shows that they have no

can identify deep-set eyes and can also make a person

Family Portrait

ego about ‘Oh, my forehead is too big; I’d better comb

look stupid. But there’s a way to do the same thing and

Talia and Ra’s al Ghul

hair over it.’” To Adams, for a character to display a high

make him look smart. One of the things about J’onn

in a pencil portrait

forehead demonstrates his lack of vanity. “A high fore-

J’onzz of Mars is he has a distinctive brow but he doesn’t

recreation of a panel

head means that to me that they’re a respecter of

look stupid.”

from Batman #244,

intelligence, and they don’t wish to comb their hair

In Ra’s’ case, “That would mean the rest of his face

in front of their forehead to hide the fact that they

would have to be aquiline and intelligent looking. The

have a high forehead. So a high forehead, very very

nose could be aquiline. The mouth is not romantic in

positive. It shows confidence. So I wanted to get across

any way; it’s given to sternness like, say, Sgt. Rock. And

the idea that he was what he was, and he was confident

the eyes can be deep set and the brow can be forward

in it, not ashamed or embarrassed like some teenager

and still look very intelligent.

or matinee idol. He was not looking to be Robert Redford.

“But I thought, ‘Here’s another thing I can do that

“At the same time I wanted his eyes to be very

might actually make the character even more signif-

deep and to be expressive. Well, in comic books that’s

icant: give him no eyebrows.’ I removed the eyebrows,

not quite so easy. You can set the eyes deep, but

and it really made the character striking. What has

bringing the brow forward and making it prominent,

happened in recent years is that there are people who

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courtesy of Neal Adams. Characters © 2005 DC Comics. Art © 2005 Neal Adams.



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The Creators that Collected


Spidey Drops In The splash page to

Amazing Spider-Man #248 was released in 1983. This comic book included one of my favorite stories, “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” “The Kid” was a backup story by writer Roger Stern, penciler Ron Frenz, and legendary inker, Terry Austin. In the story, Spider-Man visits Timothy Harrison. Tim is a huge Spider-Man fan who collects various Spider-Man memorabilia. SpiderMan explains to Timothy how his powers work and the tragedy behind his becoming a superhero. Before leaving, Tim asks Spidey to reveal his secret identity. I still have a soft spot for “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” Even now, as an adult, I still find myself getting all choked up whenever I read this touching story. —Al Nickerson

one of the 1980s’ most memorable tales. Photocopy of original art courtesy of Roger Stern.

by Al Nickerson

conducted on October 21, 2004

© 2005 Marvel Characters, Inc.


AL NICKERSON: Amazing Spider-Man #248 was part of Marvel Comics’ Assistant Editor’s Month and “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” was a backup story. Roger, did you write the story specifically for that issue, or did you already have it lying around? ROGER STERN: Both. I had come up with the idea for “The Kid” several months before; I literally woke up one morning with that story in my head. I figured that I’d eventually use it in an annual or something. But then Assistant Editor’s Month came along. NICKERSON: Ron Frenz and Terry Austin did a spectacular job with the artwork. I was very impressed with Ron’s storytelling and overall mood in his penciling. Terry Austin is one of comics’ greatest inkers. STERN: I can’t say enough good things about Ron and Terry. I’ve always loved working with them . . . though I believe that was the only time all three of us were together on a project. It was definitely the first time I got to work with Ron—although thankfully not the last.

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He perfectly captured what I was imagining; scripting the story was just a total joy. NICKERSON: Ron, do you recall how you became involved in “The Kid”? RON FRENZ: Yes, I do. It was during the editorial transition between Tom DeFalco and Danny Fingeroth. The plot had already been bought and slotted for Assistant Editor’s Month. Tom had planned to give me “The Kid” but was unsure if Fingeroth would concur, and it was Danny’s final call. Obviously, he, too, decided it would


Barr M i k e W.

Doc Savage by Bruce Timm This commission of the Man of Bronze is courtesy of Bruce Timm and Eric Nolen-Weathington. Art © 2005 Bruce Timm. Doc Savage © 2005 Condé Nast.

Imagine this as a premise for a comic book: The exploits of the world’s greatest adventurer, scientist, surgeon, and aviator—in one person. He has skin that looks like bronze, has been raised since infancy to fight evil, and is wealthy beyond calculation because of his share of a gold mine in a Central American country whose people he saved from a deadly plague. He fights the schemes of dictators, evil scientists, and nationalist zealots. He lives in the tallest building in the world, surrounded by his remarkable inventions, and is accompanied by his five best friends, each one an expert in a specialized discipline; and occasionally by his gorgeous cousin, who’s as beautiful as he is handsome. They roam the world looking for adventure and justice, to do right toward all and wrong toward none.

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few pointers from novelist Talbot Mundy, whose 1930

This is, of course, the premise of Doc Savage, the pulp

novel Jimgrim related the exploits of James Schuyler

series published by Street & Smith (S&S) from 1933 to

Grim, international spy and his crew: Jeff Ramsden,

1949. Several capable men each had a

“the amiable tower of strength;” Chullunder Ghose,

hand in the realization of Doc Savage,

“philosopher, psychologist, moralist,

including Henry W. Ralston, the busi-

henpecked husband;” Crosby, the novel’s

ness manager of Street & Smith; John

narrator; and various others. The premise

Nanovic, the series’ first editor; and,

of the matchless team was the same,

Lester Dent and the

most indelibly, pulp writer Lester Dent,

translated by S&S into Doc’s “Fabulous

Doc Savage cast,

usually working under the S&S house

Five,” and Doc himself, Clark Savage, Jr.,

illustrated by Franklyn

name of “Kenneth Robeson.” Dent wrote

who was more of everything than any

Hamilton for the book

most of Doc and Company’s exploits,

man before him ever had been.

The Man behind Doc

as well as many other pulp stories and

The Man behind the Man of Bronze

Savage, edited by

Though Doc was never quite the hit that S&S’s more famous series, The

crime novels.

Robert Weinberg.

Doc Savage contrasted nicely with

Courtesy of

The Shadow in that Doc told the exploits

Mike W. Barr.

Shadow, was, it did plenty well on its Doc Savage © 2005 Condé Nast.

of a team of adventurers, while The Shadow, despite

© 2005 the respective copyright holder.

own. And it was also—and several times

—a comic book, though never an incredibly good one.

his plethora of disposable agents, was always about the

Street & Smith also got into the burgeoning comic-

man in black. In this the S&S boys may have taken a

book business in the 1930s and ’40s, publishing Shadow Comics and Supersnipe (“the boy with the most comic books in America”). Three 1940 issues of Shadow Comics contained Doc Savage stories, and in July 1940 Doc Savage Comics joined the fold, its 64 pages telling the comic adventures not only of Doc and Co., but a variety of other characters such as Ajax, the Sun Man, Mark Mallory at West Point, Cap Fury, the Whistlin’ Kid, Danny Garrett, and Captain Death. The first few issues adapted Doc novels, with art by the Jack Binder studio, often in as little as eight breathless pages. (Such condensation should not be taken as a commentary on Dent’s stories. Lester Dent was probably the best writer of hero pulps who ever walked, and later wrote a series of hardcover detective novels as well as contributing to prestigious Black Mask magazine.) Doc Savage Comics lasted 20 issues, until October of 1943, at which point the character returned to Shadow Comics until 1949. In 1964, Bantam Books began reissuing the Doc series in paperback, cultivating a whole new generation of fans, in no small part because of the beautifully detailed cover paintings by James Bama. This led to 1966’s oneshot adaptation of Dent’s novel The Thousand-Headed Man in a more reasonable 32 pages, drawn by veteran DC artist Jack Sparling and published by Gold Key Comics.

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Feels Like the First Time:


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Dark Detective Reunites Classic Team by

Batman: Dark Detective DC Comics • 6-issue biweekly miniseries • 32 color pages • $2.99 US

We interrupt our regular collected-edition review column for a special announcement: One of the most legendary Batman creative teams has reunited for a six-issue miniseries! In 1977 and 1978, writer Steve Englehart and penciler Marshall Rogers, joined by inker Terry Austin and letterer John Workman, whisked the anemic Detective Comics out of its doldrums. Englehart and Rogers and Company, under Julius Schwartz’s editorial orchestration, introduced crime boss Rupert Thorne, resuscitated Professor Hugo Strange and Deadshot, and helped redefine the Joker as the maniacal menace we know today. They also provided Bruce Wayne with a love interest—the fetching Silver St. Cloud—whose appearances can be counted on two hands but who still sparkles in the minds of readers almost three decades later. This popular Detective stint was one of the first series repackaged (as Shadow of the Batman) by DC in its 1980s deluxe reprint format, was later reissued as the trade paperback Batman: Strange Apparitions, and appreciably shaped at least three characters in the 1989 motion picture Batman. Longtime readers, and those who discovered these masterpieces through reprints, nurtured a dream that this titanic team would one day reunite on the Dark Knight . . . but as time passed, and as the creators moved on to other projects—and, in the cases of Steve and Marshall, out of comics entirely—that dream seemed as likely to happen as Catherine Zeta-Jones losing a movie role because she’s just not pretty enough. Partially inspired by the success of the reunion of Formerly Known as the Justice League’s Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Joe Rubinstein, DC Comics released in early May 2005 the first of a biweekly, six-issue series that has Batman fans salivating: Batman: Dark Detective. In this exclusive BACK ISSUE “Back in Print” first look, we chat with Steve Englehart about the series, and grab quick soundbites from Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and John Workman.

© 2005 DC Comics.

© 2005 DC Comics.

ry Michael Eu

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(Right) A BACK ISSUE “Rough Stuff” exclusive: the penciled and lettered pages 2 and 3 of Batman: Dark Detective #5,

MICHAEL EURY: How did Batman: Dark Detective come

in our run, so there’s no reason to.


EURY: What has Silver St. Cloud been up to since we last

STEVE ENGLEHART: [DC VP-Executive Editor] Dan DiDio

saw her?

decided to ask us back, Joey Cavalieri called us up, and

ENGLEHART: She’s put Bruce Wayne behind her and

we said yes. As many fans don’t understand, we only

gotten engaged to a good man, Evan Gregory, who’s

get to do the Batman if DC lets us, and until Dan, they

running for governor.

never did.

EURY: Did you have an agreement with DC to prohibit

EURY: What is the basic premise of Dark Detective?

other writers from using Silver?

ENGLEHART: As a story, it’s Volume 2 of the Englehart/

ENGLEHART: No, but over the years I’ve found that

courtesy of

Rogers/Austin/Workman Batman. It picks up “some

most writers know if a character is associated with

John Workman.

time” after the first, when all involved have gone on with

another writer, and they leave that character to him.

their lives, and throws them back together hard. As a

© 2005 DC Comics.

concept, it’s the challenge of doing something as good as, but different from, Volume 1. I like creation rather than re-creation.

Old “friends” drop

EURY: How has Batman, the character, changed in the

by the Batcave on

25-plus years since your original Detective Comics run?

the cover to Batman:

ENGLEHART: In the DC Universe, he’s become less of a

Dark Detective #2.

human being, so I play off that, but my guy is very human

Art courtesy of

and that hasn’t changed.

Terry Austin. © 2005 DC Comics.

JOHN WORKMAN on Batman: Dark Detective “I thought this whole experience would be bittersweet, but I’m amazed that all those years have just fallen aside and that we’re picking this up so smoothly. It’s as if those years have not gone by. I love the story and the writing and the sense of camaraderie among the creators. Marshall’s enthusiasm led this team

EURY: How has your approach to storytelling changed

back then, and it does again today. We do miss the

during those years?

original editorial team of Julius Schwartz and Nelson E N G L E H A R T: R i g h t

Bridwell, but Joey Cavalieri deserves a lot of credit.

after I wrote the first

Without him, this wonderful project would

run, I left comics and

not be happening.”—March 2, 2005

started doing other types of writing. Each and every one expand-

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ed my capabilities. So

EURY: Can you pinpoint why Silver St. Cloud, after

the first run was the

relatively few appearances, has endeared herself to

work of a comics writer

Batman readers?

and the second is that

ENGLEHART: She’s his perfect other half. That’s what she

of a writer who loves

was designed to be, and that’s the way she played out—


the only one who meshes with this very complicated man,

EURY: The Joker, your

so that he can be the Batman and a complete human

story’s main villain,

being. It’s the completeness that she gives him that seals

has committed several

the deal. And once that was replayed in the most success-

sadistic acts (crippling

ful Batman film, even when they called her “Vicki Vale,”

Barbara Gordon, killing

everybody’s seen how that works.

Jason Todd, etc.) since

EURY: “Vote for Me—or I’ll Kill You!” is the Joker’s guber-

your original run. Are

natorial slogan. Is he using Dick Cheney’s playbook?

you handling the char-

ENGLEHART: Other way around. I came up with that line

acter any differently as

back in February ’04, and as others started using similar

a result?

lines in real life, six months later, I told Marshall, “They’re


going to ask us. . .”

started that approach

EURY: Dark Detective features the Englehart/Rogers/Austin/

Back Issue #10  

“Pulp Fiction Issue!” “Bring on the Bad Guys” explores the history of Batman-foe RA’S AL GHUL, with commentary by NEAL ADAMS and DENNY O’NEI...

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