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THE ULTIMATE COMICS EXPERIENCE! TOTALLY!

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matt wa gner and diana sc hutz

ST E T A GRE RIES LD STOVER TO NE

The Maze Agency TM & © 2004 Mike W. Barr

PLUS: MIKE W. BARR’s view of the DC Implosion in OFF MY CHEST!

TOTALLY ’80s: HUGHES! WAGNER! DAVIS! RUDE! STEVENS!

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Grendel TM & © 2004 Matt Wagner. Space Ghost TM & © 2004 Cartoon Network.

ing t a r s b Cele t Comics, es B e s, ’80 h 0 T 7 ’ he of t Today! &


Time after time passed, and I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. And then I met Rose. Every little thing she did was magic, and I knew (ooh, ooh) she’d make-a my dreams come true. I was walking on sunshine! We’re in this love together, we pledged. After a white wedding we settled into our love shack, and with Rose’s wind beneath my wings, I found my muse. I sold articles to Amazing Heroes magazine and scripts

DUDE!

to Marvel Comics. I was “in” the comics biz!

(And my grody-to-the-max, gag-me-with-a-spoon ’80s puns end here. But not my story.)

In January 1988, I was hired by editor in chief

Diana Schutz to be an editor at Comico (pronounced “Ko-meek-oh”) the Comic Company. If you’ve been reading comics since the ’80s, you probably haven’t This issue, we celebrate that decade most rad, the totally awesome ’80s! The ’80s were a different world, and they hit me with a Wham! It was time to cut footloose, so I told

thought of Comico in a while. If you’re newer to the field, you’re likely unaware of Comico. But you’ve certainly heard of some of the talented folk whose work was published there: Adam and Andy Kubert, Dave Stevens, Doug Wildey, Gene Colan, Arthur

! t n e l l e c ex my family “goodbye to you” and moved out of our

house (in the middle of our street). “Let’s hear it for

the boy!” Dad cheered. Hiding her tears (for fears),

Mom asked, “If you need help, who ya gonna call?”

I winked at her through my Ray-Bans while I sputtered off in my Chevette. Dad advised, “Son, don’t

wear your sunglasses at night!” “Papa, don’t preach,” Mom chided. I was overjoyed by their power of love. My journey had begun. It was time to follow my

sweet dreams, and nothing was gonna break my stride.

When you’re young, everybody wants to rule the world (everybody also wants to have fun tonight), so, hungry like the wolf, I set my sights on two goals: to work hard for the money in comics and to find a love that’s true. I moved into my own apartment and practiced writing while working a variety of jobs to pay the bills. But before long I was blinded, and not by science. I was tempted by an angel in the centerfold, a true

Adams, Mark Wheatley, Bill Willingham, Steve Purcell, Bob Burden, Mike Leeke, the Pander Bros., Tim Sale, Steven T. Seagle, Jill Thompson, Len Wein, Mark Evanier, Bob Schreck, and Joe Staton. Ooh, la la! Oh, yeah, let’s not forget Adam Hughes, Mike W. Barr,

Alan Davis, Matt Wagner, and Steve Rude, all featured

in this issue.

Comico was only one of several influential inde-

pendent publishers of the 1980s. Pacific Comics was another of those trailblazers, and this issue’s “Beyond Capes” examines the two series Bruce (The Incredible Hulk) Jones spearheaded there, Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds. Of course, the ’80s were also the era of First and Eclipse Comics—and it was the decade of landmark Marvel and DC series like the Claremont/Byrne X-Men, Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil—but we’ve got to save some content for future issues, don’t we?

fer ! e r u sh

material girl—yeah, I knew it was risky business, but one thing leads to another—and I became addicted to love, quite an obsession. Dr. Huxtable warned that I

was too shy for this maneater, and he was right: Soon

I was so lonely, the king of pain. “Relax,” Doc told me. But I couldn’t. I knew that love stinks, so on a cruel

And just to prove we’re not totally stuck in the

’80s, Mike Barr offers an insider’s perspective on the

infamous DC Implosion of the late 1970s in an “Off My Chest” guest editorial.

Think you can find a magazine more excellent

than Back Issue? As if!

summer evening I shrieked to the heavens, “Do you really want to hurt me?!!” My neighbor yelled back,

Michael Eury, the editor formerly known as “Mickey”

“I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!”

Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine. . . (Sorry. It’s a hard

(That super freak scared me. Bad.)

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habit to break.)


f o f o y r y o r t o s t i His eH he Th T

O C I M O C

by

ry Michael Eu

y anny pa m p o m C o c C i m c i o Com thhee C t Comico the Comic Company

was the

little publisher that could. For a while, at least. In 1982, a trio of pals from art school—Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta, and Phil LaSorda—launched their own publishing company to nurture their creative itches. Their early black-and-white efforts (Slaughterman, Skrog, and Az) were primitive, but another art student they invited along on their venture, Matt Wagner, stood out among the pack. His character Grendel debuted in 1982’s Comico Primer #2, and today is still going strong at Dark Horse Comics. Administration/marketing mogul Bob Schreck jumped on board in late 1984, with editor in chief Diana Schutz following in early 1985. Cucinotta stepped aside and Giovinco took a less active role. Dennis LaSorda became co-publisher, his brother Phil ascending to executive officer. Meanwhile, Schreck and Schutz infused unbridled creativity and editorial professionalism into the company, and cultivated new talent like Tim Sale, Bill Willingham, Jill Thompson, and many others who have since gone on to wide acclaim. In 1987, Rick Taylor was hired as art director, exquisitely polishing the design of Comico’s comics. I became an editor there in January 1988, and assistant

No Day in the (Jurassic) Park

editor Shelly Roeberg (now Bond) joined the company

Things look bad for Gumby and Pokey

later that year.

in this rare promotional illustration by Arthur Adams. Drive, clay boy, drive! Gumby © 2004 Art Clokey.

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© 2004 Comico.

During the mid- to late 1980s, Comico took on commercial projects—the popular anime series Robotech and two super-hero titles, Elementals and Justice Machine—and released some of the most literate, dynamic, and just darn cool comics in the marketplace: Jonny Quest, Grendel, Mage, The Maze Agency, Gumby’s Summer (and Winter) Fun, The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine, and Rio, to name just a few. Top talent (Doug Wildey, Dave Stevens, Steve Rude, Mark Evanier, Gene Colan, and others) joined Comico’s groundbreaking newcomers, and the

© 2004 Comico.

company earned industry kudos. Abetted at different stages by Bob Pinaha, Maggie Brenner, Tim Ogline, Jeff Lang, Chuck Ragan, and a few others, Comico transformed from a low-budget, vanity-press outfit into a reputable, progressive publishing house. Emphasis on the house. Marvel and DC are headquartered in Manhattan highrises, and most other publishers rent space from office complexes. Comico, however, called a big, ghastly, three-story house its home (Dennis LaSorda operated his physical-therapy business from the first floor, with Comico commanding the rest of the building). The stairs creaked, the paint was chipped, the wallpaper was peeling, the toilets sputtered, the basement smelled, and the third-floor “offices”— kids’ bedrooms in the house’s previous life—were oppressively hot (one of them was mine, and during the sizzling summer of ’88, I wore bathing trunks to work each day and sweated off five pounds!). Keep this in mind while reading Diana Schutz’s references to “that horrible house” in this issue’s Wagner/Schutz “Pro2Pro” interview. Its structural and decorating deficiencies aside, the Comico office was a wonderland of imagination, with Rick Taylor’s buoyant Pee-wee Herman impressions filling the hallways. It was a fun place to work. There were setbacks along the way, of course. Remember Max Headroom, the computer-generated ’80s TV sensation and Coca-Cola spokesman? Max was almost a Comico comic. Reveals Bob Schreck: “Having rather cost-effectively negotiated the license to produce a Max Headroom comic book in 3-D (boy, was my good friend at Marvel Comics, Carol Kalish, jealous!), and having secured an approved script

Diana Schutz and Bob Schreck

(perfectly edgy and in keeping with the original British TV show) by Mike Baron, and then delivering the approved gorgeous pencil art from

Matt Wagner illustrated

the Pander Bros., [all] before the character hit it big in the U.S., suddenly

this announcement of Di

the U.S. licensor let Coke have their say and everything that was approved,

and Bob’s October 1989

suddenly was not. The book was dead. No refund, thank you! The

wedding. Courtesy of

corporation squashed the computer-generated corporate-buster himself

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Barr and Hughes revisit:

el Eury

I was fresh off the comics-geek boat when I started editing at Comico in 1988 and had been

by Micha ribed An interview 19, 2003, and transc st gu Au on conducted . Morris. by Brian K

a fan of Mike W. Barr’s DC work, so being assigned his new title, The Maze Agency, was quite a thrill. It also became a valuable learning experience. Mike’s professionalism (the man couldn’t miss a deadline if he tried) and ultra-polished scripts taught me a great deal about editing and writing. It was my pleasure working with Mike on Maze, and I’m happy that this interview has allowed us to rekindle our friendship. Another joy of The Maze Agency was the “discovery” of Adam Hughes. Adam had a few pinups and black-and-white short stories under his belt in ’88, but showed such promise, everyone at Comico knew he was headed for greatness. The first time I met him in person, at a 1988 Comico portfolio review at Rich Rankin’s comics shop, Adam had already been hired to draw Maze, but politely stood in the portfolio line to meet his editor.

interview

He was nervous and sweating profusely (something I won’t let him forget), but I found his courtesy refreshing—and when I recently saw him at the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con, he’d gotten that sweating thing under control! The Maze Agency was a special series for all three of us. During our chat, Mike, Adam, and I navigated a virtual maze of memories and, like good

The A-Maze-ing Adam Hughes

detectives, reconstructed the history of this wonderful

A rare Adam Hughes/Rick Magyar Maze Agency

project. —Michael Eury

promotional piece for The Westfield Newsletter. © 2004 Michael W. Barr.

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MICHAEL EURY: Let’s start with a flashback: 1988, Mike W. Barr, popular author of Camelot 3000, Batman and the Outsiders, and Detective Comics. MIKE W. BARR: Well, I wasn’t the author. Because an “author” is someone like Frank Miller, who does the whole package, writing and art—I’m a writer. ME: You got it. “Writer.” Adam Hughes, you were a promising young artist at that time. This was your first regular series. ADAM HUGHES: Yep, I was wearing long pants and ready to shave. ME: (laughs) And yours truly, Michael Eury, a newly hired editor at a relatively small, but cutting-edge, comic-book publisher in the “metropolis” of Norristown, Pennsylvania. So, do we feel ancient yet? MWB: Yes, I have for some time. (laughs) It’s got nothing to do with this conversation, I assure you. ME: Mike, in case anyone reading this interview is unfamiliar with The Maze Agency, why don’t you define the series? MWB: Back in 1985, ’86, I’d wanted to do a creatorowned detective series. By “detective series,” I mean in the sense that it would have actual mysteries, actual whodunits, which would be solvable by the reader if the reader was sharp enough to pay attention to the clues.

Super-Sleuth Team-Up

Based, of course, on my love of the classic detective stories of Ellery Queen. Later, of course, I would pay homage to

Barr’s Ellery Queen

Queen by using Ellery Queen in Maze Agency #9.

homage, from

ME: And even though you were writing some super-hero

The Maze Agency #9.

comics with detective elements, you didn’t get to explore

The Maze Agency © 2004 Michael W. Barr.

whodunits to that degree.

Ellery Queen is a TM of Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay.

MWB: Well, I did to some extent, about as much as I wanted to. But I felt that if you write Batman, you’re honor bound simply by the fact it’s Batman to have a certain amount of physical action in there. And I have no problem with that and I don’t regard that as any part of compromise, or a weakening of the material, if you’re

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DS: I know it seems like it’s far away, but, man, don’t blink. ME: It’s a testament to your talent and to your creations that you’re able to celebrate a twenty-fifth anniversary when you think of the other comics that premiered alongside you during the early- to mid-’80s. Hardly any of them have withstood the test of time. MW: Yeah, true, true. I am one of the last men standing. (laughs) DS: So, like, dude, what about Mage III? (laughs) MW: I don’t know. I know how it starts. (laughs) I know what song it begins with. (laughs) ME: What’s new in Dydie’s den? What are you excited about? DS: AutobioGraphix, which will be out in November [now available from Dark Horse Comics].

“He’s the strangest, smartest foe Batman has ever faced. . .”

ME: Featuring the work of. . . ? MW: Creators not known for autobiographical comics.

A killer page from the two-issue,

DS: Actually, it’s a straight rip-off of—well, it’s not a

Prestige Format Batman/Grendel series

straight rip-off, but TwoMorrows had a very good idea

produced by Wagner in 1993.

a few years back. They did an anthology called Streetwise.

Batman © 2004 DC Comics.

ME: Wonderful book.

Grendel © 2004 Matt Wagner.

DS: And they got a bunch of primarily mainstream cartoonists to write and draw autobiographical stories,

the pamphlet is dead, the thirty-two page pamphlet.

and it was very cool, and I really enjoyed it. But it was a

That roll-it-up-and-stick-it-in-your-back-pocket-thing?

big, giant thing and I like the idea of something smaller

It’s out-pricing itself. It just doesn’t work any more.

and therefore, a little more intimate, with more of an

Whereas the bookstore market is continuing to blossom

indy focus and a little less adventure-oriented, I guess.

for us, with books like Craig Thompson’s Blankets proving

(to Matt) What?

that going straight to books is really where a growing

MW: I was going to comment, it’s so funny, it’s almost a

market is for us. It’s perennial publication where the

metaphor for the exact same thing as the independent

growth is now, rather than periodical publication.

publishers in the ‘80s, thinking they had to go to news-

MW: So you talk about verification—

stand when in fact, they should have remained smaller

DS: Yes.

and intimate. Think of how many people back then went,

MW: —that’s your verification.

(growls) “I want my books big. I want ‘em really big!” And

DS: Yeah.

now, it’s like everybody wants to go small now. (laughs)

MW: See, we are books, we are literature. We’re not

DS: Well, first of all—and I’ve been saying this for years—

something you can roll up and stick in your pocket.

The Original’s Still Available TwoMorrows r Publishing’s Eisne Award-winning Streetwise features l autobiographica comics stories by top creators. See the ad

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elsewhere in this issue.

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Your Your Two Two Favorite Favorite Cartoon Cartoon ShowsShows-

Space Ghost and The Herculoids– NOT in one Comic Book Together! NOT in one Comic Book Together! by

ury Michael E

I never thought I’d consider World’s Finest drawn by Steve Rude to be bad news. But when “the Dude” (one of my favorite artists) told me, back in late 1988, that he had committed to pencil a DC Comics miniseries starring Superman and Batman (two of my favorite heroes), the news was sobering. At the time, as an editor at Comico the Comic Company, I was tapped by editor in chief Diana Schutz to shepherd the sequel to Comico’s successful 1987 Space Space Ghost © 2004 Cartoon Network.

Ghost one-shot. The Space Ghost comic, in case you missed it (if you did, hit the back-issue bins or eBay now!), wonderfully recreated the atmosphere of CBS-TV’s Space Ghost—not the diluted TV version that appeared on NBC’s Space-Stars in 1981, or the easily agitated talk-show host played for laughs on the Cartoon Network’s Space Ghost Coast to Coast, but the Alex Toth-designed super-hero whose Saturdaymorning cartoon ran from 1966 through 1968. While mildly seasoned with humor (usually through the comic-relief character Blip the monkey), the original Space Ghost program was replete with action. Forget the loonies on Coast to Coast—Space Ghost’s redoubtable rogues’ gallery took tremendous steps to try to destroy their nemesis. The Comico comic’s splash page so flawlessly mimicked the animated series’ title frame it brought to mind the eerie Space Ghost TV theme, and painter Ken Steacy’s palette gave each panel the look of an animation cel. Being an ardent fan of Hanna-Barbera cartoons (DNA tests have proven that I am a direct descendent of Joe Rockhead, a Water Buffalo lodge buddy of Fred Flintstone’s), the prospect of editing Space Ghost II was incredibly exciting. Steve Rude’s love of Space Ghost far exceeds mine. Anyone who has the pleasure of knowing him is aware that the Dude, as a little dude in 1966, was captivated by the Space Ghost TV show. “Space Ghost was serious drama for me,” Steve remembers. “He was strong and powerful. I loved the executioner’s style mask. The posing of

“I loved the executioner’s style mask,” recalls Steve Rude of his childhood impression of Space Ghost. Courtesy of the artist. © 2004 Cartoon Network.

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his body was cool. I’ve always responded to things like that, much in the same way that Jack Kirby’s characters always had cool poses to them.” Another aspect of the show that impressed the Dude was its soundtrack: “The music was driving and powerful. If the music wasn’t like that, it would have been like sprinkling water over a blazing fire. I often think about just how important music—and all those


other things, down to instinctively perfect timing—is to a show. Some shows just seem to have all those things lined up in a perfect way.” Drawing Space Ghost was the realization of a dream for fan-favorite Rude, and the comic’s success was largely the result of his artwork. The concept of a Space Ghost sequel hinged upon the Dude’s participation, and Steve was happy to do it. For the second installment, Rude assumed a larger role in the writing process. Regarding Mark Evanier, who scripted the first Space Ghost, Steve contends, “I don’t think Mark quite ‘got’ the show the way I did. On the first book, I had sent Mark videotapes of Space Ghost, and my impression is that after he watched them, he simply reacted to the surface things and just set about his professional duty in writing a script. Mark is older than I am and was probably moving onto other things when Space Ghost came on in ‘66. Mark has turned out some stunning work in the books we’ve done together, but I think deep down, he’s much more comfortable doing books that are more humor than serious drama.” Animation writer/designer Darrell McNeil kept no secret from Rude his desire to be involved with Space Ghost II. “Darrell was always making such a pest of him-

A “Strong and Powerful” Pose

self back then,” Rude jokes, “he kind of weaseled his way into the development

A 1994 convention sketch by the Dude.

of the second issue.” Rude and McNeil brainstormed some ideas, and Rude typed

Courtesy of the artist.

a four-page, single-spaced first draft of the plot, titled “The Trial,” dated Sunday,

© 2004 Cartoon Network.

January 31, 1988. An accompanying fifth page provided the Dude’s recommendations to his writing partner on how to best capture the voices of Space Ghost and his foe, Black Widow Herculoids © 2004 Cartoon Network.

(in reading some of the dialogue, I imagined voice actor Gary Owens reciting the lines, a testament to their accuracy). After plot discussions and a February 21, 1988 list of revisions, McNeil helped expand Rude’s story into a double-spaced, 12 1/2-page detailed outline. “The Trial” resumes immediately after the conclusion of “The Sinister Spectre” (Comico’s first Space Ghost story), with Space Ghost, teen twins Jan and Jace, and Blip returning home to Ghost Planet in the star-spanning Phantom Cruiser. The insidious Sandman is lurking in

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the shadows, and disables the group with his patented sleep mist. Sandman’s Sandmen kidnap Space Ghost, leaving his young allies behind. Space Ghost awakens and finds himself on the planet Anarch, bound before a bizarre jury consisting of three of his most incorrigible nemeses: Zorgat (ruler of the Rock Robots), the Schemer, and Moltar (of the Molten Men). With the venomous Black Widow as judge, the sinister Sandman as prosecuting attorney, and a mysterious overseer called the Lawgiver orchestrating the affair, Space Ghost is charged with “crimes against evil.” His felonies—vanquishing the juror-villains in reenactments of scenes from the actual Space Ghost TV episodes in which they appeared—are replayed before the jury, and Space Ghost is, not surprisingly, found guilty. He is sentenced to “re-fight” these battles again, being “guaranteed” his freedom should he succeed. Meanwhile, Jace, Jan, and Blip regain consciousness and take to the spaceways in the Phantom Cruiser, locking onto Space Ghost’s coordinates and tracking him to Anarch. The story progresses at a brisk pace, with Space Ghost teleported to remote worlds for rematches, first with a trio of Rock Robots, then with the mountainous automaton Titanor. Despite the odds being unfairly stacked against him, Space Ghost proves victorious, to the surprise of his foes. Jan and Jace arrive on Anarch but are apprehend-

One Big Battling Family

ed, with Blip undetected thanks to a cloak of invisibility.

Rude illustrated this Herculoids

For Space Ghost’s final battle, the hero and his young friends are sent

cover for DC Comics’ Cartoon

to the homeworld of the Herculoids—patriarch Zandor, his wife Tara, their

Network Presents #17. In the

son Dorno, the gelatinous shapeshifters Gleep and Gloop, the rock-gorilla

inset, note that the Dude’s art was flopped for the comics cover.

Igoo, the flying space-dragon Zok, and the armored dinosaur Tundro. Since Space Ghost and the Herculoids are allies (from previous animated

© 2004 Cartoon Network.

cartoons), the enigmatic Lawgiver emits “illusion rays” that cause the Herculoids to see, instead of our heroes, three of their most bitter adversaries: they believe Space Ghost to be Prokar, lord of the Beaked People; Jan to be Queen Skorra; and Jace to be the Bubblemen’s leader, Brotak. The story explodes into a spectacular battle (use your imagination to picture what the Dude could have done with this conflict), with Space Ghost and crew at a disadvantage, puzzled over their friends’ attack and thusly holding back their might. Space Ghost ultimately surmises that the Herculoids are operating under a case of mistaken identity and uses his power bands to create a force field to block the Lawgiver’s mind-altering rays. The heroes make amends, just in time for Blip, on Anarch, to materialize and teleport all the heroes to the jury room! Space Ghost, Jan and Jace, and the Herculoids overpower the villains, and the Lawgiver is revealed to be One-Eye, the mousey assistant to Space Ghost-foe the Lurker. Space Ghost gives the Herculoids a tow home, and the story concludes with the hero belting out his eternal cry, “SP-A-A-A-C-E GH-O-O-O-OST!”

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Granted, the plot to “The Trial” is relatively simple, but then again, so was the Space Ghost cartoon. During © 2004 Steve Rude.

these days before Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Hanna-Barbera cared little about the property and posed no interference with the story. The plot was approved, and while I edited away on my other books, I anxiously awaited the day the Dude would begin Space Ghost II. And then I got the call. Steve was polite and diplomatic, and noted that after the smaller-scale labors of love Space Ghost and First Comics’ Nexus, he felt it was necessary to take on a commercial project like World’s Finest. I couldn’t argue with his logic. Comico obtained from Hanna-Barbera a Space Ghost contract extension, and everyone assumed that sometime in 1989, whenever Rude’s Superman/Batman miniseries was completed, he’d return to Ghost Planet, rarin’ to go. Then, in February 1989, Comico began its freefall to implosion and dissolution (see this issue’s lead article and the Mike W. Barr/Adam Hughes “Pro2Pro” interview for details). The publisher went belly up, the Dude moved

Buzzing Your Way

on to other projects, and in a few short years, the ghostly hero had been reinvented as the snappy Coast to

The Dude’s new creation

Coast host.

(with co-writer/inker

Fast forward to the fall of 2003. As I was brainstorming projects for this column and realized that most readers would not even be aware that a Space Ghost sequel was planned, my next thought was, Why didn’t the

Gary Martin), The Moth,

Dude take the project to DC, or to another publisher? So I asked him. His reply: “I have never felt comfortable

is debuting in March from Dark Horse Comics.

‘lobbying’ for projects. People in the business know my rep for taking my work seriously, and if they’re on the same page with me creatively, then it’s usually just something that falls into place. My life back then was Nexus, and anything else that came around was a nice bonus. But doing the first Space Ghost special was clearly something I had to do.” In case you’re wondering if Rude regards Space Ghost II as an unfinished symphony, the artist comments, “Not really. The madness seemed to leave me once I did the first Space Ghost book. Besides, Nexus was my version of Space Ghost. In the mid-1990s, when Hanna-Barbera got a full-time staff of licensing people, they contacted me about doing some new books. But instead, I merely recommended a new up-and-coming artist [to draw Space Ghost], which he did, and was very happy about. That was also the time I was doing my own version of Space Ghost-type animation, which was the Nexus animated promo.” Rude’s Nexus cartoon trailer premiered to a cheering, standing-room-only crowd at the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con. At this writing, however, Nexus has not yet made it onto television. To keep abreast of its progress, and of the Dude’s latest and forthcoming projects (including The Moth, above right, coming from Dark Horse Comics), visit his site at www.steverude.com. But as for the unrealized Space Ghost II, that, alas, remains a greatest story never told.

The Galaxy’s Ghostly Guardian NEXT ISSUE: Plastic Man has twice been unsuccessfully developed as a live-action movie. For the scoop, be here next issue.

Another majestic pose of Space Ghost, courtesy of the artist. © 2004 Cartoon Network.

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feature Michael Eury es, to Adam Hugh ks n a th l ia ec n) (sp ally Harringto W d n a , rr a B . Mike W

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MAZE AGENCY

with Rick Magyar’s inks.

Hughes’ cover rough and the finished product,

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© 2004 Michae l W. Barr

“I wanted to be more of a pinup artist,” Adam Hughe writer of The Maze Agency, s told Mike W and me, their . Barr, editor, in this At this early st issue’s lead “P age of his care ro2Pro” interv iew. er, Adam show ed he could de liver the good s.

t i m e l i n e s

#

1 • 1988

by


t i m e l i n e s and the final penciled version. Version C was used as

l W. Barr. © 2004 Michae

4 • 1989

Note Adam’s changes between the first cover rough

#

the back cover to Maze Agency #2.

MAZE AGENCY

er” theme Jack the Ripp of n ur et “r e sex ations on th suspense and ted three vari us just enough pl Adam submit h— pt de of . eated a sense e most impact Maze. Each cr rsion A had th ve t bu for this issue of — ts en r cont er to the interio to lure the read

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by

Dan Johns

on

GO WEST, YOUNG MAN (AND WOMAN) In the early 1980s, Bruce Jones took a cue from 1950s comics and gave readers an old idea—anthology books—but delivered them with a new jolt of creativity and skill (and graphic violence and sex, too). The results were Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds. The genesis of these books came when Bruce met his wife, April Campbell. Their meeting occurred at a time when Bruce was considering heading to California from the Midwest; both were interested in exploring prospects in film and television. At the same time, Steve and Bill Schanes were starting up Pacific Comics in San

Bruce Jones and

Diego. When Steve Schanes invited Bruce to do some books for the company, Bruce

April Campbell

saw this as a good chance to make the move to the West Coast.

Ken Steacy was nice

Twisted Tales #1, cover dated November 1982, hit the stands with a cover (and interior story) by none other than Richard Corben. Getting an artist of Corben’s

photo of his favorite

caliber was a major coup and it helped establish Bruce’s books in terms of quality.

author/editor tag-team,

“Corben, [Bernie] Wrightson, and [Russ] Heath all helped make me a name at

Bruce and April, taken at

Warren [Publishing], and I wanted them on my books both to pay them back for

the 1983 San Diego

helping me early in my career and because they were all wonderful artists and

Comic-Con, around the

good friends,” Bruce tells BACK ISSUE. “It was very hard to get this premium talent,

time Twisted Tales and

because everybody wanted them and they were always booked months in advance.

Alien Worlds were on

I think I only got them because of our friendship, not because they really needed

the stands.

the work. It was an extremely fortuitous time, the likes of which I doubt we’ll ever see again. The only thing I can compare it to would be the Warren days, perhaps. So much great talent crowded into too few years. But it was gold while it lasted.” Jones followed up his horror title with the science-fiction series Alien Worlds. The first story was by Al Williamson, a lucky move on the part of Bruce given Williamson’s stature and the name he had made for himself at EC Comics. Bruce is the first to agree that Williamson is a master of his craft: “Al and I go way back,

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enough to send this

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Twisted Sister

Bruce Jones’ Cosmics and Gories #1 – #10 Twisted Tales Dec.1984) (Nov. 1982 –

orben’s Delgado in C iss M r te ac ar The ch ) was wisted Tales #1 “Infected” (T ell. r April Campb modeled afte Bruce Jones. Art Story © 2004 hard Corben. Ric 04 20 ©

and it was a joy to work with him again on Alien Worlds, as I had for the Warren books. Al is in a league of his own when it comes to space opera and otherworldly women.” Twisted Tales #2 kicked off with “Over His Head,” Mike Ploog’s only job for the title. The definitive horror artist at Marvel in the 1970s on books like Werewolf by Night and Ghost Rider was perfectly at home in the pages of Twisted Tales. “Nightwatch,” about soldiers who wait out the night and attacks by giant

#1 – #9 Alien Worlds Jan. 1985) (Dec. 1982 –

rats, was the first story Ken Steacy did for Jones and the only one he did for this book. “I hate horror,” Steacy confides. “I got the script and there was nothing really horrifying except that [the soldiers] get attacked by giant rats. But when the book came out, I saw the other stuff, and there was some pretty yucky stuff

-D #1 Alien Worlds 3 (1984)

in there!”

STEVENS ROCKETS TO ALIEN WORLDS Dave Stevens provided the cover for Alien Worlds #2 and his only interior pencil work with “Aurora.” “‘Aurora’

Who Needs W ords?

“I had started drawing the sequel [to Aurora, first seen in Al ien Worlds #2 ] when Pacific im ploded,” says artist Dave St evens. This splash page is from that unpublished story. Courtes y of the artist. © 2004 Dave

Stevens.

was created for the Japanese company, Sanrio, back in 1977,” Stevens tells BACK ISSUE. “It was to be one of many comics series featured in a magazine format, similar to the French periodical, Metal Hurlant, which was very popular all over the world at that time. They spent a lot of time and money putting the material together, but the magazine ultimately was never published. Oddly enough, the Moebius stylings in ‘Aurora’ were something that they’d specifically asked me to do. Apparently, they really wanted to duplicate the success of the [French] periodical, right down to the artwork itself!” Of all the stories done for either Twisted Tales or Alien Worlds, “Aurora” was the one that might have ended up with a sequel. In fact, Stevens actually

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You Can’t Spell “Implosion” Without “I”: A Bottom-Rung Bottom-Rung View View of of One One of of A DC Comics’ Comics’ Darkest Darkest Hours Hours DC Editor’s note: Mike W. Barr is best known in the world of comics as the author of such landmark series as Detective Comics, Camelot 3000, Batman and the Outsiders, and the subject of one of this issue’s “Pro2Pro” interviews, The Maze Agency. But

It was in late June of 1978

when DC Comics editor

Jack C. Harris entered my office and closed the door. Jack thrust out his right hand and I automatically rose and shook it, without knowing the occasion. “Congratulations,” Jack said, “we get to stay.”

did you know that Barr started his comic-book career in the late 1970s as the DC Comics proofreader? He has an inter-

I had met Jack when I had begun work at DC in September of the previous year,

esting perspective on the

and though we weren’t close friends, we shared several enthusiasms such as DC

infamous DC Implosion

Silver Age comics. I had even done a little writing for him. Though I saw a lot of

that he’d like to get off

Jack every day—his office was right next to mine as DC proofreader and general

his chest . . .

man-of-all-work—for him to close the door before he spoke was both unique and a trifle ominous; now I knew why.

guest editorial by mike w. barr

I had known—as had the entire office—that Something Was Up. Rumors had

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drifted down that the higher-ups of Warner Communications, Inc., DC’s parent firm, were unhappy with DC’s performance and were determined to take further action. Like their initial action wasn’t severe enough: DC’s plan to increase the price of many of their monthly titles to 50¢ (from 35¢) with an increase of story pages to 25— the much-ballyhooed “DC Explosion”—had had the rug pulled out from under it by corporate heads at Warner Communications after only three months. An excellent report in The Comic Reader #159, August 1978, said that the Warner execs had wanted to sell more comics (and who

treme “The most ex n shutting dow story had DC comics f all original publication o the “big keeping only immediately, an, perman, Batm Su f o es tl ti three” reprint man alive as o W er d n o and W sence newsstand pre a ep ke to ks boo alive.” dising interest n a ch er m d n a rr – Mike W. Ba

didn’t?) by methods involving an overhaul of the distribution system. The Warner execs felt DC’s comics stood a better chance of going head-to-head with their competitors (read: Marvel) if DC’s books more closely approached the price point and physical package offered by Marvel. DC’s production immediately dropped from 32 books a month to 23, a drop of almost 40%. However, some titles, released in the experimental “Dollar Comics” format, did well, so that format was kept for some existing books. Of course, much of the cancelled material saw print in DC’s in-house publication, Cancelled Comics

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Cavalcade, more about which in the companion article. (What methods, if any, were taken to “overhaul. . . the distribution system” remain unknown to me, and seem a proper subject for an article by an informed person. The DC titles affected by the Implosion were returned to 17 pages of editorial content, yet at a price increase of 40¢, from 35¢, a high hurdle for even improved distribution to take.) So Warner execs—none of whom had to worry about their incomes being reduced—had already slashed DC’s output from 32 books a month to 23, yet it was rumored further action would be taken, though what form that action would take, no one yet knew. The most extreme story had DC shutting down publication of all original comics immediately, keeping only the “big three” titles of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman alive as reprint books to keep a newsstand presence and merchandising interest alive. None of us quite bought that, but the degree of our worry could be measured by the fact that none of us categorically ruled it out, either. When the Implosion fell, I and other DC staffers were given a list of freelancers whose assignments had just been cancelled with orders to tell them to stop work immediately. Even I knew that was nothing more than a signal to a freelancer to pull an all-nighter to finish the assignment before delivery. Amazing how many

DC Heroes Get the Boot Sadly, many editors, writers, and artists did, too. © 2004 DC Comics.

freelancers I contacted had finished the jobs they were working on just before I told them to quit. But. . . “We get to stay”? I hadn’t known things were that bad. Few people had. The mood at the office in the days immediately preceding what

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No Ray of Sunshine Barr lost his “Ray” writing assignment due to the Implosion’s axe. Plot by Barr, script by Roger McKenzie, art by John Fuller and Bob Wiacek. © 2004 DC Comics.

had become known as the “DC Implosion” (though never loudly, and never within hearing of any DC executives) toward the work of comics was casual, to say the least. Virtually all the freelancers —and most of the staffers— claimed that comics were a way station in their careers, a temporary stop on the way to better things. I was naively delighted to be in comics, even at the low orbit I had attained, having forsaken a job in which I utilized my Bachelor of Arts degree to scrub floors at an Ohio Sears and Roebuck. I vividly recall conversations with Len Wein and Marvin Wolfman (the latter of whom was in those days freelancing at Marvel, but was up at DC a lot), who asked me pointblank why was I glad to be in comics. “We are in a dying business,” intoned Len. “Don’t you know that?” asked Marvin. If we are in a dying business, I thought, one of the reasons is because the books are so damn bad. “Okay,” I said, “why are you still here?”

“If we are in ess, I thought, a dying busin se sons is becau one of the rea .” so damn bad the books are rr – Mike W. Ba

“Oh, we’re not going to be in comics much longer,” Len replied. “No, we’re going to move to Hollywood and write The Love Boat,” said Marvin. Most (though by no means all) other comics pros would voice similar career goals at the drop of a cowl—at least, until June of 1978.

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Even though I still had a job, others weren’t so fortunate. Editors Al Milgrom and Larry Hama were summarily dismissed, in keeping with the longstanding business policy of “last hired, first fired.” Other personnel were “let go” as well, including some production workers. Since these layoffs happened in late June and early July, with the cancellations announced on June 22, 1978, office wags dubbed these actions the “Summer Solstice Massacre,” though the tag “DC Implosion” proved more enduring. I thought for awhile that my job was on the line too, but I soon realized that my meager wages ($100 a week at first, then skyrocketing to $125) would barely make a dent in DC’s fortunes one way or the other, and I was too “valuable” as a pair of all-purpose hands to be laid off. A couple of office temps, Gaff (not to be mistaken for longtime DC contributor Carl Gafford) and Carlos

Fox Trapped!

had been hired to do the gofer work such as deliveries and retrieving the lunches

Gerry Conway’s

of publisher Jenette Kahn, but it was apparently decided I could shoulder those

The Vixen was another

burdens as well as my regular tasks of doing copying for the editors, and proof-

victim of the DC

reading each and every page of comics DC published—after all, their output was

Implosion. Pencils

about to drop from 32 to 23 titles a month, so it was assumed I’d have the time. For

from DC’s Cancelled

$125 a week, I was a bargain! I was grateful for the continued employment,

Comic Calvacade.

but I wasn’t fooling myself.

© 2004 DC Comics.

Nor was I complaining. . . at least, not out loud. I had pulled up stakes and moved to New York the previous September and had no prospects whatsoever should the DC job fall through. My long-range desire was to become a full-time freelance comics writer, but with DC canceling approximately 40% of its output, a lot of far better-established pros would be knocking on the doors of Marvel, Western, and Warren far more loudly than I could. Not long after there was a meeting of the entire DC staff to officially explain the new world to us. Nowadays a hall would have to be hired for such an assemblage, with DC’s staff numbering in the hundreds, but a quarter of a century ago when DC’s staff barely numbered over thirty it was possible, within the course of a regular workday, to say hello to everyone on staff. And that task had just become even easier. We were informed, at this meeting, that virtually all staff freelancing would come to a halt, save for those who had their output secured contractually. DC would need all its pages, we were told, for the freelancers who had contracts, and

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special feature

CCC?

No!

A Retro-Review of the Industry’s Most Famous Comic You’ve Never Read

by

arr M i k e W. B

As the only actual contributor to Cancelled Comic Cavalcade (CCC) to ever write about it (I dialogued an eight-page “Ray” story, slated for Black Lightning #12, from a plot by Roger McKenzie, most famous as Frank Miller’s first collaborator on Daredevil), and maybe the only guy who has ever read each and every page of it (as the DC staff proofreader), you may think I have some special insight, some pearl of wisdom that will put it all in perspective for you. Don’t kid yourself. The basic fact is that CCC is the worst comic book that has had the best press of any comic book, ever. Published solely to obtain copyright for hundreds of pages of comic books cancelled in the “DC Implosion,” CCC has for years had the daring reputation of a book that has been “censored,” and, with the human curiosity for what is deemed the forbidden, has therefore become an object of much curiosity and undue veneration. The Overstreet Price Guide for 2002 reports that “a #2 set sold in 2001 for $800.” What remains unreported are the remarks of the purchaser after he read his acquisition, though they could probably be represented by the venerable cartoonists’ icons of winged dollar bills flying out a window and punctuation signs standing in for NC-17 words. The majority of the stories collected in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade were generated in the days when DC Comics’ editorial standards were arguably the lowest of the firm’s existence. The only company-wide editorial philosophy held by DC in those days was known as “the warm body theory”—if a body was warm, it could work for DC. Though

Mike W. Barr’s 2003 novel,

a few gems exist among that rocky soil—among them a still-unpublished Creeper story

Star Trek: Gemini, is

by the character’s creator, Steve Ditko; Ditko’s typically unique take on a costumed

currently available at all

hero, the Odd Man, which was published with editorial “improvements” in Detective

major bookstore chains.

Comics #487; and a few covers—everything else collected in CCC that was worth reading

Star Trek © 2004 Paramount Pictures.

has been published in the intervening years, not that that’s a lot of pages. And the stuff that hasn’t been, almost certainly doesn’t deserve to be. (And I’m speaking as a contributor.) The material probably never should have been bought in the first place. You can take that from maybe the only guy who has read each and every page of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, and certainly the only guy who has ever been paid to read them. Believe me, if you read them, you’d rather have those hours of your life back, too. Editor’s Note: The comments in this “Off My Chest” guest editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BACK ISSUE magazine or of TwoMorrows Publishing.

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by

ry Michael Eu

A Long Time ago... STAR WARS Dark Horse Comics, 2002 Vol. 1 • “Doomworld” • 376 pages, color • $29.95 Vol. 2 • “Dark Encounters” • 368 pages, color • $29.95 Vol. 3 • “Resurrection of Evil” • 344 pages, color • $29.95

After a franchise of films,

© 2004 Lucasfilm

hundreds of action figures, video games

galore, and a library of paperback books and comics—plus trading cards, Pepsi cans, apparel, and plastic light sabers—it’s hard to think of George Lucas’ Star Wars as anything but an empire. During the summer of 1977, however, many of us were standing in long lines for what was, at the time, one of the first summer blockbuster movies (the blockbuster originated with director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975). This was a time—admittedly a long time ago—when “May the Force be with you” was not etched into the vernacular, and when stars Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were the screen’s latest hotties. And this was a time when the expansion of the Star Wars universe was only beginning. One of the first places that development occurred was Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #1, a monthly comic book cover dated July 1977 (going on sale, incidentally, before the movie opened), launching a long and successful run that continued through September 1986’s issue #107. Dark Horse Comics revived the license with its best-selling miniseries Star Wars: Dark Empire #1-6 (1991-1992), and continues to publish new Star Wars comics today. Dark Horse has chronologically reprinted roughly half of the Marvel run in a trio of meaty trade paperbacks. Vol. 1, “Doomworld,” collects Star Wars #1 through #20; vol. 2, “Dark Encounters,” collects Star Wars #21 through #38 and Star Wars Annual #1; and vol. 3, “Resurrection of Evil,” collects Star Wars #39 through #53; and they do so beautifully. The Marvel stories’ colors have been painstakingly recreated, and with glossy paper stock and contemporary printing techniques

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Ltd.


gracing these trade paperbacks, the hues sparkle much more than they did on their original, duller newsprint. The first six issues of Marvel’s title adapt the film to comics, a brisk interpretation by writer Roy Thomas and illustrator Howard Chaykin. The fun really starts with Star Wars #7, when Thomas and Chaykin boldly go where no—sorry, wrong sci-fi series. Thomas and Chaykin usher readers “Beyond the Movie! Beyond the Galaxy!” (or so the hyperbolic cover blurb proclaims) in issue #7’s “New Planets, New Perils!” Picking up at the conclusion of Star Wars, Han Solo and Chewbacca—the most audacious protagonists from the film—say goodbye to Luke, Leia, and the droids and zip back into the cosmos in the Millennium Falcon. On a journey spanning several issues, they encounter a cadre of colorful characters and cretins, including (in issue #8) a human-sized, green-furred rabbit named Jaxxon (“Jax for short,” he tells Solo). Don’t make the mistake of regarding Jax as the forerunner to the cutesy klutz Jar Jar Binks: On the second page of his first appearance, Jax gut-kicks a space freak who calls him a “rodent”—this is no funny bunny. And the new characters keep coming, at a dizzying pace, with Luke, Leia, Artoo, and Threepio sharing or rotating the spotlight in future issues. These reprinted Marvel tales maintain their original verve: They’re imaginative and often electrifying, although it must be noted that they are not part of official Star Wars continuity (“brand management” was looser back in those days). The stories also showcase the work of many lauded comics pros: Archie Goodwin succeeds Thomas as Star Wars scribe (and editor) with issue #11, maintaining that post throughout most of the three collections, with fill-in tales penned by Chris Claremont, Mike W. Barr, and others. Much of the art is, well, a marvel: Chaykin handles full art chores on Star Wars #1—a stunning job, pure 1970s’ Chaykin— although his subsequent work (#2 through #10) appears rushed at times, and revolving-door inkers make it seem a bit schizophrenic. Penciler Carmine Infantino, no stranger to science fiction, signs on with Star Wars #11 and, like Goodwin, stays in view for most of volumes 1 and 2, brilliantly inked either by Bob Wiacek or Terry Austin. Vol. 2 concludes with a well-remembered Luke-andLeia tale penciled by the astonishing—and too seldom seen—Michael Golden. Vol. 3 starts with Marvel’s adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, lavishly rendered by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon. It is a feast for the eyes, and if you’re still unconvinced about this third trade in the series, several of its later tales feature art by Walter Simonson.

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Back Issue #2  

TOTALLY '80s ISSUE! Two "Pro 2 Pro" Interviews: ADAM HUGHES and MIKE W. BARR relive The MAZE Agency-and MATT WAGNER and DIANA SCHUTZ recall...

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