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TITANS TOGETHER! TEEN HEROES ISSUE!

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NEW TEEN TITANS TM & © DC COMICS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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FLASH ! NOVA ! LEGION ! FIRESTAR ! POWER GIRL ! KITTY PRYDE ! NEW WARRIORS with BARON ! GUICE ! NICIEZA ! BAGLEY ! SKEATES ! and TV Billy Batson MICHAEL GRAY


Volume 1, Number 33 April 2009

The Retro Comics Experience!

Celebrating the Best Comics of the '70s, '80s, '90s, and Today! EDITOR Michael Eury PUBLISHER John Morrow DESIGNER Rich J. Fowlks COVER ARTISTS George Pérez and Gene Ha COVER DESIGNER Michael Kronenberg

FLASHBACK: The Tumultuous Times of the Teen Titans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Adams, Giordano, Rozakis, Skeates, and Wolfman relive the TTs’ troubles and triumphs

Dan Johnson Casey Jones Michael William Kaluta Rob Kelly Paul Kupperberg Paul Levitz Bruce MacIntosh Andy Mangels Christy Marx Bob McLeod Allen Milgrom Ian Millsted Jeffrey Moy Fabian Nicieza Stephen O’Day Alan J. Porter Ruben Procopio Roland Reedy John Romita, Jr. Bob Rozakis Alex Saviuk John Schwirian Alex Serra Jason Shayer Jim Shooter Steve Skeates Doug Smith Joe Staton Roger Stern Roy Thomas Michael Uslan Len Wein Mary Wilshire Marv Wolfman

Nick Cardy’s recreation of his own cover to Teen Titans #23, unveiling Wonder Girl’s groovy new threads. TM & © DC Comics.

FLASHBACK SIDEBAR: Mego Teen Titans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 A look back at one of the most unusual action-figure lines of the ’70s

PROOFREADERS John Morrow and Eric Nolen-Weathington SPECIAL THANKS Dan Abnett Neal Adams Jim Alexander Alter Ego Mark Arnold Mark Bagley Frank Balas Mike Baron Alex Boney Sal Buscema John Byrne Cliff Chiang Gerry Conway Ron Dante DC Comics Tom DeFalco Mike Gagnon Keith Giffen Dick Giordano Grand Comic-Book Database Michael Gray Mike Grell Jackson Guice P.C. Hamerlinck Valentine Hellman Heritage Comics Auctions Matt Heuston Benjamin Holcomb Adam Hughes Jamal Igle Carmine Infantino Georges Jeanty Geoff Johns

BACK SEAT DRIVER: Editorial by Michael Eury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

PRO2PRO: Mike Baron and Jackson “Butch” Guice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 The writer/artist duo discuss Wally West’s journey from “Boy to Man, in a Flash” INTERVIEW: Michael Gray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21 The kid who cried “Shazam!” tells BI about being both Billy Batson and a teen idol INTERVIEW: Ron Dante: Archie’s Here, Veronica, Too . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 A chat with the singing Archie Andrews FLASHBACK: I Was a Teenage Crisis Survivor: The Power Girl Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 The “Earth-Two Supergirl’s” convoluted history, as told by a host of all-stars FLASHBACK: Growing Up with Pryde . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Here, Kitty, Kitty—the evolution of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters ART GALLERY: Legion of Super-Heroes: Fashions of the 2970s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 A runway of talent takes on Cockrum’s and Grell’s funky ensembles FLASHBACK: The Man Called Nova . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51 Before he made the Titans “new,” Marv Wolfman introduced this Marvel teen sensation OFF MY CHEST: Firestar: The X-Man Who Wasn’t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 Firestar interviews with Christy Marx, Tom DeFalco, Mary Wilshire, and Fabian Nicieza PRO2PRO: Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 The writer and artist reveal how Marvel’s teen heroes, the New Warriors, gathered WHAT THE--?!: James Bond, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70 Come on, you know you don’t really hate this adolescent secret agent… GREATEST STORIES NEVER TOLD: The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc. . . .72 Chapter Five of Bob Rozakis’ fantasy comics history reveals the company’s new president! INTERVIEW: The Unique Voice and Vision of Steve Skeates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77 Continuing (from Alter Ego) an in-depth dialogue with one of comics’ most diverse scribes BACK TALK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87 Reader feedback on our “Saturday Morning Heroes” and Steve Gerber tribute issues 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, 118 Edgewood Avenue NE, Concord, NC 28025. E-mail: euryman@gmail.com. Six-issue subscriptions: $44 Media Mail US, $60 First Class US, $70 Canada, $105 International First Class, $115 International Priority Mail. Please send subscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. Cover art by George Pérez. New Teen Titans TM & © DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2009 Michael Eury and TwoMorrows Publishing. BACK ISSUE is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. ISSN 1932-6904. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING. T e e n

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Titans Together Again! A 1976 DC Comics house ad by George Tuska and Rich Buckler touting the Titans’ return. During this revival’s ten-issue run, penned by Bob Rozakis, six different pencilers and six different inkers drew the interiors, with a variety of artists handling cover art chores as well. Original art scan courtesy of Heritage Comics Auctions (www.ha.com). TM & © DC Comics.

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John Schwirian

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As most readers familiar with the history of the Teen Titans know, artist Nick Cardy kept the original series looking dynamic for most of its entire run. But the writing never quite hit the mark—especially in the early stories. Take, for instance, this sampling of dialogue from Teen Titans #3 (May–June 1966), “The Revolt at Harrison High,” where the Titans have been called to Washington, DC, to the office of the President’s Commission on Education: ROBIN: Teen Titans reporting as requested, sir! COMMISSIONER: Glad to see you, Titans! As you know, our country has one teenage problem that’s probably more serious than any other … drop-outs … kids who drop out before they graduate! We’re organizing a national campaign to persuade drop-outs to stay in school! But government officials have one drawback—they’re not teenagers! Our campaign is all from the adult point of view … that’s where you come in, Titans. Here’s Harrison, a typical American town—but with a high number of drop-outs! We want you to go there, study the situation, talk to the kids, give us the teen slant—the inside angle—so our campaign will have a better chance of success! Will you go? You bet we will, sir!

ROBIN:

And so the Teen Titans head to Harrison and discover that a local hoodlum (and high school drop-out) called Ding-Dong Daddy has been encouraging the local adolescents to forget education and join his gang. The Titans teach the boys and girls that Ding-Dong is just using them and the kids all agree to return to school. “We’d better all get back to school, too,” Kid Flash quips, “or they’ll pin the drop-out tag on the Teen Titans!” Thus would end a typical writer Bob Haney/editor George Kashdan issue of Teen Titans, with the teenagers and adults realizing how silly their conflict was and resolving their differences thanks to the aid of the Teen Titans. Despite the use of “hip” and “mod” slang like “squaresville,” “Daddy-o,” and “Wonder Doll,” the morals of these stories were ones of conformity and conservatism. These tales felt like they belonged more in the clean-cut 1950s rather than the radical 1960s! Quick history lesson: Robin, Aqualad, and Kid Flash first teamed up in The Brave and the Bold (B&B) #54 in 1964, made their formal debut as “the Teen Titans” (joined by teammate Wonder Girl) in B&B #60 in 1965, and were awarded their own bimonthly series in 1966. These were troublesome times in the real world: The United States had recently been rocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Space Race was heating up the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining steam, and President Lyndon Johnson was escalating the number of US troops in Vietnam. This was a period of great change in American society, with high school and college students at the center of many conflicts, and Haney and Kashdan were a decade out of step.

MEANWHILE, HERE COMES DICK GIORDANO

Hip To Be Square Dig this crazy detail from the cover of Showcase #59, the Titans’ third appearance. While the surfing craze was the rage when this was published in 1965, writer Bob Haney’s teen slang was a decade behind the times. Art by Nick Cardy. TM & © DC Comics.

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In 1968, two important things were happening in DC Comics’ offices: Management wanted DC to be more competitive with the rising popularity of Marvel Comics and was seeking “young gun” writers to bring in new ideas. At the same time, many of the current, established group of freelance writers in the DC stable were negotiating for a pay raise and possibly a shot at creator rights or health benefits. This movement fell apart as management remained firm in its stance and, amidst the fallout, editor George Kashdan was fired and Bob Haney lost many of his writing assignments—including Teen Titans. Enter Dick Giordano (inset). Giordano had been an editor at rival Charlton Comics, and was responsible for recruiting many fresh new faces into the industry during his stay there. With the help of Steve Ditko, Dick Giordano was hired by DC and given Teen Titans as one of his new editing assignments.


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Dan Johnson

cond ucte d Augu st 15, 2008

Kid sidekicks have been a staple of comics ever since the Golden Age. For around fifty years, the following dynamic was in place: The hero led and the sidekick followed and learned. That changed at the end of DC Comics’ continuityaltering maxiseries Crisis on Infinite Earths when the Flash—Barry Allen—made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life to save the universe. When the dust had cleared and the final battle was won, DC needed a new Scarlet Speedster to fill Barry’s boots. Wally West, who had previously run by Barry’s side as Kid Flash, became the first sidekick in the history of comics to take the place of his hero. With the passing of the baton, a new chapter in the history of the Flash was begun. Wally West was now the star of an all-new Flash series, the first issue cover-dated June 1987. The authors of that chapter were writer Mike Baron and artist Jackson “Butch” Guice, who share with BACK ISSUE the inside scoop on how Wally West inherited the mantle of the Flash, and in the process, became his own man. – Dan Johnson DAN JOHNSON: Thank you for sitting down to talk with BACK ISSUE about how Wally West became the Flash. JACKSON GUICE: I hope you remember how that happened, Mike, because it’s going to be short otherwise!

MIKE BARON: Well, it’s been a long time [since we worked on The Flash]! GUICE: I was going to say, that was a lifetime ago. I’m going to depend on you to remember the details. JOHNSON: All I ask is that you tell me what you can. GUICE: We can try that. JOHNSON: How did you each come to be involved with the Flash? BARON: [Then-DC editor] Mike Gold asked me if I was interested in taking over the Flash. GUICE: Yeah, you were already in place and then I came onboard. And again, that was Mike Gold contacting me. I think that might have had more to do with the fact that I was approaching DC at that time to pick up work. Suddenly, I was being talked about around the DC office. JOHNSON: Now, you had worked together before Flash, right? Butch, you did a fill-in issue for Steve Rude on Mike’s co-creation, Nexus (#32, May 1987), and you two also did a two-part Hawk story Mike wrote for Teen Titans Spotlight (#7–8, Feb.–Mar. 1987). BARON: That’s true. GUICE: If I remember correctly, wasn’t the Hawk story supposed to get us comfortable working together? DC didn’t want us to start immediately on Flash, so they had us do that story? And you wrote one of your typical scripts that had four million bugs in it! [laughter] T e e n

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Big Shoes to Fill As Wally West ran in Barry Allen’s footsteps, so did the 1987 Flash team, dashing forward into new directions for their next-generation Fastest Man Alive. Our art is a composite from the cover of Flash #1 (June 1987), drawn by Jackson Guice and Larry Mahlstedt, and the Silver Age The Flash #135 (Mar. 1963), illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. TM & © DC Comics.

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Beginnings: “Tie Tac,” with artist Larry Gonnick, Warm Neck Funnies (1976)

Milestones: writer and co-creator of Nexus, The Badger and Ginger Fox / Flash / The Punisher / Deadman: Love After Death / Feud

Works in Progress: The Architect (Big Head Press) / Nexus (Rude Dude Productions)

Cyberspace: bloodyredbaron.com steverude.com rudedude.com

MIKE BARON

Beginnings: pencil breakdowns on Micronauts #48 (1982)

Milestones: Micronauts / New Mutants / X-Factor / Flash Dr. Strange / Action Comics / Eternal Warrior Resurrection Man / Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis

Works in Progress:

BARON: Yeah, it was about a creature that learns to imitate man, and it was all these insects that form together into a human shape. JOHNSON: I liked that Hawk story a lot when I read it. I mainly picked up those issues because I was a huge Flash fan as a kid, and I wanted to check them out when I learned you two were working on the new Flash series. GUICE: I had a lot of fun working on the Hawk job, and working from Mike’s drawn scripts. I think that was also part of the test run, to see how comfortable we were working that way. That was a blast! You did all the heavy work for me, Mike, and I appreciate it. [laughs] BARON: You’re welcome. That was back in the day when I used to write scripts by drawing each page out by hand. JOHNSON: I remember learning that you worked that way in an issue of Nexus where you illustrated that method in the back of the book. You published an original hand-drawn script page and then published Steve Rude’s finished page. BARON: That was a good way to work for a while, but I have since switched to doing full scripts. JOHNSON: Butch, I take it you were all in favor of Mike’s approach to scriptwriting? GUICE: It was a lot of fun. Also, not every writer will give you what you need in their scripts, but having these rough-drawn scripts gave me real insight into how Mike was seeing these sequences. I had plenty of encouragement to do whatever I wanted to, but it was like having a storyboard in front of me. JOHNSON: Mike, did doing the scripts in this manner give you the chance to have more input into designing new characters? BARON: If I was drawing a new character, I would go into significant detail as to how I thought they should look. Sometimes I would add a few notes, you know: “[Give them] blond hair, blue eyes.” GUICE: Mike was always good about giving me a basic diagram to how new characters should look. It wasn’t just a stick figure standing there, waving at you on the page. JOHNSON: When it came to relaunching the Flash, were there any mandates from higher-ups at DC Comics? Was there anything that they wanted to specifically break away from in regard to Barry Allen’s Flash? BARON: The only mandate was that the new Flash was going to be Wally. Other than that, DC gave me free rein. GUICE: The only thing I can remember, from the visual side, was that there was a lot of talk about trying to draw speed without doing the repeat-image thing that Carmine Infantino had done. In retrospect, I don’t think I was very successful doing it and I remember Mike Gold and I talking about that several times. JOHNSON: I know the direction you took the character was a bit of a shock for old-time Flash fans. Previously, except for Marv Wolfman’s portrayal of him in The New Teen Titans, Wally had kind of a bland

Ultimate Origins (Marvel Comics) / Storming Paradise (WildStorm)

Cyberspace: theartistschoice.com/guice.htm

JACKSON “BUTCH” GUICE

See Wally. See Wally run, as illustrated by Jackson Guice. (Very special thanks to Andy Mangels for flashing to our rescue with last-minute art scans.) TM & © DC Comics.

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P. C . H a m e r l i n c k

cond ucte d on Mem orial Day 2008

From 1974 to 1977, Michael Gray successfully brought to life a hip, likable, long-haired rendition of Captain Marvel’s alter ego Billy Batson on the hit Saturday morning CBS-TV series Shazam! Born in Chicago in 1947, but having grown up in the tropical warmth of Miami Beach, Gray, the child of a manufacturer and a romance novelist, graduated from high school in 1965 and then headed west to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. Three years later, Michael was signed to a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox and landed a variety of small TV and movie roles. In 1972, he nailed a primetime spot on NBC’s The Little People, which catapulted worldwide teenage poster-hanging idolatry as his face was regularly plastered in Tiger Beat and other teen-aimed publications. Filmation Studios knew of enamored teenagers’ admiration for Michael (27 at the time) and cast him as Billy Batson in their new live-action, moralistic, heart-touching superhero series. His popularity continued to grow as Shazam! quickly became a ratings hit. But dark times set in for Michael when the series was canceled, and his fame soon faded away (due to typecasting and an urgent need to detox from prescription drugs that his doctor had given him to cope with Shazam!’s shooting schedule). During the ’80s, he managed to get a few miniscule TV roles, but was eventually forced to work odd jobs around Los Angeles to survive. He went on a blind date with future wife Stacy, who he soon learned was one of those thousands of teenage girls that grew up putting Michael Gray pictures up on their bedroom walls. The couple married in 1994 and purchased and ran her parents’ West Hollywood flower shop; they later moved the business to Beverly Hills. The Grays left behind La La Land, and now happily reside in their ocean-view home along the Northern California coast … where Michael, now 60, is still recognized and remembered as the boy who could “summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word: SHAZAM!” – P.C. Hamerlinck

“… Appear Before My Seeking Eyes” Michael Gray was 27 years old when he was cast as Billy Batson on CBS-TV’s Shazam! series in 1974. In the inset, Michael Gray as he appears today. Shazam! TM & © DC Comics.

P.C. HAMERLINCK: What kind of childhood did you have? MICHAEL GRAY: My parents, sister, and I moved from Chicago to Miami Beach when I was six years old. I had a pretty normal upbringing … I mean, the housekeeper wasn’t molesting me or anything! [laughs] Miami Beach was a great place to grow up. I’d always be wearing shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, and go to the ocean all the time. I wasn’t too serious in school and was sort of the class clown … maybe because I was so short I had an inferiority complex! [laughs] I’d always be doing something for a laugh, which got me into trouble all the time. T e e n

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Vital Idol

HAMERLINCK: After studying acting in the late ’60s, what were some of your pre-Shazam! TV roles? GRAY: I was in the TV pilot for Room 222, but quickly learned the word nepotism; before they started filming the first season my role was given to another actor, whose father happened to be a good friend of the show’s executive producer. I played a hippie in a scene with Sally Field on The Flying Nun; I did a couple of Marcus Welby M.D. episodes, and I was cast as a regular on the NBC series The Little People. The show was filmed near Waikiki. I played a high school kid who helped out at a doctor’s office after school. Brian Keith played a pediatrician. My character was always doing something stupid which would drive Brian crazy, but the kids loved it. Right before Shazam! I did a Brady Bunch episode, and it’s amazing how many people have seen it. To this day, I still get, “Oh, you’re the guy who Marcia sprayed with whipped cream!” HAMERLINCK: Besides your television work, you also had a few small parts in movies. What were some of those? GRAY: I did a scene with Mae West in Myra Breckenridge. I had a blink-of-an-eye part in Russ Meyers’ Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I also did an Aaron Spellingproduced “Movie of the Week” with Burt Reynolds called Run, Simon, Run, where I was cast as Burt’s younger brother. HAMERLINCK: Was it during The Little People that you started showing up in teen magazines? GRAY: Yes—it first started with just small photos, and then Tiger Beat and others started printing stories about me with larger photos, and month after month my popularity increased. I got a call from Chuck Laufer, the owner of Tiger Beat and other teen magazines, and I signed with him as my manager. Then things

(left) Young Billy Batson: Michael Gray at age 15. MG says, “If Warren Beatty and Elvis had a kid, I think this is what it would look like!” (right) Michael Gray, Michael Jackson, and their groovy pals share the cover of the Feb. 1973 issue of Tiger Beat. Gray was a fixture of 1970s teen magazines (which had knocked five years off his “official” age). Tiger Beat © 2009 Laufer Media, Inc.

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really began to snowball and I literally became famous everywhere. In 1972, I won the “TV Star of the Year” award in the German magazine Bravo. And then things quieted down for a while, but when Shazam! got going it all hit again—and just as big as before. HAMERLINCK: Tell me about your first meeting with the Shazam! producers and cast—and were you at all apprehensive about doing a Saturday morning program? GRAY: I wanted to work, and it didn’t matter to me if it was Saturday morning TV or not. I never felt stupid or silly about doing any of it. Early on, I was told Les Tremayne (Mentor) was going to be in it and that I would be playing Billy Batson. The first meeting I had was with Filmation executive producers Lou Scheimer, Norm Prescott, and director Bob Chenault. The second time I went out to Filmation, Lou and Norm were there again and that’s when I finally met Les Tremayne and Jackson Bostwick (Captain Marvel). And that’s basically how it all started. It was all pretty much an immediate thing. I think there was just that one meeting with the cast and that was it. No actual auditions or anything. I didn’t realize until later how much Les disliked Jackson. I’ve never held grudges and don’t dislike people, but Les was a stubborn old man. I loved Les dearly, but boy, if he didn’t like you, he really didn’t like you. He was very rude to Jackson and, to my knowledge, kept giving him the cold shoulder. HAMERLINCK: Were you already familiar with Captain Marvel before you started the show? GRAY: No, I was not. I was a Superman fan growing up and loved The Adventures of Superman on TV. Batman was too silly for me. I only became familiar with Captain Marvel once I got involved with Shazam! I remember we filmed a Shazam! episode at the L.A.


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Mark Arnold

condu cted summ er 2008

Riverdale’s Rock ’n’ Roller

In 1968, producer and songwriter Jeff Barry assembled a group of musicians and singers under the direction of Don Kirshner for the purpose of recording a soundtrack album for a new TV show based on the popular Archie comic-book series. Kirshner’s idea of working with cartoon characters, as opposed to live actors, was due to the grief he suffered from his previous venture, the manufactured group called the Monkees. This time the singers weren’t “real,” and so he didn’t have to contend with a group wanting to flex their creative and artistic control over their recordings and music. The result was a surprisingly catchy and listenable album that’s held up as well as any other pop-music album issued at the time. In fact, the Archies’ debut album, simply titled The Archies (1968), remains one of the best children’s rock ’n’ roll recordings. Ron Dante was the singer hired to portray Archie on the recordings. To this day, he still tours around utilizing the Archie name as well as his own to promote a fictitious music group that boasts six Top 100 hits, including four in the Top 40, two in the Top 10, and one that made it all the way to #1 in 1969! Their albums didn’t fare as well on the charts, but they contain

Archies lead singer Ron Dante (inset) helped propel the Archies, the first comic-book-based singing group, into super-stardom, eventually topping the Billboard charts! © 2009 Archie Publications.

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dozens of quality songs and music thanks to the strong performances and production values applied to each recording. – Mark Arnold MARK ARNOLD: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the music industry. RON DANTE: My first job in the music industry was as a staff writer/demo maker at Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music located at 1650 Broadway in New York. It was an incredible opportunity to work at the hottest musicpublishing firm in the world. I worked alongside such hit-makers as Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They were the top writers of the day and I got to sing on their demos and watch the way they produced. My songs were also recorded by such artists as Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Bobby Vee, Jay and the Americans, James Darren, and Johnny Mathis. ARNOLD: How was the Archies formed (at least from your perspective and involvement)? DANTE: I auditioned for Don Kirshner and producer Jeff Barry and got the job of singing the lead voice for


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Few characters demonstrate that comic books are both a verbal and a visual medium better than Kara Zor-L, the Power Girl of Earth-Two. When Power Girl debuted in All-Star Comics #58 (Jan.–Feb. 1976), she was a kinetic whirlwind of vital energy. In two pages, she closes an erupting volcano, stops to pose and introduce herself to the Flash and Wildcat, and knocks a group of Chinese soldiers off their feet by stomping the ground. In the thirty years since her first appearance, Power Girl has remained one of the DC Universe’s greatest embodiments of strength, assertiveness, and self-assurance. But despite the character’s great strength, Power Girl has also embodies the tangled web that can ensnare the development of even the

Alex Boney

Bustin’ Loose

most vital character over the course of three decades. When she said, “Let’s simply say—a lady with powers like mine gets around” in All-Star Comics #58, Power Girl could not possibly have known how prophetic that statement would be. Kara Zor-L has been the cousin of Earth-Two Superman, the granddaughter of an ancient Atlantean sorcerer, and the mother of a child who was meant to bring balance to the universe. She has been a member of the Justice Society, Infinity, Inc., Justice League Europe/International/ America, the Sovereign Seven, and the JSA. As Keith Giffen (who has both penciled and plotted her adventures) says, Power Girl is “second only to Donna Troy on the scale of confusion.” But in the mid- to late 2000s, Kara has settled into a familiar role with her T e e n

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Power Girl in a commissioned illustration penciled by Kerry Gammill and inked by Joe Rubinstein. From the collection of Roland Reedy. TM & © DC Comics.

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original team. And as she learns more about herself, and as her convoluted history becomes less knotted, Power Girl is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing and important characters in the DC Universe.

FIRST LOOK

Although Power Girl’s first narrative appearance occurred in All-Star Comics, she actually first appeared in print a half-year earlier in Amazing World of DC Comics #6 (May–June 1975). In an issue focused on comics legend Joe Orlando, Paul Levitz previewed the upcoming All-Star Comics book with a teaser design sketch drawn by Joe Orlando. Briefly discussing the new members of the Justice Society, Levitz wrote, “Uh … wait a minute … we forgot that you don’t know who Power Girl is! Well, she’s the Supergirl of Earth-Two … more or less.” Power Girl’s origin may have become muddled over the years, but her beginnings were relatively clear: “I created Kara because I wanted to have another female character in the Justice Society,” Gerry Conway says. “Not just a female character, but a strong female character who could hold her own as a stand-in for

TM & © DC Comics.

“The Supergirl of Earth-Two … more or less” Readers got their first peek at Power Girl in this 1975 Joe Orlando sketch from Amazing World of DC Comics #6. TM & © DC Comics.

Superman. I also thought that here we were on EarthTwo, and there was no real counterpart to Supergirl from Earth-One. But I didn’t want to call her Supergirl, because that would cause more confusion and we wanted her to stand on her own.” And stand on her own she did. Despite the fact that she was only 18 years old when she joined the team, Kara was a commanding presence in the Justice Society immediately—for a number of reasons. Power Girl was one of three new members dubbed the “Super Squad,” which debuted in All-Star Comics #58. Along with the Star-Spangled Kid and Earth-Two Robin, Power Girl was a part of a new guard that injected a youthful energy and attitude to a team that had its roots firmly planted in the Golden Age. Because the JSA never really had a non-mystical heavy-hitter, Kara served as the muscle of the team. Power Girl was effective in fights against Justice Society villains, but her temper also led her into frequent conflict with members of her own team. After Wildcat condescendingly qualifies her fighting prowess in All-Star Comics #59, Power Girl slams the door on him and exclaims, “Wildcat—I—am—not a— ‘BROAD’!” Kara’s antagonistic banter wasn’t limited to Wildcat, though. Three issues later, when Superman encourages her to follow his advice, she replies, “Not any more—I can’t—and I won’t! We were both infants when our parents sent us away from Krypton— is it my fault that my father designed a slower rocket? That I stayed young—in suspended animation— arriving on Earth years after you began your career? I deserve my chance, too!” (All-Star Comics #62). This certainly wouldn’t be the last time Kara would have difficulty asserting her identity. When the Star-Spangled Kid offers her a “P” emblem in the shape of Superman’s “S” for the front of her costume, she replies, “Why, you little chauvinist piglet! That’s just a Superman emblem with a P instead of an S! I thought you understood—I may be Superman’s cousin, but I’m not his carbon copy! I’m my own woman!” (All-Star Comics #64).

LADY IN WHITE

In a way, the lack of a symbol on Kara’s costume is a perfect metaphor for her history and her identity. In her first six appearances, Power Girl sported a white costume with a circular window cut out of the middle of her chest. She not only didn’t have a symbol— she didn’t even have fabric. When the gap was closed up in All-Star Comics #64, the front of her costume remained blank. Creator Gerry Conway suggests that the costume is an appropriate reflection of the character: “I don’t think there have been very many white-costumed heroes. And that was what I started with. We added the boots and a cape for some color, but the white actually stands out because there weren’t many other costumes that looked like that. I don’t think it would have been very plain if we had kept the circle. That’s what her symbol was, in effect. It was pretty distinctive.” Power Girl had a strong personality, but it’s nearly impossible to discuss the character without addressing her costume design. While many female character costume designs in the Silver Age were relatively conservative thanks to the Comics Code Authority, Power Girl’s costume called attention to her very … full body shape. Kara was well-developed, and she wasn’t afraid to hide it. The most prominent part of her costume was the open circle placed in the center of her chest.

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Jason Shayer

Kitty Pryde ranked #13 in Wizard’s Top 200 Characters list of 2008 and, what surprised many, was that she was not only the first woman on the list, but also ranked ahead of the iconic Wonder Woman. How could a plucky, resourceful teenager rank ahead of a battlehardened warrior-princess? Approachability. Kitty has been around for thirty years with a few hundred appearances, while Wonder Woman has been around for 65+ years with a few thousand appearances. Kitty is your girl-next-door with a mutant power, while Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess with the backing of the gods of Olympus. Would you rather spend an evening in casual conversation with Kitty or be intimidated by Wonder Woman? Kitty’s notable ranking in the Wizard poll is a direct result of her loyal fans, which in turn is a direct result of a cleverly designed teenage archetype. If you were a teenager in the 1980s and read Uncanny X-Men, you were probably like me and had a crush on Kitty Pryde. Kitty was molded to be a love interest for comic books’ target audience of teenage boys. She was a geek’s dream: She was smart, loved sci-fi movies, excelled at video games, belonged to a superhero team, and kept a pet dragon. Kitty was never drawn as the typical comic-book “babe”; instead, she was drawn as a perky teenaged girl with a glint of fun and mischief in her eyes.

KITTY’S ORIGIN

Kitty Pryde was created by John Byrne in 1978. From Byrne’s first sketch of Kitty, he outlined: “My concept here is that Ariel should be not so much a new member of the X-Men per se, but rather the first member of a second team, a kind of ‘X-Men-in-Training’ team.” Byrne’s “X-Men-in-Training” would come to fruition years later in the form of the New Mutants [see BACK ISSUE #29 for the New Mutants’ history]. On the creation of Kitty Pryde, former Uncanny X-Men editor Roger Stern recalls that editor-in-chief “Jim Shooter expressed an interest in seeing the X-Men get back to the original concept of being a school for mutants. Not a bad idea, but it wasn’t easily going to work with Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Cyclops. None of those X-Men were really kids. And could you see Wolverine turning in a homework assignment? [laughs] Yeah, me neither.” Younger readers in the early 1980s might have had difficulty relating to the adult cast of the X-Men, but Kitty was the ideal character through which to view them and their world. She embodied everything the readers wished they could be and they lived the X-Men’s life vicariously through her. “Kitty works because she’s cute and funny,” Louise Simonson, former X-Men editor, said in Marvel Age #11 (Feb. 1984). “She’s a youngster in a group of older people and therefore gives a fresh vision to a lot of the stuff the others take for granted. A lot of questions

She’s Going Through a Phase Coquettish Kitty Pryde, in a 2000 Jeffrey Moy sketch. Courtesy of Roland Reedy. © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Cool, Refreshing Sprite

she has and the turmoil she goes through is something that they are beyond, so she gives a younger dimension and insight into the book, characters, and stories. She provides freshness.” Katherine “Kitty” Pryde made her first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #129 (Jan. 1980) as her developing mutant power triggered Professor Xavier’s mutantdetecting device Cerebro. Her life suddenly got much more complicated. “I liked her as John [Byrne] had presented her,” explains Roger Stern. “She was supposed to be the ‘normal’ one—the average middle-class kid from the suburbs of the Midwest—I think her house even had a white picket fence. And then, out of the blue, she has a weird mutant power click on. “Kitty was scared by what was happening to her, and seriously weirded out by all of the bizarre mutants and the strange world she suddenly found herself in. But, at the same time, she was a little jazzed by the thrill of it all, just like most of us would have been at that age. There was going to be something new and fantastic around every corner for her, and we were all going to go along for the ride. What a great, fun character Kitty was! Of course, once John and I were both off the book, she became a girl genius and a ninja and a spy, and Lord knows what else by this point.” Dazzler also made her debut in Uncanny X-Men #129 and served as an interesting contrast to Kitty,

(above) John Byrne’s original character design for Kitty, and (right) her first X-appearance in costume, as Sprite. © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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as both of these characters couldn’t be more different. Dazzler was older, on her own, flashy, and loved to be the center of attention, whereas Kitty was younger, still living at home with her parents, quiet, and used to being overlooked or ignored. Which one of these characters was more likely to create a bond with teenage readers? Kitty was popular from the moment she first appeared. In the letters page of Uncanny X-Men #135 (July 1980), Chris Claremont answered a reader’s letter: “You were one of the many—heck, why be modest?— the multitude of fans who applauded the debut of Ms. Katherine ‘Kitty’ Pryde of Deerfield, Illinois. John [Byrne] and I figured we were creating a pretty nifty character, but we never counted on the incredible—completely favorable—response she generated. Whew!!”

THE NEWEST X-MAN

We didn’t see Kitty again until the last page of Uncanny X-Men #138 (Oct. 1980), when she was dropped off at the steps to Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. After the death of Jean (Phoenix) Grey and the departure of Scott (Cyclops) Summers, Kitty’s arrival signaled a change and provided hope for a new beginning. Her arrival mirrored the arrival of Jean Grey way back in X-Men #1 (Sept. 1963), as she too was dropped off by a taxi at the steps to the school. Kitty was the first mutant to join the school since the X-Men were re-envisioned in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975) and was the youngest student ever accepted. In issue #139 (Nov. 1980), Kitty put on her X-Men uniform for the first time and turned down Professor Xavier’s codename, Ariel, to chose Storm’s suggestion, Sprite. This issue showed the growing mother/ daughter bond between Storm and Kitty as Storm remarked, “Incredible. Kitty reasons as calmly, as sensibly, as Professor X—yet, for all of that, she is still a child, struggling to hold onto her childhood.”


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Bruce MacIntosh

Saturn Girl by Adam Hughes (covers and interiors, Legionnaires). TM & © DC Comics.

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Beginning with the Legion of Super-Heroes’ introduction in 1959, the costumes of the team remained unchanged, despite the following decade’s radical changes in popular fashion. By the early ’70s, even DC Comics’ conservative management and creators realized that its readership had become more sophisticated, and a costume update was in order for the 30th Century teen heroes. Whether it was out of desperation or the desire to integrate its readers into the creative process, DC encouraged fans to submit suggestions for costume upgrades for the members of the LSH. Over a dozen proposals were adapted by artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, and included in the otherwise-reprint issue #403 of Adventure Comics (Mar. 1971). Reader suggestions for similar wardrobe updates appeared in the pages of another DC teen superhero title, “Supergirl” in Adventure Comics [see BACK ISSUE #17, Aug. 2006]. Few of the suggestions actually appeared in the art of LSH stories and only one (Saturn Girl) “stuck” for any length of time, but the seed was planted. Rookie artist Dave Cockrum was assigned the penciling duties for the short Legion tales appearing as a backup in Superboy. In his early twenties, Dave knew that comics’ readership had matured and were more sophisticated than DC’s middle-aged management and creators gave them credit. So he set out to finally bring the Legion into the 30th Century. Cockrum wrote in the foreword for the Legion of SuperHeroes Archives vol. 10: “The best thing I had going for me in those days was enthusiasm for the job, and a science-fictiony design sense that started early and thoroughly permeated the strip by the time I left. It’s evident in the costuming.” In one of Cockrum’s early LSH penciling assignments in Superboy #191 (Oct. 1972), Murphy Anderson was busy with

(top left) Dream Girl by Casey Jones (Fantastic Four, Excalibur, Jubilee). (above) Dawnstar by Alex Serra (The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century). (left) Infectious Lass by Cliff Chiang (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Dr. Thirteen). TM & © DC Comics.

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In 1976, before Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture made science fiction popular with mainstream audiences, Marvel Comics began blazing the cosmic skyways with its “ultimate super-hero” in The Man Called Nova. For the rest of the decade, Nova would go from a normal high school student to planet-saving hero and end up going full circle back to an ordinary teenager by 1981. However, it’s the journey Nova took in that circle that made him one of the best characters ® to come out of the 1970s.

A STAR IS BORN

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Doug Smith

However, just as in the real universe, there can’t be a Nova without a Star. The saga of Nova began ten years earlier in 1966 with a black-and-white fanzine called Super-Adventures. This superhero publication was being published by Dave Herring with articles contributed by a young writer named Marv Wolfman. In Super-Adventures’ third issue and Wolfman’s first as publisher, a new hero named the Star made his first appearance. The Star was a creation of Marv Wolfman and his friend and fellow comics enthusiast Len Wein. In the story, a man named Denteen comes across the crashed spaceship of Kraken Roo, an alien from the planet Orion 2. Inside the ship, Denteen discovers a machine which creates pills that grants superpowers to anyone who takes them for five minutes. With these pills and a costume with a fivepointed symbol on its chest, Denteen became the Star. The new hero found himself with a wide variety of powers including flight, laser vision, energy absorption, teleportation, and the ability to create illusions. He could also project energy blasts, radioactive gas and freeze beams from his hands. With these powers, the Star fought a variety of villains both solo and with a group of super-crimefighters called the Law Legion. The subscribers to Super-Adventures received a special bonus when the sixth issue arrived in their mailboxes. Along with the normal fanzine came an offset publication. In this supplement entitled “Who Can Defeat A God?,” Wolfman and Wein gave the Star a major overhaul! The story featured the return of Kraken Roo, who was now an all-powerful being called the Celestial Man. During his battle with the Law Legion, Legionnaire Cosmic Ray and the Celestial Man exchange power bursts and the resulting collision bathed the Star in energy and split him into two beings. The leader of the Law Legion, the Brain, changed one into a new being while Celestial Man absorbed the remaining Star. This new being created by the Brain now permanently had all of the powers of the pills minus the power of flight (replaced with a pair of flying “sky skates”). With this change came a new name and costume as the Star became Black Nova. The evolution of the superhero involved both Wolfman and Wein. “I had wanted to change the character,” recalls Wolfman. “My friend, Len Wein,

“He’s Here! The Ultimate Super-Hero!” Detail from the bombastic cover to The Man Called Nova #1 (Sept. 1976), by the unbeatable art team of John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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and I discussed the changes and I believe I came up with the idea for a character to be called Black Nova. Len came up with the costume.” The costume designed by Len Wein was a sleek dark blue and yellow skintight suit (which appeared black and white due to the format of the fanzine) with five connected starbursts on the chest and a golden helmet with antennae. Wein remembers that “an element of Black Nova’s original mask was inspired by a one-shot Doctor Strange villain called Tiboro. I really like the idea of a helmet that covered the character’s upper lip. The rest of the costume was just trial and error, I’m afraid.” Unfortunately, Black Nova wasn’t around long enough to use his new powers to their fullest. In Super Adventures #9 (1969), Black Nova sacrificed his life in a crashing airship in order to save the Law Legion.

Black Nova Wolfman and Wein created the Nova prototype “Black Nova” in 1966 in the fanzine Super-Adventures. © the respective owner.

REBIRTH

Seven years later, Marv Wolfman had become a successful professional in the comic-book industry and had advanced his way to the position of editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics. While in this position, Wolfman decided that Marvel needed to go in a new direction. In his foreword to the Nova fanzine Rocket Boosters (2007), he wrote, “I wanted to return to the spirit of the old Spider-Man and Fantastic Four books, the ones that were aimed at the younger readers rather than the older ones. I was already writing Tomb of Dracula, a book written squarely for the older readers, and felt as a company we were inadvertently moving away from what was then the

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younger fan. There should be comics, in my view, that appealed to everyone, but we were in danger of abandoning the very people we needed to grow into long-term readers who would continue to follow the books into their twenties and beyond. So I believed Marvel needed an entry-level comic. And I wanted it to be written with as much care and fun as I could. The Man Called Nova was it.” Former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was an associate editor at the time and recalls Wolfman’s passion for the project: “I don’t remember what brought about the opportunity to launch a new character/title—probably some other title was canceled and Marv talked the brass into letting him replace it with something new. I know he gave a lot of thought to what made Peter Parker work and tried to develop an alter ego and supporting cast that had the same kind of presence and appeal. I know he wanted Rich Rider to be much more of an average guy, as opposed to brilliant Peter Parker.” Nova’s creator elaborates on some of the details: “The book occurred because I was leaving my EIC job and got a contract for writing,” says Woflman. “Rather than take books from others I created my own: Nova, Skull, etc. The Dracula mag, for instance, was the equivalent of two-to-three books in writing. I did the same at DC with Titans. Jim [Shooter] is right [in that] I did analyze why Spidey worked—same reasons why Archie and Jughead work—and tried to duplicate the thought process but obviously not the character.” But Wolfman still felt the new Nova character wasn’t quite ready. Although Nova’s new identity of Richard


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Editor’s note: Back in the Big ’80s, almost every kid in America knew that Firestar was one of your friendly neighborhood web-slinger’s Spider-Friends. So why didn’t she become a comic-book superstar? Occasional BACK ISSUE commentator Mike Gagnon has some opinions about Firestar that he’d like to get off his chest…. by

Mike Gagnon

In the early ’80s, an exciting new cartoon, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, was launched by Marvel Productions. Many young Spidey fans, myself included, would scurry excitedly to the television on Saturday morning. Perish the thought that we should miss a moment of the action! What made this cartoon unique was it featured the mega-popular Spider-Man, best known as a loner, in a team dynamic, a first for the web-head. Joining Spidey in his college-based adventures was Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman of the popular X-Men comics, and a new character, Angelica Jones, a feisty female known as Firestar. Little did the creators and producers of the show know then that their animated creation of Firestar would later take the leap and cross over into the mainstream comic-book universe of Marvel Comics. Any quick Internet search will turn up dozens of fan pages dedicated to Firestar and discussion threads about her on message boards. It’s not uncommon to find online discussions with fans asking, “Why wasn’t Firestar used more?” or “How come she wasn’t a bigger part of the X-Men?” Many fans, myself included, assumed that our beloved Firestar would take a bigger role, possibly joining Marvel’s X-Men (she was a former member of the mutant clan in the cartoon), or taking on a larger role in her own right, following her initial 1986 miniseries. In this article I’ll attempt to explain and examine the creation of, use of, and plans for Firestar and try to solve the puzzle of any perceived under-use of the character that many fans feel that she may have suffered from. In the process I’ll go directly to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and will be joined by Tom DeFalco, Mary Wilshire, Fabian Nicieza, and even Christy Marx, the screenwriter who wrote many TV episodes that focused on Firestar and created her origin for the show.

Little Girl Lost Detail from Barry Windsor-Smith’s cover art to Firestar #4 (June 1986). Despite her television stardom, the heroine hasn’t set the comics world ablaze. © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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As Seen on TV… …literally. An animated cel from TV’s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Courtesy of Heritage Comics Auctions (www.ha.com). © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

FIRESTAR IN SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS

According to the show’s official fan site at www.spider-friends.com, producers of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends liked a fire and ice combination for Spidey’s companions, but for various reasons were unable to use the Human Torch as originally planned, and so set to work in creating a new character to take Johnny Storm’s place. Taking the original design of Mary Jane Watson (Spidey’s future wife) and tweaking it just a little bit gave the show’s creators their look for Angelica Jones. Names were tossed around such as Heatwave, Starblaze, and Firefly before the team made their final decision and Firestar was born. Firestar was originally conceived by the show’s creators, including the late Dennis Marks, the show’s producer and its voice of the Green Goblin. The details and origins surrounding Angelica Jones were created by writer Christy Marx. Marvel Productions was the name of the company’s west coast branch at the time, which was in charge of developing Marvel’s properties for film and animation. This included developing Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as a Saturday morning cartoon. It debuted in the fall of 1981. In the animated series, Firestar is depicted as an intelligent young woman in her early twenties, enrolled as a student at Empire State University in New York. She attends classes with both Peter Parker and Bobby Drake. On the show she was even shown to have aboveaverage intelligence, using Peter Parker’s secret lab without any trouble. The character even warranted a Marvel alternative history. Both Firestar and Iceman are introduced in the first episode as former X-Men, retired from the team in order to pursue their studies at ESU. Adding Firestar to the cast didn’t just give producers a chance to draw in the young female audience. Putting a female lead into the lineup also made it possible to inject plot elements such as an ongoing love triangle with Angelica dating both Peter and Bobby at different times on an “on-again-off-again” basis. In late October 2008, Christy Marx, animation and comic-book writer, joined me for an interview via e-mail to talk about her work with Firestar for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. 5 8

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MIKE GAGNON: You’ve been credited as being the creator of Firestar. Is that accurate? If so, how did you come up with the idea and how much input did you get from producers and other writers? CHRISTY MARX: I don’t recall exactly where Firestar came from. She already existed as part of the series and I can’t tell you who her original creator was. However, I was the one who was allowed to come up with and write her origin story, so in that respect I did help to “create” her. GAGNON: It’s been said that the show was originally supposed to cast Spider-Man with Iceman and the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, but the Torch was tied up in licensing hell. Is this true, and if so did you see this as an opportunity to inject a female lead into the series? MARX: Again, this was so long ago, that I don’t really recall where Firestar came from. It wasn’t up to me to inject anyone. The series was already laid out conceptually before I started writing. As for the Torch, the first animation series for which I ever wrote was The Fantastic Four. That series didn’t have the Torch in it either. He was replaced by a small robot sidekick (H.E.R.B.I.E., for those unfamiliar with the show). I was told that the reason for this was Imitatible Behavior. When writing for children, there is a great fear that they will imitate something harmful that they see on TV and do harm to themselves or others by imitating this behavior. That’s why there were (and are) strict unwritten rules about never letting one character poke another character in the eye, etc. In the case of the Torch, someone somewhere believed that kids might be inspired to set themselves on fire because they would see Johnny suddenly burst into flames and fly off. I’ll let you decide how much sense this makes to you, but that’s the reason I was given. You’ll note that Firestar doesn’t burst into flames the way Johnny Storm does. GAGNON: Did you have to do much research into Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men comics in order to come up with Firestar’s backstory? MARX: No, it didn’t require any research. Besides, I’ve been reading the X-Men since I bought issue #1 off a spinner rack, so I didn’t exactly need to do research! GAGNON: Firestar was involved in a romantic triangle with Iceman and Spider-Man. In one episode Peter (Spidey) confessed to Bobby (Iceman) that he loved her. Had the series continued on for another season or two, would this have been revisited? Were there any storylines you would have liked to have done with Firestar that you didn’t get a chance to? MARX: Those are the sort of questions that can only be answered by the story editor. The story editor and/or producers are generally the ones who get to make those sorts of decisions. After all this time, I don’t remember whether I had other stories I wanted to do. GAGNON: Did you develop any sort of emotional attachment to the Firestar character? MARX: I always enjoy writing strong female characters, so I certainly enjoyed creating stories for her. GAGNON: What was your favorite moment or thing about working on the show? MARX: That was early in my career, so everything about it was fresh and exciting for me. And I was such a comic-book geek, that getting to write comic-book characters was also a joy. GAGNON: Have you ever gotten feedback from fans who watched it or did you get feedback from kids who were watching the show at the time it was airing? MARX: I’ve gotten a small amount of feedback in recent years, and it’s always nice to know that the show made an impact and is remembered after all this time.


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Given the success in the 1980s of The New Teen Titans for DC and The New Mutants for Marvel’s X-Men group of titles, the possibilities for a teen superhero group rooted in the wider Marvel Universe were clearly there. The New Warriors, by the creative team of writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Mark Bagley, launched with issue #1, cover-dated July 1990. The series’ original run lasted until #75 (Sept. 1996), and Fabian and Mark collaborated on the first 25 issues plus one annual. They kindly share their thoughts on their involvement with the New Warriors with BACK ISSUE readers. – Ian Millsted IAN MILLSTED: Can you tell us something about the creation of the New Warriors? Their first appearance was in Thor #411–412 (both Dec. 1989), by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, who get a “conceived by” credit in New Warriors #1 rather than “created by.” Who would you say were the real creators? How did each of you become involved in the project? FABIAN NICIEZA: That’s always a nebulous term when it comes to shared-universe concepts. Tom and Ron got the credit they did because we all felt that was their role. They conceived the concept based on Tom’s desire to see a youth-oriented Avengers-style title. Mark Gruenwald and Tom had been talking about how Marvel didn’t have a Teen Titans-style title, so Tom went about coming up with one, and as is often the case, bounced his ideas off Ron. They co-created Night Thrasher, but used established characters and concepts beyond that, so their credit was well-deserved. As far as “creating,” well, every story that saw print was created by myself, Mark, and with the very strong editing involvement of Danny Fingeroth (and I mean that in a very positive way!). MARK BAGLEY: The way I remember it … Danny Fingeroth offered me the book (Fabe had something to do with that, I think). The idea was that they would first show up in that Thor issue. I get the feeling that was so Tom and Ron could sorta get “creator” cred. I remember being less than thrilled with the way they were portrayed and thought we had our work cut out for us. I did not do any real character sketches right off the bat, but I really wanted to do something about Nova’s bright red costume, and I came up with the idea that Namorita wasn’t wearing a “costume,” so much as just a bathing suit which she changed all the time. NICIEZA: I was working at Marvel in a staff job— I think I was still the advertising manager at the time, I hadn’t moved to editorial yet—and I knew the

Teens Take on Terrax Mark Bagley’s pencils to an unused version of the cover for New Warriors #16 (Apr. 1991). Courtesy of Bob McLeod. © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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project was percolating because I’d talked to Tom about it. I asked Danny if I could pitch, knowing I’d be one among many vying for the job. I also knew that a returning editor, Danny would be very wary of hiring a young talent whose only experience for the most part had been working on a stigma-inducing New Universe line. So I pitched, knowing I was the right choice for the job and knowing I would do a better job than anyone else. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then I waited. And by the way, did I mention that I waited some more? And then, by sheer attrition and reluctance on the part of Danny, he gave me the job. [laughs] By then, because the waiting time had taken so long, I’d gotten to know Danny a lot better, plus I’d gotten all kinds of wonderful blackmail photos and tape recordings of him that I was able to parlay into making me the obvious choice. MILLSTED: How were the initial characters selected? NICIEZA: I always joked with Tom that it must’ve been a lot of work to flip through the Marvel Universe Handbook and throw darts at it as the pages turned, but the truth is, Tom and Ron bounced the ideas back and forth, trying to use our limited number of young characters available who weren’t a part of the X-Universe and create a team that had a bit of a gender mix to it. They also knew that each character had to bring in some personal “baggage” which could then be used to tell group stories through their involvement (i.e., the White Queen/ Firestar connection or the Sphinx/ Nova connection). BAGLEY: I do remember that Fabian wanted Richard Rider (Nova) to be © 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. sort of a scrawny loser since losing his powers. I really had a problem with that idea and talked Fabe into the idea that Richard had tried to compensate for his loss of the Nova powers by pumping up in the gym. It was really selfish on my part … I just didn’t want to draw him scrawny. That was really the first time I felt like a real collaborator with a writer on a book. Fabe really listened to my reasoning and cooperated with me—it was really cool. MILLSTED: Were there any problems with New Warriors characters that were being used elsewhere? Namorita, for example. NICIEZA: We had a few little tiffs regarding Namorita, but in the long run, nothing really major. We were told in no uncertain terms by Tom DeFalco and Mark Gruenwald that Warriors was her “main” book, so that gave me the confidence to stand by my approach to the character. That and the fact our sales kept going up in comparison to other titles we might have been in “competition” with for use of any characters. MILLSTED: Given the teen heroes theme of this BACK ISSUE, to what extent was New Warriors intended to be a Marvel answer to New Teen Titans? NICIEZA: I don’t know if we ever intended to “answer” that series in a tit for tat method in terms of ever thinking we’d be as good or successful. I mean, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez turned Teen Titans into sheer gold in the ’80s. It was one of my favorite regular series by far in its first four years. We obviously followed their example, but I don’t think we ever copied them. Our characters were our own and their stories were their own. I think the Claremont/Byrne X-Men set the standard by which the Teen Titans followed and in turn, the Titans set the standard by which we tried to follow. BAGLEY: I don’t remember if the Titans were ever really a factor in what we were trying to do. We just wanted to make the book as hip as we could. MILLSTED: One thing that interested me was the use of Al Williamson as an inker on the first two issues. I know he did a fair bit of inking for Marvel around that time. How did you (or Danny) get him for New Warriors and why only two issues?

Beginnings:

Psi-Force #9 (July 1987)

Milestones:

New Warriors / X-Force / X-Men / Thunderbolts Nightwing and Superman (childhood favorite characters) / Captain Action

Works in Progress:

Batman Confidential #17–21 / Trinity / Robin

fabian nicieza

Beginnings:

Nightmask #9 (July 1987)

Milestones:

New Warriors / Amazing Spider-Man Thunderbolts / Ultimate Spider-Man

Work in Progress: Trinity

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The peace of a winding English country road is shattered by the sound of racing engines. A familiar classic silver sports coupe swings into view, hotly pursued by a large, black limousine of evil intent. Suddenly, a laser cannon swings into the air from within a hidden compartment on the limo, and its deadly beam sears the air, only to be deflected by a sheet of high-tech armor plating emerging from the trunk of the coupe. But all is not well. The force of the blast knocks the silver coupe off the road, and the Aston-Martin DB5 plummets over the edge of a cliff on its way to apparent obliteration on the rocks below. Inside the doomed vehicle, the driver calmly clicks a switch, the car doors open and fold downwards to mimic a pair of wings, and a propeller appears from behind the front grille, instantly transforming the vehicle into a flying car. The driver-turned-pilot climbs, then banks, and flying low over the head of the frustrated villain, heads on to his appointment, one for which he was already late. Arriving with style the flying car lands, folds its wings, and executes a neat reverse hand-brake turn into a parking slot. Unfazed, the driver emerges, crosses the parking lot, and introduces himself to the waiting crowd of people. “My name’s Bond … James Bond Junior.” What? Hold on a minute—James Bond Junior?? Who is James Bond Jr.? The year was 1991, and while the Bond movie series was on its six-year hiatus between Timothy Dalton’s swan song in Licence to Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in Goldeneye, EON Productions, the James Bond movie-rights holders, decided to resurrect a spin-off idea that had first been tried at the height of Bondmania in the late ’60s: the idea of a “junior” James Bond that could appeal to a new audience—kids and teenagers. Back in 1967, a “young adult” novel entitled 003 1/2: The Adventures of James Bond Junior was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK (and by Random House in the USA a year later), written under by the pseudonymous “R. D. Mascott,” whose identity has yet to be officially revealed (popular opinion among Bond scholars is that it may have been fantasy novelist Arthur Calder-Marshall; others suggest it may have been Roald Dahl, the famous children’s writer who also wrote the screenplay for the Sean Connery Bond movie You Only Live Twice). The idea was to launch a series of novels for younger readers featuring James Bond’s “nephew,” written by different writers but all published under the R. D. Mascott name. Apparently “003 1/2” didn’t sell well enough and the idea was quickly abandoned. When you think about it from a continuity perspective (as a comics reader, is it possible to think any other way?), the idea of Bond having a nephew named James Bond Jr. is a fatally flawed one. Bond’s creator Ian Fleming established in the original novels that Bond was an only child, so having a nephew would be impossible. If, for argument’s sake, James Bond did have a brother that Fleming had “overlooked,” then for his child to be named James Bond Jr., the mysterious brother would also have to be named James Bond! Perhaps Bond’s parents just displayed an incredible lack of imagination when it came to naming their offspring. In the R. D. Mascott novel it states that 007’s mysterious brother was in fact named David Bond, inferring that the “junior” is perhaps more of a nickname than a literal appellation.

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Fans Were Shaken, and Stirred Marvel’s adaptation of the James Bond Jr. TV series [cover #1, Jan. 1992, is seen here, with art by Mario Capaldi and Colin Fawcett], and (inset) the 1967 young adult novel from which the young Bond idea originated. © 2009 EON Productions.


What if … instead of selling his share of All-American Publications to Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz in 1945, Max Charles “Charlie” Gaines had purchased National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) from them? That’s the premise of this fantasy series being divided between the pages of BACK ISSUE and its TwoMorrows big-sister mag Alter Ego and set on “Earth-22,” where things in the comics business happened rather differently than the way they did in the world we know. Just imagine: a comic-book industry in which the Golden Age Green Lantern and Flash, rather than Superman and Batman, are the premier heroes of comics, media, and merchandising. The author, Bob Rozakis, a longtime writer, editor, and production manager for DC Comics, has imagined just that in…

The Secret History of All-American Comics, Inc. The Story of M. C. Gaines’ Publishing Empire Book Two – Chapter Five: Youth Movement

BOB ROZAKIS: AA wasn’t really big on kid sidekicks and teenage heroes in the early days, were they? TED SKIMMER [longtime AA Comics employee]: No, we weren’t. The sidekicks were more of a DC thing—Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff had them in their books, but Julie Schwartz and Bob Kanigher didn’t use them. The earliest ones were in the DC books before we took them over. The Golden Age Batman had a young Robin, the first Green Arrow had Speedy, the Crimson Avenger had Wing. ROZAKIS: Jack Kirby liked them, too. Captain America had Bucky. He brought in Sandy when he took over Sandman. SKIMMER: True. And Jack and Joe Simon were the ones who created the Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos. But, as I said, those were all in DC titles. Once those books were canceled, we didn’t have any kid heroes for a couple of years. ROZAKIS: Then Mort took over Green Lantern and introduced Kid Lantern in Sensation Comics. SKIMMER: But he wasn’t a kid sidekick—he was just a younger version of GL. I think the first real sidekick he added was Electron in the Atom stories in All-American Comics. Then came Kid Flash in Flash Comics—that was when Jack Schiff took over the book from Julie. And then Hawklad when Hawkman moved from the back of Flash to the back of Comic Cavalcade. ROZAKIS: Hawklad pretty much replaced Hawkgirl as his partner once Mort took over the strip. SKIMMER: Mort said that the readers preferred kid heroes to female ones and he would point at the much lower sales of Wonder Woman as proof of this theory. ROZAKIS: But that didn’t stop him from coming out with Girl Lantern. SKIMMER: Oh, he had an answer for that, too. As long as she was the backup series in All-American, it was fine. When they gave her the lead in Sensation, after bumping out the Lantern Legion, she couldn’t carry the book. ROZAKIS: Whose idea was it to team up Kid Flash with Electron and Hawklad? SKIMMER: Probably Murray Boltinoff’s. They were still doing Brave and Bold on a rotating basis at that point, though it was no longer a tryout book. They started doing different team-ups in 1963, planning to turn the book into another Comic Cavalcade with two stars sharing an adventure the way Flash and Green Lantern did in CC. I think Murray did the first one… ROZAKIS: Wildcat and Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man. I remember seeing that on the newsstand and thinking that it was an odd pairing, so I bought it. SKIMMER: [laughs] See? It worked! 7 2

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Generation Gap The 1970s saw a return to popularity for the Teen Titans, thanks to appearances like this one with Green Lantern in The Brave and the Bold. (All comics images in this article are © DC Comics.)


ROZAKIS: Then came Hawkman teamed up with Aquaman, Flash with the Atom, and Sgt. Rock with a couple of the other war heroes. SKIMMER: I think that was one by each of the editors, so it would have been back to Murray again. He had been playing up Hawklad in the Hawkman book, even gave him billing on the Showcase issues, so he figured there would be an audience. Turned out he was right. The sales figures came in and Billy told him to team them up again. ROZAKIS: Who thought of adding Wonder Girl to the group? SKIMMER: Maybe Billy, maybe Murray. Marvel’s team books all had a girl in the group. So did the Justice League. ROZAKIS: But no one pointed out that Wonder Girl didn’t really exist? That she was Wonder Woman as a girl? SKIMMER: Maybe someone did, but nobody cared. Only you fanboys worried about continuity. ROZAKIS: But it would have made more sense to put Girl Lantern in the book. SKIMMER: Ah, but Mort wouldn’t let them do that. Just as he wouldn’t let Julie Schwartz play up Green Lantern in JLA, he wasn’t about to have Girl Lantern star in someone else’s book. The problem was that with four characters in the book, there would be too many logos on the cover, so that’s when they came up with the Teen Titans name. You know it was originally going to be called Kid Commandos, don’t you? ROZAKIS: I’ve heard that. Teen Titans is a better name. SKIMMER: It certainly sold well. After they appeared in B&B #60, Billy told Murray to start them in their own book. ROZAKIS: But there was that appearance in Showcase #59. SKIMMER: Convenience. There was nothing else ready for that issue of Showcase, so Billy told Murray he was plugging Teen Titans in it. Teen Titans #1 came out two months later. ROZAKIS: And it did well for a few years. But it seemed like the young heroes ran out of steam toward the end of the ’60s. The Lantern Legion made only a few appearances and Teen Titans was canceled. SKIMMER: Everything has its cycles and that was one of the downturns. The same thing happened over at Marvel to X-Men. But interest picked up again when we went back to the 48-page books in ’71 because we started using reprints of the early ’60s stuff. A new round of readers discovered the characters. The Lantern Legion ended up taking over the Kid Lantern book. The Teen Titans started appearing on a regular basis in Brave and Bold with Green Lantern. And Jack Kirby reinvented the Boy Commandos, characters he and Joe Simon had created in the DC days during World War II, as the DNA Commandos in Doiby Dickles. It was like the superhero business was suddenly having a youth movement. ROZAKIS: Well, so was the company! SKIMMER: That’s true. You and your compatriots came on staff at about the same time, along with a lot of new writers and artists. Seemed like an endless parade of new faces through the office, especially people coming in to see Joe Orlando. ROZAKIS: Well, Joe’s books did provide the biggest opportunity for new talent. He used a lot of short stories in Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, and the other horror books. That’s where guys like Len Wein and Marv Wolfman got their start, along with artists like Bernie Wrightson and Mike Kaluta. SKIMMER: Seems to me there were a lot of one-shot-wonders in there, too. Guys who did one story and then went out and got jobs in the real world. ROZAKIS: You mentioned that Carmine Infantino once asked you, “Who are all these kids?” after we got hired. What was the reaction among the other old-timers? SKIMMER: [laughs] “Old-timers,” eh? You realize that you are older now than we were when you showed up, don’t you?

Teen Teams Today and Tomorrow (top) The original Teen Titans got their title back in the mid-’70s, following appearances in Brave and Bold and Comic Cavalcade. (bottom) The Lantern Legion returned to prominence by teaming up with Kid Lantern in his book, then took over the title and sent the Kid back to the 20th Century. T e e n

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More concerned with the quality of his work than seeking the spotlight, Steve Skeates mastered the craft of writing the short story during his tenures at Marvel, Tower, Charlton, DC, and Warren. While best remembered for his stint on Aquaman with artist Jim Aparo and for his Hawk and the Dove stories with Steve Ditko and Gil Kane, Skeates did some of his best work in the humor genre following his award-winning run on DC’s Plop! Skeates’ evolution from Stan Lee's assistant to awardwinning author can be found in our sister magazine, Alter Ego, issue #84 (now on sale). The following continues the life story of Steve Skeates after his days on Plop! – John Schwirian

by

John Schwirian

JOHN SCHWIRIAN: In the early ’70s, the bulk of your work outside of DC was mystery—at Warren Publishing. You also had stories printed in the Marvel “horror” comics and in Archie’s Red Circle Sorcery. Why was so little of your work showing up outside of DC and Warren? STEVE SKEATES: The early ’70s were a real crazy time for this particular raconteur, what with all sorts of awards and all sorts of work (the latter to some extent being generated by the former, me suddenly no longer on anyone’s blacklist, a pleasant perk brought about by that just-now-mentioned touch of recognition I had somehow wrung out of my peers, and all of it making for people who had hated my guts but a couple of years earlier abruptly in unseemly abandon stepping all over each other’s tongues and toes in their untoward eagerness to buy whatever work I might feel like shoving their way) even as, with my second marriage having fallen apart, I was back living in NYC and that didn’t hurt either in my ending up with wearying load of work piled impossibly high upon my shoulders. Beyond Plop!, Supergirl, Zatanna, Kid Flash, World’s Finest, Spawn of Frankenstein, Dr. Thirteen, Captain Fear, Aquaman, Jimmy Olsen, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and those Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansions, beyond the Mummy, Pantha, and This Unholy Creation, beyond even those occasional jobs for Red Circle Sorcery and one or another Marvel horror comic, there were humor pieces for Sick, Crazy, Harpoon, and Blast. There were those fish stories I both wrote and drew for Star*Reach and Quack, and there were even the initial stages of my working on Tweety and Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Underdog, and The Twilight Zone for Gold Key. Anyway, in the midst of all this, if it seems like I didn’t do as much work as I could have for the Marvel horror books, undoubtedly that’s simply because I felt that the so-called Marvel method (plot, then pencils, then script, then lettering, then inks), while admittedly great for superdudes, didn’t work well at all when it came to mystery stuff; therefore, I was way less than enthusiastic when it came to fighting for assignments from Journey into Mystery and its various clones! As for Red Circle Sorcery, there really wasn’t all that much pseudo-horror work to be had there—merely one bimonthly book.

Skeates and Friends The writer and some of the characters whose adventures he wrote. Cartoon by Matt Heuston, courtesy of John Schwirian. Characters © their respective owners.

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Beginnings:

Scripting Larry Lieber’s plots in Two-Gun Kid #79 and 80 (Jan. and Mar. 1966)

Milestones:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (Tower Comics) / Abbott & Costello The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves / Sarge Steel backups in Judomaster / Aquaman and Aquaman in Adventure Comics / The Hawk and the Dove / Teen Titans / Kid Flash in The Flash / Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella / Plop! / assorted DC mystery stories / Crazy / Plastic Man / Dr. 13 in The Phantom Stranger / Challengers of the Unknown in Super-Team Family Blackhawk / Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham

Work in Progress:

“Possessions,” featuring the adventures of Tepeth-tet, forthcoming in All-Smash Funnies #2 (Comic Enterprise Publishing Group)

steve skeates SCHWIRIAN: I’m assuming that Sick and those others were parody books like MAD, but what were Star*Reach and Quack? SKEATES: Sick, Crazy, and Blast were indeed imitations of MAD, whereas Harpoon was a poor man’s National Lampoon. And, just to make the whole silly picture utterly complete—there was (as I’m now suddenly quite eager to point out) a fifth humor mag I did work for back in those days, one I had almost forgotten all about, something called (believe it or not) Something Else, in many ways yet another MAD clone but with pretensions of a sort, seeing as this one was trying to be the hippest, man—you know, attempting to pass itself off as part of the counterculture and all

© Sergio Aragonés and Steve Leialoha.

Pre-DC Three Denny O’Neil, Steve Skeates, and Dick Giordano lighting up a Charlton Comics panel, circa 1966–1967. 7 8

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that, like in that ever-popular busy-being-pleasantlyfreaked-out-to-the-max phrase from which its very moniker supposedly flowed, i.e.: “Hey, wow, that’s something else, man!” All in all, then, five minor-league magazines that were trying with all their tiny little hearts to stake out some sort of territory within a market that seemed utterly owned by MAD, Cracked, and that new upstart that had not that long ago veritably burst upon the scene, making a profit by its second issue (a fantastic feat for any periodical), National Lampoon. All these mags (the ones I worked for, that is) had some sort of connection with comics, so here (for whatever it’s worth) is something of a run-down on the five… Sick (which had been around since the ’50s) and Something Else (a recently conceived entity) were put out by the same publishing firm (whatever its name might have been), and, when this particular correspondent got involved with those two, Joe Simon (yep, the same dude who used to pal around with Jack Kirby) was the senior editor over at Sick, whereas his son (whose first name I flat-out don’t remember) was the editor of Something Else. I don’t recall anything of much interest that I produced for Sick, but I did concoct some pseudounderground pieces for Something Else that I still feel worked out quite niftily—in particular, an inside-frontcover faux public service announcement about sleep which ended with the line “Sleep is Essential—Try it!” Crazy, meanwhile—published by those appropriately whacked-out people over at Marvel—came into being in 1973. Edited by Marv Wolfman, Crazy employed a number of writers and artists generally associated with comic books—Neal Adams, Larry Hama, Don McGregor, Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, Ralph Reese, Tony Isabella, and more! I was on board for the first four issues, but got a bit miffed once Marv started putting his own name as co-writer on any piece he made any sort of editorial changes to, no matter how minor those changes might be. The second time he did this to one of my pieces, I decided to forget about Crazy and concentrate my humor writing efforts on Plop! (which, being an actual comic, was selling much better than Crazy anyway). Then, in 1975, when Marv handed the editorial reins over to Steve Gerber, I more or less picked up where I had left off Crazy-wise. The Gerber/ Crazy era [Editor’s note: see BI #31] was definitely the best time I ever had working for a humor mag, and I did indeed produce some of my favorite pieces, like my three-part parody of pulp magazines entitled “Stupid


Back Issue #33