I went to my home town for the first time in some years. And while I was home, I had cause to go through the old comics "collection". I wanted to find one book in particular that I thought might help me on a project not yet worth mentioning, a foreign comic whose name I didn't know that I'd bought on a trip outside the country around 1992-1993, impossible to find unless I went through box after box of disorganized, yellowing comics. I found this mystery comic the last day I was there, but as I was going through the boxes, occasionally I'd spot some other comic that made me pause. One of the last times I was home, I'd mentioned the comics I'd looked at while home, so I thought I could do that again-- took photos of the ones that made me pause with my cell phone-- just thought I'd show them to y'all, in case they gave you any similar twinge of feelings or cause for thought.
The tricky bit being that for the most part, I didn't re-read any of these comics. So, I haven't read these comics in at least 15 years, if not more...
(Warning: image-heavy...? Is that still a thing people feel like they need to be warned about? "Warning: my geocities page is acting up again.").
Rune! When this came out of the longbox, I immediately wanted to take a photo of it and to write this. RUNE!
In the 20 years that have passed since this comic came out, I have thought about this comic exactly ZERO times.
This was about a vampire character and/or a purple-skinned Iggy Pop, I don't really remember, one of the many characters that disappeared from human memory upon the purchase and subsequent burial of the "Ultraverse" by Marvel Comics. The Ultraverse was a line of superhero comics published by the long defunct Malibu Comics-- few memorable characters, besides an early 90's success story called Prime. The rumor at the time was that Marvel would never use any of the characters, despite whatever sum spent purchasing them, because the contracts involved called for the creators of the Ultraverse characters to be paid some reasonable wage or another. An unacceptable result, so goodbye Ultraverse.
But Rune was the most hyped comic of the Ultraverse era because it was created by a guy named Barry Windsor Smith, and that was a big deal because people at one point cared who he was...? I don't know if that's true anymore. Do you hear people mention Barry Windsor Smith anymore?? I have access to the internet (jealous?) and uh, except maybe some chitter-chatter about his early Conan comics, I just don't think I hear about the guy that much anymore. Maybe someone will bring up his X-Men issues, but certainly not his later work-- not a lot of people still repping Archer & Armstrong, or mentioning Storyteller. And definitely, definitely not Rune. RUNE!
I just remember the hype on Rune being out of control. For Rune, Malibu was, like... didn't they do some kind of crazy thing where they serialized a Rune story a page or two at a time, in the back of all of their comics because they thought, "oh people will buy an issue of Sludge or Mantra"-- actual titles-- "just to get that one or two pages of Barry Windsor Smith art." Which is nutty, but that was the level of hype involved around that guy.
But today-- whoosh, like he never happened.
In writing this, I googled up a Comics Alliance article I'd missed when it came out, to my regret, entitled "Whatever Happened To Barry Windsor-Smith In The Comics Conversation?" by the great Tom Scioli. Here's the bit that jumps out the most:
"Who’s influenced by BWS? Nobody I can think of under 40."
For me, being close to that age, it's a little startling, for lack of a better word, just considering the relatively high profile he had enjoyed when I was a younger guy-- his Weapon X series in particular was a pretty huge mainstream hit. But it went beyond that. People talked about him in very high-falooting terms-- like, as one of the greats. And now years later, he's just one of those guys who when they slip loose this our mortal coil (and I of course hope that's not anything that's going to happen soon), but someone of whom comic creators will say "Man, why can't we appreciate these guys while they were still here?"
I missed the Scioli piece so I didn't realize that had happened to Windsor-Smith until I pulled out a copy of Rune from a box surrounded by dust in a basement of a house I don't live in anymore.
V: the star-spanning first issue. Eduardo Baretto cover, I think (is that his signature on the left of the cover?), on a Carmine Infantino comic book adaptation of a television miniseries event (relatively recently rebooted into an ABC show that nobody I know watched or would ever admit to watching in a public place).
Occasionally, people will pull out old Star Wars comics approvingly, or Sienkiewicz Dune; some things will probably last a while longer in people's memories. But... a Carmine Infantino V comic...?
It will never be seen again. Enjoy this moment-- it's the last time you will ever hear about or see this comic in your life.
Aaaah, Keith Giffen's Trencher. I remember liking Trencher-- Giffen doing a crazy scrawl style he moved away from pretty quickly, but that he also used on some Lobo comics, I want to say, back when "some Lobo comics" were a thing that comic people wanted to purchase. (That didn't last long, huh? Is that character just waiting around to be revitalized with a company that doesn't know how to do that-- i.e. the "Dan Didio should lose his job and we should all say that more" factor-- or did people decide to reject that character? Or do people not remember that character or...?).
Trencher is also memorable in that it was part of some weird early Image "controversy" I barely remember where ... The Way I Half-Remember It: the Image creators started out shouting about creator ownership and how they were going to take all the top creators from Marvel and DC. Then, when they just stopped shipping their own comics in anything resembling a timely manner, these Other Comics started popping up like Trencher (and maybe, what, Jerry Ordway's Wildstar...?). Except: rhetoric be damned, all of those Other Comics got cancelled in the same week (except, like, I want to say The Maxx got a reprieve somehow), after the Image guys decided they wanted to steer the brand in a different direction; felt like Trencher was "diluting" the Image name...? Am I remembering that right? Am I close? Half a memory.
Warriors of Plasm from Jim Shooter's Defiant Comics, the launch title for the comic imprint Shooter formed after he got booted out of Valiant in some kind of crazy take-over that somehow ended with Bob Layton in charge.
The way I remember this one was that it was about normal people who get sucked up into a green-slime Plasm planet that runs on green-slime Plasm and then they have green-slime Plasm adventures where they quickly liberate the Plasm-planet people using green-slime Plasm...? I might not be getting that right, though-- that can't be right, can it?
This comic is more memorable in that it spawned some trademark litigation which I believe may have lead to a published opinion of some potential interest to trademark litigators. The way I remember it is on the eve of Warriors of Plasm's relase, Marvel sued that its name (then, just Plasm) was confusingly similar to a Marvel UK title called Plasmer. According to Wikipedia, that lawsuit depleted Defiant's capital, and cost them $300,000 in attorneys fees, making this the second comic company murdered by Marvel Comics in one post! Wheeee! But Jim Shooter was a jerk to Kirby, so fuck him, too...
Drawn by Dave Lapham, who would later create Stray Bullets, then stop creating Stray Bullets and kind of suck there for a little while, and then create more Stray Bullets. I remember this being better drawn than his Harbinger comics, so ... congratulations, Dave Lapham...?
Damned was a crime comic published through the Image sub-imprint Homage Comics by Steve Grant and Mike Zeck. Zeck on this one was sort of moving more in a Bruce Timm / Mike Parobeck direction (but still doing a crime riff)-- pretty different from what you'd expect, if you only know Zeck from his Secret Wars, say. That's about all I remember about this. Grant-Zeck had worked together on some Punisher before that, I think. Zeck still appears at conventions, according to some google, but I'm not digging up much about his career trajectory. Grant knocked around for years with different projects-- it's nice if he's found some success with that 2 Guns movie. And Homage Comics was this cool sub-imprint that sort of died out after Jim Lee sold everything to DC. They published Astro City and Leave it to Chance, and then woosh-- into the cornfield.
Have you ever tried to draw a comic? It takes some days. And you have to just sit there, and ... "Is there a door? There's a door? Well, then somebody's got to sit there and draw a stupid doorknob to make sure people understand it's a door and not just a confusing rectangle." All that shit. And all that shit's sometimes fun, there's plenty of fun parts, doorknobs can be fun too. But it's some work too, sometimes. And year after year, especially before trades or digital became a thing, people will do all that work just so that they can make some comic shiny and new for all of seven whole days before the next batch of new comics are out. I don't know. Funny business.
Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Faraday... This was Jim Lee's big return to comics after WildCATS and I want to say just before the big sale to DC. I want to say this was something about a pizza delivery boy who in his spare time is having a long-distance AOL chat-room-based relationship with some girl that he'd never met. Except then the pizza boy ends up getting superpowers ... from the internet...?
Sometimes, comic critics, you hear us say, "Well, I'd rather see that guy do more of his own work."
We don't really ever say that about Jim Lee, though.
Marvel Comic's Silver Sable #1, made by independent contractors employed by Marvel Comics, with a shiny-metal cover that, like, reflected light if you held it a certain way. If you can make it out at top, it says "In her Own Book At Last" -- yes, that was the day Our Long National Nightmare Ended. At the time, I did not know who that character was so I remember finding that kinda funny (a "I shouldn't eat these eggs" sort of funny). Sitting here today, not remembering anything about this comic, I once again do not know who that character is, so I guess I still find it kinda funny.
What's interesting to me about this one is that even with the internet and the whole "hey, there should be more comics about lady characters" and all that stuff (all of which is great and I 100% support)... I still don't hear anyone say "when is Silver Sable going to get her own series again???" out loud. Ever. Ever in my life. Never. Maybe I'm following the wrong tumblr blogs but... Or maybe we're all following the right tumblr blog-- the tumblr blog of Jesus Christ. I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine.
"The Wild Pack."
Huh-- just found out that Silver Sable may have been brutally murdered in a Dan Slott comic, according to some google...?
She is apparently drowned by the Rhino in the final battle when he pins her to the ground in a flooding corridor in Doctor Octopus' base, the Rhino preferring to die after the loss of his wife and knowing that Spider-Man will blame himself for the death even if he stops Doctor Octopus' plan.
Yucchhk. Don't take this the wrong way but everything and everyone in any way associated with comic books is all fucked in the head. I mean, I say that in an affectionate way usually, but ucchh, you fucking people and your fucking dead women fetish.... so fucking creepy! Why doesn't anyone ever realize how FUCKING CREEPY y'all's dead women fetish is?
I want to be like Charlie Sheen in Major League, surrounded by a lovable team of malicious misfits, and instead, y'all want to be like Charlie Sheen in real life, where there's a woman in a closet screaming for help. We're just not on the same Sheen, you and I!!!
Chris Claremont and Dwayne Turner's Sovereign Seven. After his historic X-Men run got ended by Bob Harras and Jim Lee, this was Chris Claremont's "comeback", published through DC. (Well, there was a Dark Horse Alien vs Predator miniseries with Jackson Guice, but I don't think we counted that). It didn't work out so hot. You only get so many hits in your life, I guess. I remember literally nothing about this comic.
Man, more than 2 decades making comics, he still thought Sovereign Seven was a good title for a comic, though... Man... Nobody ever learns nothing, with comics.
Superior 7. A small press comic about a Cincinnati-based superhero team, that still somehow had a better title than Chris Claremont's "comeback" title from DC!
Oh shit, Kevin Maguire's Strikeback! I loved this comic. I don't remember it! But I remember loving it!
Strikeback was published by Bravura, a sub-imprint of Malibu that had also published a Jim Starlin comic caled Breed or Brood, some shit, and a mostly decent Howard Chaykin series called Power & Glory, before it disappeared from this Earth. Strikeback was an energetic superhero team comic and I really liked it and then it was never collected and now it's like it might as well have never existed. Kevin Maguire was most recently in the news for getting booted off DC comics so he could get replaced by somebody younger and kewler, or to put it another way, Dan Didio should not have his job and we should all say that more often.
Tug & Buster. Awww man-- I hope people remember Marc Hempel comics. He did some pretty goddamn good ones-- some of his Breathtaker pages are kind of ridiculous. I hope there are people out there who remember that stuff. Tug & Buster was his comedy about masculinity. I remember it being like a funnier, dirtier Johnny Bravo. (Which was a cartoon). (That aired in the United States). (Which used to be a country). (Obama...).
One of the unspoken premises of reviews is that any of this shit matters. "Image is exciting now! Look at all these new Image books! These new Image Comics are certainly pushing thing forward in terms of excitement-- the boner they give me, I'm using it the way Michael Douglas used a machete in Romancing the Stone to clear away jungle. The jungle is, like, a metaphor." And it's just silliness. Great things, terrible things-- everything just gets forgotten! We're all just clinging to this thing while we're here. It's all ridiculous and meaningless. All that up-with-us "Comics have never been better" shit. How would you know? How would anyone know, if no one remembers anything?
ASH-- this was what Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti were doing with their time before Marvel Knights. Ash was a fireman superhero because Quesada wanted comic fans to understand that firemen were real heroes...? That's all I remember. Published by their company "Event Comics."
It's interesting that more people don't do covers that way-- does anyone besides Sean Phillips do covers that way? It's a neat move. Why don't people do that more?
Peter David and George Perez's Sachs & Violens.
This was basically what Sex Criminals would have looked like if it had been created in the 1990's. Or been awesome.
Bart Sears's Mael's Rage! Bart Sears's Mael's Rage! BART SEARS'S MAEL'S RAGE! BART SEARS'S MAEL'S RAGE! The name of the comic was Mael's Rage, and that was what the cover looked like! Mael's Rage, as the cover indicates, was part of the Brute-Babe universe...?!
Comic Books: 1991 - 1999.
This was an early Oni comic created by a guy named Andi Watson who, according to google, switched over to children's comics shortly after this. I didn't know that-- he just seemed to disappear since I'm not hip to that scene. He made a comic called Love Fight and then after that, I had no idea what had happened to him... ? Nice to find out about the kid's comics!
This isn't the book you want from him, though-- I remember that being Dumped. It's nice that he's still making comics-- that's nice news.
Greg Hyland's Lethargic Comics... This was a humor/parody-title in the mid-90's. I don't remember much about it, but there's a comic in it that has always stuck with me..
A character sits and reads Jim Lee's WildCATS number 2 and says "I don't get it." Then, he goes and reads Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics (which had only recently come out) and says "Ah, I see!" A short time later, we find him again reading WildCATS #2 and the comic page concludes with the character saying "I still don't get it."
I feel like I've been chasing that page ever since! I don't know. I'm still kinda delighted by that fucking joke, man.
(Sometimes, comic critics, you hear us say, "Well, I'd rather see that guy do more of his own work." We don't really ever say that about Jim Lee, though.)
Rob Walton's Ragmop-- I think they collected this one, but I never got the collected edition. Amazon says a new copy will cost you $50. It's sort of a comedy about politics and economics and exploitation, but told in a sort of Hanna Barbera vernacular...? I never read it as an adult so I don't know how I'd feel about it now... I have no clue...
This one I actually sat and re-read because I was so mystified what I was looking at. It was so far gone from my memory. This was during the Fabian Nicieza chapter of the Valiant Comics / Acclaim Comics saga. Nicieza was briefly the editor in chief of the company that Shooter had started, after Shooter had gotten booted and Bob Layton (and some Steve-guy that really was the one behind things, if I remember right) had run it into the ground or the speculator bubble that company relied on had burst or it'd gotten sold to Acclaim or... it had all become a mess. And Nicieza really tried to do his best with it, he tried his damnedest in an impossible market-- tried to hire decent people, but just ... Terrible characters at a terrible time...
Anyways, instead of a big inter-company crossover, Nicieza tried to do an "Event Series." But it's this Warren Ellis thing, with Darick Robertson I think pre-Transmet (was this their first collaboration, those two?). It's about a woman coming to the same conclusion as a guy scientist in some other location that there's been some kind of quantum event at the time of the Big Bang that's going to manifest later in 7 month's time that... something something parallel universes.
It just all seemed pretty spectacularly misconceived-- like, imagine if a comic company tried to sell a big Event Comic and you bought it and it was a purely dialogue-driven comic about a woman you'd never seen before yelling for page after page at a priest about secret Vatican knowledge, and almost nothing else happening other than that, other than vague and cryptic hints that something dangerous was going to happen in 7 months...?
That would be a weird thing for anybody to try to sell. But that actually happened. They published that! There was a whole essay by Nicieza as to what they were trying to achieve, and Robertson drew it very carefully for his style at that time, and Ellis does his whole research dump thing and it all just ends up being this ... this thing.
What were they trying to do with that cover? What was this? Why was this???
The Valiant Reader. This was a 75 cent comic that would help aspiring Valiant readers to catch up on the history of the Valiant universe. Marvel used to do these too-- they published a comic called Marvel Saga. That was back when comics continuity was a thing that the market cared about more. That time's gone, I guess. I'd rather the books be accessible for new readers or casual readers. But... at the same time, I'd be lying if I didn't say this kind of thing didn't have some appeal to me back when.
But jeezle-peets, those characters. The Hard Corps. "They're a corp of men who are hard"--? Okay, well, that one actually sounds pretty great / wet.
Action Girl. This was an anthology of all-ages comics made by female cartoonists, run by Sarah Dyer, I think. This issue featured Dyer, Chynna Clugston-Major, Marl Schaal, Eela Lavin and Elizabeth Watasin.
Another Fabian Nicieza-era Acclaim comic, written by Christopher Priest and drawn by James Fry. Nicieza seemed to have gotten behind Christopher Priest in a way that other people didn't-- you ended up with his all-time Quantum & Woody issues, at least. This comic, I couldn't make heads or tails out of it when I came across it, so I re-read-- it's the start of a superhero crime novel about mayors, preachers, and other lowlifes intertwined in a mystery arising from their mutual corruption. Very James Ellroy influenced, cynical, seemingly very personal-- the letter page in the first issue talks about murdered friends and Priest reflecting on having a gun pulled on him; a super-dense introduction but in a voice with a certain flavor to it... This feels like it could have become something (though the book's late swerve into superhero territory seemed like it could have equally been a bit of a bummer and missed opportunity-- the corruption city-politics in the book is the more interesting material, at least.)
#2 never came out; cancelled before #1 even shipped. Priest:
Concrete Jungle was a labor of cynical joy. It was a series about bad guys and worse guys, a warped and demented view of life in Brooklyn New York among politicians and cops. I was dizzy with glee writing it, and artist James Fry who lived in Brooklyn and is the son of a NY cop) delivered the goods in spades. We were convinced Concrete Jungle would be a milestone in our career: our ticket out of obscurity and onto the A-List of sought-after talent. Then we were cancelled before we even got started. Which, actually, is the story of my life. This should be engraved on my tombstone.
It's kind of a bummer.
Looking at that comic lead me backwards to some other Priest obscurities-- this is the one that stood out. I remembered Xero existed but man, I didn't remember this comic being as cool as I found this issue. This was a pretty cool little comic-- Priest and ChrisCross doing horror-tinged action comics. I want to say Priest was trying to get this off the ground at DC for some years-- maybe there's info about it on his webpage but I haven't checked yet.
They do these narration boxes throughout that are white text in black boxes-- neat effect; I'm into those, at least.
I don't know-- Priest was just a fun writer. Even on thankless books like Steel, you'd find a real engagement with the world around him...
While at the same time, he'd have a sense of visual storytelling and making comics fun to look at...
Here's Steel going apeshit for five pages at the end of some issue, venting what I want to say are several issues worth of frustrations.
Xero came out during a weird time with DC where they were just throwing these weird books out one after another, a lot of them just to keep titles alive. Mike Baron's Hawk & Dove, or the Steve Grant - John Paul Leon Challengers of the Unknown (with great Matt Hollingsworth colors). I guess Xero got lost in that deluge for me, but that's the one I want to go back and re-explore out of all of these...
Adam Warren's Gen13. This was when Adam Warren got on my radar-- I'd missed out on Dirty Pair or whatever. This was a fun run, though-- Warren had been handed a book people had stopped caring about, and just went on a joyride. A lot of nods to Hong Kong movies, anime, all the shit that was bubbling in 1990-whatever...
Heretic was a superhero comic that came out from a Dark Horse sub-imprint that never got off the ground called Blanc Noir, memorable now only for having launched Jason Pearson's Body Bags. It was a sub-imprint built around that whole Gaijin Studios crew that got cancelled pretty early on...
I think The Heretic was the second and last book they published. The back matter includes hype for Adam Hughes and Cully Hamner comics that, to my limited recollection, would never come out.
The character on the cover is called Mister Sister-- a character who is half-brother and half-sister, divided in half.
This was an issue of Comics Talk that featured an interview with Greg Capullo-- I think on the cusp of his very first run on Spawn with Grant Morrison, right after he'd left X-Force. This just was fun for me, remembering how before the internet, how many different outlets there were that would sell interviews with mainstream comic creators to fans. It wasn't just Wizard or the Comics Journal or Comics Interview-- there were all these interview things because CBR or whatever didn't exist yet. Comics Scene, Heros Illustrated, who knows what else I'm forgetting...
You'd think the fact they were selling it would mean that the interviews would be fun or weird, but it's seriously and without exaggeration just Capullo talking about money: "I've heard that Valiant pays $6,000 up front to a penciller before he puts a pencil to paper, and then royalties." Like, they were selling interviews with Greg Capullo about Valiant's payment structure...! And I was so into comics at whatever age that I was like, "Hell yeah-- tell me more! Tell me more about that royalty structure, Greg Capullo! I want to know anything there is about comic books! What are the tax implications, Greg Capullo? WHAT ARE THE TAX IMPLICATIONS???"
Haha, oh man, I was a shitty kid. Life well spent...! Yeah!
In conclusion and summation, sometimes, comic critics, you hear us say, "Well, I'd rather see that guy do more of his own work."