This post brought to you by Tom Peterson.

§ July 11th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 24 Comments

Nearing the end of the Qs here for me to answer:

Bretsector went no other way with:

“From one Yummy Fur fan to another…any hidden gems from the B&W boom/bust of the 80’s? I’ve been going through my old long boxes and found old Aircel, Fish Police, TMNT clones, Cynicalman, Giant-Size Mini-Comics, Poison Elves, Underwater, Caliber Press, etc. and wondered if any other one else on the planet still had a soft spot for some of these floppies?”

Funny you mention Yummy Fur, as I just came across those in my collection the other day (the personal collection in my somewhat less-vast Mikester Comic Archives, not the collection at Sterling Silver Comics, located in maybe too sunny Camarillo, CA) and paused for a moment to reflect on how long it took me to finally complete the run (with the last issue I needed coming from Scott McCloud’s collection, believe it or not). Yummy Fur was a fine, oddball series, but one I started reading just a little too late, and didn’t start picking it up ’til about issue #10 or so. At the time, most of the back issues were readily available, at least around here, and there was an eventual trade collection, so I at least had the full Ed the Happy Clown story (but not the Bible story back-ups or the letters pages).

But that’s not what you’re asking about. I entered the comics retail world in the late ’80s, after the peak of the post Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired black and white boom that began a few years earlier. I mean, I was buying comics, of course, but didn’t have the perspective of actually having to deal with stocking the things, or not stocking, as the case may be. Judging by later perusal of store backstock, former boss and then-provider of my funnybooks Ralph ordered fairly conservatively on the small press b&w titles. He did order them, because, y’know, you can’t sell ’em if you don’t have ’em, but he didn’t do anything like that one poor bastard I saw at a convention once, desperately trying to unload his longboxes full of Shadow of the Groundhog.

Okay, that’s still not you’re asking about. I was attracted to the small press stuff, having had an early fascination with do-it-yourself amateur publishing (both comics and prose), so I’d at least peruse the indies and see what caught my eye. One of my favorites from that period was…


It’s Science with Dr. Radium by Scott Saavedra, published by Slave Labor Graphics starting in 1986 and running on and off, via minis and one-shots, ’til the early 2000s. Silly jokes, bad science, time travel, Elvis-worshipping alien invaders (called, of course, the Elvi) and fine cartooning by Mr. Saavedra. This was a good’un. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve exchanged correspondence with Mr. Saavedra over the years, and he sent me this swell Swamp Thing drawing some time ago, and he’s even visited my new shop…but I assure you, my love for Dr. Radium was fully established long before any of that happened. Honest!)

Also recommended from the b&w boom period was PURT’NEAR ANYTHING BY MARK MARTIN:

darerat gnatrat

An identifying characteristic of the b&w boom, in addition to the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] [animal] rip-offs of the Turtles, was parodies of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Mark Martin’s various Gnatrat comics (Gnatrat: The Dark Gnat Returns, Happy Birthday Gnatrat, Darerat & Tadpole, and Gnatrat: The Movie) ran from 1986 ’til 1990, and unlike a lot of the parody comics, were written and drawn with some real wit and style, getting some out-loud laughs while managing to go some fairly dark places, too. They really didn’t look or feel like any other comic on the market, and Martin would go on to do some pretty amazing comics work after this.

Stig’s Inferno by Ty Templeton was another good’un:


…though, sadly, the series was ended before the story was completed. As you might infer from the title, it’s about a fella named Stig who ends up journeying through Hell (without his pants) and hilarity ensues. Wonderfully drawn, with busy panels and funny background gags and well worth seeking out. And you can seek it out here on Mr. Templeton’s official site, where issues are scanned for your reading pleasure.

The last one (for now, ’til I can think of more) may seem a bit out of place, and probably not that obscure, given that it’s one of the first two publications to come from Dark Horse Comics:


…yup, Boris the Bear (begun in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley and James Dean Smith), which I think kinda belongs here as the first issue is clearly a reaction to the influx of Turtles knockoffs and parodies flooding the marketplace at the time. And by “reaction” I mean “Boris straight up murders thinly-veiled characters from other black and white comics.” It’s all in fun, more or less, and clearly cathartic, though I wonder if I was actually in the retail end of things at the time, how much more cathartic it would have been. Anyway, Boris continued on through Dark Horse and other publishers, generally parodying (usually in a less violent manner than the first story!) a different aspect of the comics world in each issue. Of note is a gag in issue #2, where a Portland, OR street scene is covered with “Tom Peterson” signs, which I would not have understood if I didn’t have a good friend who was a Portland resident at the time (and still is!), and had already explained to me who Mr. Peterson was. (And also had sent me a “Moon over Portland” postcard with Peterson’s face in place of said Moon.)

These are just a few that immediately came to mind. I need to dig further through the collection and see if there’s anything a little more on the obscure side that I can feature. Like Ant Boy:

You said you liked Cynicalman, Bretsector? Here’s another comic by Cynicalman’s pappy, Matt Feazell. Well worth seeking out both issues!

24 Responses to “This post brought to you by Tom Peterson.”

  • Erik says:

    I love that Boris the Bear #1 but have never seen another issue of the series. I got mine at a convention from a guy who was selling B&W comics for a quarter apiece (including The Tick! )

  • kiwijohn says:

    My favourites from among the 1980s B&W indies were
    Alien Fire,(Written by Anthony F. Smith and Eric Vincent, Illustrated by Eric Vincent, – beautiful melancholy post-apocalyptic SF, my most very favourite SF comic ever -even above 2000AD.

    Border Worlds(by Donald Simpson,
    Roachmill by Rich Heddon and Tom McWeeney,
    and of course Mark Schultz’s Cadillacs and Dinosaurs/Xenoxoic Tales.
    Stig’s Inferno was also very very good.

    Unfortunately none of these brilliant SF series were ever finished :-( – I sure could pick ’em!

    I have dreams of winning lottery millions and being able to pay these writers and artists to finish the stories…

  • JWRollins says:

    I think I have all those Gnat Rats, except for the Daredevil parody. Never saw that one before today.

  • Iestyn Pettigrew says:

    What, No ‘Trouble With Girls’????

    Definitely worth picking up.

    Also have a soft spot for Narcolepsy Dreams and ‘Tales From The Heart’ and ‘Night Life’ by Strawberry Jam comics.

    Bloodlines by Vortex was pretty cool as well.

    I could write a list of about 50 here really…

  • JRC says:

    I might add Reagan’s Raiders in this list, for a fun gag of the era. Years removed, without the issues in front of me, I can’t recall if it was affectionate poke, or pointed satire.

    Along those lines, I also thought Captain Confederacy was an interesting alternate history book that in retrospect doesn’t come across as self-aware as it should. Very much a product of an earlier time.

    My fav, book from the boom era, that might be too late/well know for this list, was the well done serious take on Mr. Monster, “Mister Monster: Origins” which was from Dark Horse. There was a hardbound version released that I’d like to find.

  • Daniel says:

    My favorite indie BW from the ’80s was “The Silent Invasion” which was (I think) originally published by Renegade, although I have the collected editions by NBM. Great, great series.

  • Mathew says:

    Those Gnatrats were the best. A collection of the four issues was put out in the early 90’s and includes an informative piece by Martin about getting the issues made at a time the B&W boom was ending, jumping between publishers, etc.

    You can find used copies online. I think Martin himself wrote a helpfully scathing review.

  • Matthew Johnson says:

    “To Be Announced” by Strawberry Jam Comics was another funny one.

  • Hooper Triplett says:

    Beanworld and Neil the Horse were the hallmarks of my 80’s indie world.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    if you’re going to talk Martin, you need to mention 20 Nude Dancers 20 – his CBG strip that was second only to Hembeck’s strip in what I read first each issue. There was at least one collection, but it was oversized because of the original tabloid page size, so it’s hard to find and harder to keep in good condition once you find it.

    I second on the Roachmill- probably the finest thing to come out of Blackthorne. I also like Phil Hester’s early strip Fringe, but have not gone back to look at that recently to see if it holds up. Baker Street is another that I remember fondly. Oh, and Wordsmith…

    I think if you were there and actively buying comics, most people can come up with quite the list…

  • Mikester says:

    Jim – There were two collections of 20 Nude Dancers 20, the first being the huge treasury, and the second a more reasonably-sized magazine edition. I have ’em both, and they’re great!

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    that’s right – I forgot the second one. I’m sure that I have it in my collection somewhere, but the magazine size books probably get looked at the least as I peruse my stuff…

    I have a vague recollection of a magazine size book called Red Calloway’s Big Bang that had Micheal Allred/Dan Clowes style art – not sure where that memory came from, or if it even holds up as a book.

  • BORIS THE BEAR! He rules. Might have been the first independent comic I ever bought, just because the cover of him in fatigues toting a gun was funny to me. (And it still is.)

    Nicotat Comics was the name of the self-publishing company his creator, James Dean Smith, used to publish further issues.

    I also liked Nervous Rex from William Van Horn of the era.

  • MrJM says:

    (I still lived hundreds of miles from any comics shops, so I stayed true to the Big Two’s four-color super-heroics during the b&w boom, but) I really enjoyed the issues of Tales of the Beanworld (1985-1993) that I came across after moving to the big city.

    — MrJM

  • David Conner says:

    “I might add Reagan’s Raiders in this list, for a fun gag of the era. Years removed, without the issues in front of me, I can’t recall if it was affectionate poke, or pointed satire.”

    It’s one of those mystifying examples of works so incompetently produced that I could never get a handle on what they were going for. There was surprisingly little in the way of topical reference one way or the other about Reagan, and virtually zero about his cabinet members (who made up the rest of the “Raiders.”)

    Really, more than anything, it reads like (a very bad and hastily knocked-out fill-in issue of) *Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD* where Nick Fury’s face was inconsistently replaced with a Reagan likeness.

  • Hal Shipman says:

    Man, I loved Stig’s Inferno. That was great, great stuff.

  • anthonyfsmith says:

    Thank you Kiwijohn. Good luck with the lottery!

  • Eric Vincent says:

    Thanks too, Kiwijohn.

    The loss of our series is an empty ache I will carry to the grave. Has Mike ever discussed the B&W Implosion that killed so many books? We saw our numbers tumble so badly in the backlash against so much poor B&W quality material that we couldn’t continue when shop owners simply cut B&W books straight out, no questions asked. Same with Don’s Border Worlds. (Ahh, lemee tell you, those first original pages we saw from Don at DallasCon absolutely took our breath away!)

    Our series was mapped out at over 30 issues, which we would probably do triple now because the books were just too dense, and I still think about the story! I think about longer, poetic visual passages where we just packed it in before, scared we wouldn’t have enough time to get it all done.

    We didn’t.

    Too bad there was no Internet then- it would have solved one of the principle problems that dogged us, easy access to previous issues of such a dense book that fans could still follow if they couldn’t get earlier issues.

    And yes, a thank you too to the very talented Mr Smith for all the time I got to spend with him doing our stories! Now, in hindsight, some of the most intensely interesting/engaging times of my life.

  • Mikester says:

    Eric – I’ve never really discussed the B&W boom/bust except in general detail, mostly because that was prior to, or just about the time, I was entering the comics retail business. I don’t really have too much memory or “insider’s perspective” on the matter, beyond “there were a lot of B&Ws, then too MANY bad B&Ws, and then suddenly a lot fewer B&Ws.” And like you said, the good was washed away with the bad.

    I’ve been meaning to go through my Comics Journals and other ‘zines from the time to see if I can work up some kind of general timeline of events at some point. Hopefully I can!

  • Dale Houston says:

    Eric Vincent’s comments on Alien Fire made me choke up a little. Loved that book and Border Worlds back in the day. Seemed like we had just started a golden age of serious SF comics when the bottom fell out.

    What a great comic, and thank you for putting it out.

    All of these are great suggestions except maybe Boris the Bear, which I have more issues of than I would care to admit.

  • Iestyn Pettigrew says:

    Let’s not forget Dalgoda when we’re talking good sci-fi.

    Oh Dalgoda – I’d love that finished and in a big softback collection…

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    I’ve just recently started re-reading Dalgoda and it does hold up – so do the Retief adaptations with Fujitake art

  • kiwijohn says:

    I agree with Dale Houston here: there were some wonderful serious SF comics that just got swept away.

    Another title I just remembered, although a western, not SF, (thanks to Mike’s post title with “cahoots” in it), was Owlhoots by James Vance, writer of the stunning ‘Kings in Disguise’.

    Lovely to hear from Anthony F Smith and Eric Vincent, it is great to be able pass on my appreciation of your work gentlemen, I still get out ‘Alien Fire’ to read on those ocassions when I succumb to the urge to spend a day pulling out longboxes from the cupboard :-). It is hard to express (but this is the internet, so I’ll try anyway), but what I get out of it is that pleasure of a well-written book, where the author themself is clearly well-read, literate, and expressive (as distinct from a book that simply/only tells a good story). So marry Anthony F Smith’s writing with Eric’s amazing and sensuous* art, and you have a comic that still moves me 30 years later. I’d better buy more lottery tickets hmm?

    Yes too, to Iestyn Pettigrew’s mention of Dalgoda.

    It seems to me that all the titles in this thread can be characterised by their very personal visions, and the level of art and writing skill on display.

    *For those post readers who may be confused, this has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with the senses taken together – to me, the cover of ‘Alien Fire’#3 that Mike shows in his next post would exemplify that.

  • Bretsector says:

    Thanks for the Ant Boy recommendation; the Cleveland, OH back issue scene is a little sketchy on the 80’s B&W’s, but we shall see if they can be found!