Okay, let’s try this again.

§ September 28th, 2020 § Filed under collecting § 12 Comments

Some of my ProgRuin-readin’ pals out there have contributed good suggestions to the most recent Question Time post, and I look forward to getting to them in the near future. If you have a question or blogging suggestion for me, feel free to drop it in the comments to that post! Not today’s post, that’d be confusing.

Anyway, let me get back to that question D (am I spelling that right?) asked in the comments to last Monday’s post, which caused me to stumble hard when I tried to answer the first time:

“What did you think of A-V’s other comics output? At the height of my Cerebus fandom I believe I was buying everything they put out. I still consider Journey one of my favorite series of all time & wish Bill Loebs had been able to finish Wardrums. But I bought the entire run of Neil the Horse, normalman & continued to buy Flaming Carrot even after its move to Dark Horse. Deni continued with Ms.Tree, another series I loved. Hell, I even bought that weird Ditko thing she published. A real shame that Renegade Press failed, it had a cool niche.”

Okay, I had paragraph after paragraph in my initial draft that was just rambling text that went nowhere and, frankly, is probably not a surprise to anyone who’s read my writing more than once. So, I’m going to try to keep it simple. Yes, D — may I call you D? — I certainly did read other output from the home of Dave Sim’s Cerebus, Aardvark-Vanaheim, and Renegade Press, run by Dave’s ex-wife (and former A-V publisher) Deni Loubert. But in several cases, I didn’t read them “in real time.”

For example, I was buying normalman from issue #1 (and still my favorite of Jim Valentino’s many creations — sorry, Arson). But there was that weird-ass crossover with Journey in issue #13, so I picked that up off the shelf at the time.

Now normalman (always the lower-case “n”) had the delightful premise of a perfectly normal person being rocketed from a believed-to-be-doomed planet who ends up on a world populated entirely by superheroes. It’s a very funny comic, with each issue parodying a specific title or genre. William Messner-Loebs’ Journey, by contrast, was a mostly naturalistic story of a 19th century frontiersman named Wolverine MacAlistaire.

So crossing over the two was completely bonkers and fun, and said crossover had the intended effect of pretty much any comic book crossover: getting me to start picking up a title I hadn’t already been reading. I eventually bought up the Journey back issues, read the series to the end, and picked up the, what, one or two issues of the Wardrums mini that was released before the comic disappeared probably forever except for a short that pal Nat published in an anthology comic in 2008. But it’s a great series and I’m glad normalman brought me to it.

I started Flaming Carrot mid-stream, I think after it had already transitioned, or was in the midst of transitioning, from being published by A-V to Renegade (like all the non-Cerebus titles did, as Dave focused on the “self-” part of “self-publishing”). But it wasn’t that far in (I think my first issue was #8) that I couldn’t find the earlier installments. Well, it took me a while to get the magazine from Kilian Barracks magazine that preceded the series, and I also now have most of the Visions magazine in which the Carrot originally appeared.

And there was Ms. Tree, another A-V to Renegade comic, the title for which, as I have stated several times before, I didn’t get the pun ’til I started working at a comic book store and had to say the name out loud. Anyway, I started reading Ms. Tree with #50, which was rather late in the series seeing as how that was the last issue. Not sure why exactly I picked that one up…I may have been intrigued by the forthcoming Ms. Tree Quarterly coming from DC Comics, or because of the flexidisc (warning: dead links ahoy), but I ended up buying all the back issues for that series, too. Somehow without saying “Ms. Tree” out loud I guess.

I did buy all of Puma Blues as it was coming out, mostly through a side-imprint of Aardvark-Vanaheim (“Aardvark One International”) (and eventually collected by Dover Press). I bought a complete run for cheap of Neil the Horse off eBay long after the fact. I picked up Robot Comics upon release as it was by Flaming Carrot’s creator Bob Burden.

I also picked up just the first issue of Open Season:

…because it reminded me a little of Bloom County, I guess, but without the talking animals? Or maybe there were talking animals, I apologize if I’m remembering incorrectly. Pretty sure I still have that comic in what remains of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives.

One Renegade Press series that didn’t interest me at the time it originally came out, but now sort of intrigues me, is Wordsmith, about a pulp writer. I seem to have a bunch of issues of this series in my multiple boxes of unsorted comics I’m still going through in the store‘s back room, and am half-tempted to pull them aside for myself. Because, you know, I’m not far enough behind on my reading already.

And whoops, almost forgot Renegade’s Trypto the Acid Dog. Definitely have one of those.

And thus, D, if that’s your real name, is a general overview of the non-Cerebus Aardvark-Vanaheim and/or Renegade Press. Didn’t list everything I’ve bought from them, but it was fun to remind myself of that particular time in comics, being a teenager interested in these weird comic book-type things and having many peculiar and wonderful choices before me.

12 Responses to “Okay, let’s try this again.”

  • Daniel says:

    My favorite Renegade series was The Silent Invasion by Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock. Great paranoid conspiracy thriller set in the 1950s. Kind of a perfect comic. NBM just reissued it last year and it still holds up beautifully.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    It’s funny that 16 years after your post on flexidiscs saying that we’ll never see them again, I feel like the re-rise in popularity of vinyl means there’s a possibility of some comic including them again. (At the very least I could see them as part of a kickstarter/crowdfunded release of some sort.)

  • Matthew Murray says:

    And after looking it up I see that two comics in the last decade have included them.

    Post York #1 (published by Uncivilized Books) in 2012 and Hip Hop Family Tree #12 in 2016.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    “Wordsmith” is an essential book for anyone who appreciates the pulp era or fiction about writers trying to create fiction.

    I also recall a Sherlock Holmes book that was the text stories with illustrations, but the illustrations were by the Day Brothers, I believe.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    French Ice featuring Carmen Cru was my favorite Renegade comic. Great cartooning.

  • Isaac P says:

    I stumbled across an issue of Wordsmith and found it intriguing enough to snap up the two collected editions that I came across years later. Not sure if they are still in a ‘to be read’ box or if I dumped them in one of my recent purges of my collection. I didn’t start frequenting a comics shop until the late 80’s so I missed the A-V heyday.

  • Chris V says:

    Puma Blues is one of my favourite comic series ever written. I absolutely loved that comic.
    I loved it so much that I even decided to collect the TMNT series from Archie (considered to be after the creative zenith of TMNT had passed) because it was the other major series written by the writer of Puma Blues, Stephen Murphy.
    I still argue that the Archie TMNT series was well worth a read, as long as Murphy was writing the comic.

    Journey is also really great. William Messner-Loebs is probably the most underrated writer in comics.

  • BK Munn says:

    Denzel Curry put out comic book and flexi with his latest album Unlocked.

  • No, The Other Chris G says:

    Another vote for the sorely-missed WORDSMITH, which would have been my all-time favorite Renegade series if it wasn’t for norm an’ the Carrot.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “because it reminded me a little of Bloom County”

    That guy in the middle sure as hell looks a LOT like Steve Dallas!

  • Rob Staeger says:

    I think I’ve only got one issue, but I remember really liking Wordsmith too. I think it started an depression-era itch that I was only later able to scratch with Sandman Mystery Theater.

  • Rob Staeger says:

    Jumping on again to add something I hadn’t realized: One of SMT’s early artists, back before Guy Davis stepped on permanently, was RG Taylor, who drew Wordsmith. (He drew the third arc, “The Brute.”)