Az me a question, I”ll tell you no lies.

§ March 27th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 10 Comments

So as our 1980s comics symposium continues, I wanted to cast an eye over at the early Comico Comics release. I was inspired by a recent tweet I made in which I stated, truthfully, that the Comico release Az (by the late Phil Lasorda) would just occasionally come to mind. I’ve never read it, never owned a copy (aside from having them in the back issue bins at the shops), but its…weirdness just stuck in my head.

Here’s a better look at the comic:

And yes, at pal Cathy’s request for more information, I took it home and I read it for the very first time, 40 years after its release.

When I was a kid, I loved the idea of non-professionals putting together their own creative projects in whatever field they decided upon. In my case, I was most interested in seeing what other people my age were doing in fiction writing or comic book drawing, as those were the fields I had interest in as well. There was…some book at my local library (the library I ended up working at for a while) that collected together a bunch of short stories written by schoolkids that I enjoying reading over and over again, and there was a book published in the mid-1970s called Make Your Own CXomics for Fun and Profit that…well, don’t hold out high hopes for profits, friends. But there are lots of examples contained therein of kids doin’ it for themselves and I found it wonderfully inspiring, checking it out from the library over and over. I’ve since picked up a copy of my own, and they’re relatively inexpensive.

So basically I’ve had an interest in amateur work like what you see here in Az, a sort of unfettered approach to putting your imagination on paper and getting it out there for people to read, without the constraints that could be put upon the project by larger publishers. It’s rough around the edges, I’m not sure about the setting for the story (more on that in a sec), there’s a full page drawing with a waitress in the foreground whose nipples are very carefully delineated beneath her shirt which is — a choice…like I said, unfettered.

Aside from that last bit about the nipples, which, honestly, that was out of nowhere, this isn’t a terrible comic. It sets up the premise, introduces our hero, tells its story…not polished in the slightest, but retains a measure of charm anyway.

In brief, the comic takes place on another planet, which might as well be Earth, what with all the humans, newspapers and phone booths and a Main St.:

…and there are some bad guys (Skyriders, from the planet…well, Sky) who are after the Lifechip, a device that can impart life upon anything. Including this office chair Az’s scientist buddy shows him:

And speaking of Az, he’s the last(?) of his race, hanging out on this planet that is definitely not Earth and helping out the lab and occasionally knocking a bad guy’s head around, oh, and also is horny and trying to find another of his race so they can repopulate his home planet. Which presumably is why he tools around wearing a bikini bottom because once he gets his chance with a similarly-specied lady, we doesn’t want a whole lot of undressing to get in the way.

Now, to be fair, the planet’s setting may have been intended to been explained as “Earth humans colonizing another planet” which I think is a fair read of the situation. Unless it’s explaining in the second, and as it turned out, final issue of the series.

One of the main reasons that Az stuck in my mind was the whole aesthetics of it all. These very early Comico comics, much like I said about early Cerebus, I enjoy as just pure physical objects. The covers, the fact that they were at a slightly larger trim size than most comics (like early Tick comics)…they certainly stood out on a rack. Nothing else looked quite like them.

Never read Skrog, did read the three issues of Grendel from this time…a less technically proficient Matt Wagner was putting these out, but even then he had the chops to make an entertain and visually distinctive product. Both beautiful and weird, this particular format gave a unique look to these comics among the others on the rack, and something was lost when Comico shifted to more traditional-looking publications.

And it’s an additional shame Mr. Lasorda never got to complete his vision. Maybe the comic was a little rough and clunky, with the occasional (well, one, really) inappropriate moment, but seeing someone not get to finish his creative endeavor. Which, of course, is a common problem even today, in a marketplace that isn’t always necessarily friendly to anything awkward and strange.

10 Responses to “Az me a question, I”ll tell you no lies.”

  • Chris says:

    Skrog was actually not bad story and art wise – sort of a precursor to the Mask – Slaughterman was the other character I remembered advertised with Az, Grendel and Skrog. They all certainly caught my attention at the time, but I imagine I would have been disappointed with them if I’d been able to pick them up at the time.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I would say that the very early Comico comics have a quasi-underground comix art aesthetic going on, which makes its first wave of characters–Az, Skrog, and Slaughterman, very bizarre and outlaw looking for early ’80s comics. At the time those comics came out, I was not interested in them at all due to their general strangeness, oddball characters and anti-aesthetic aesthetic. However, I do remember that while I was visiting relatives in Seattle in 1983, I happened upon and bought Grendel no. 1 -3, when they were relatively new for cover price, at either Golden Age Collectables or Time Travelers Comics. I must have seen something in young Matt Wagner’s art that did appeal to me; perhaps his primitive manga-style-meets-urban-noir aesthetic. Unfortunately, I later put those Grendel issues on consignment at a comic shop in the early 1990s–when I got out of comics–but I lost the paperwork, and eventually that shop went out of business. Now I just wish I had kept those Grendels, as I will never buy replacement copies due to the prices being too high.

    My main memories of Comico as a legit independent comics company are circa 1984 when The Elementals by Bill Willingham came out and was a pretty big deal. Willingham had that quasi-Michael Golden art aesthetic going on, and prior to The Elementals, he had done those Dungeons and Dragons one page comic strip ads that had been printed in mainstream Marvel and DC comics. The other big hit was Wagner’s Mage, The Hero Discovered, which stands the test of time. I also enjoyed Roger McKenzie and Vince Argondezzi’s Kirby-esque Next Man (which sadly only lasted 5 issues, and I don’t think that the story arc was ever properly concluded–but it’s been about 38 years since I read it, so I’d have to track those issues down for a re-read). I also think Mike Gustovich’s Justice Machine was very good, and recommend it–along with the earlier issues published by Noble Comics and Texas Comics (and the Texas Comics issue is also the first appearance of The Elementals). Then there was Ginger Fox, by the Pander Bros., and Fish Police, which I never got into. Other than that, I think of Comico mainly as being about licensed characters, including Jonny Quest (which was a fun enough read and boasted a few awesome Dave Stevens covers!), Gumby, Star Blazers, and Robotech. Oh, and there was Trollords– which featured Trolls based on Larry, Curly, and Moe–nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. And Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer had a few issues published by Comico. But I guess Grendel was the big winner at Comico, as he still pops up at other publishers or battling Batman from time to time.

    I would probably rank Comico as the number four independent publisher of the early ’80s. I think Eclipse Comics probably deserves the top spot for the sheer amount of quality independent comics published (Dean Mullaney and Catherine Yronwode knew what they were doing, at least early on)–many by talented professionals with proven track records, including Doug Moench, Steve Englehart, Don McGregor, and Mark Evanier. Plus, they brought us Miracleman. First Comics gets second place, and Pacific Comics gets third place, in my opinion.

  • Chris says:

    I’d kind of nudge First ahead of Eclipse – while Eclipse did release a tonne of stuff, much of it excellent, I think First were a lot more consistent. They had at least 5 series that made it past the fifty issue mark and at least pt another 5 or so that went past 30 issues. The only series from Eclipse that possibly reached the 50 issue mark was Airboy, maybe DNAgents if you include both series and the minis.American Flagg, Nexus, Grimjack, Dreadstar, Lone Wolf & Cub, Sable, Elric, Starslayer, Mars – it was a pretty prestigious lineup, without I might add, a traditional superhero title amongst those mentioned. All running a decent number of issues too.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    I suppose it’s a question of personal taste and, for me, a remembrance of things past from my teenagerhood, but I guess if you want to go by longevity of titles, you have a case. What I recall buying from First at the time was mainly Warp, John Sable Freelance, and Starslayer–and some of the Shatter, Nexus, Grimjack, Whisper, and Lone Wolf & Cub runs. I probably picked up the first few issues of American Flagg, but I think the content was pretty mature for me at that age. Maybe part of it is just a branding and regional thing as well. Being a Californian, I liked that Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics (beyond having cool names and logos), were based in California–and that Eclipse absorbed a lot of Pacific’s content, after Pacific folded. “First Comics” seemed like a bland name. Also, I think, for me, Eclipse Comics had more varied and interesting content: Airboy, Alien Worlds/Alien Encounters, Aztec Ace, DNAgents, Crossfire, Destroyer Duck, Detectives Inc., Eclipse Magazine, Eclipse Monthly, I Am Coyote graphic novel, Miracleman, Mr. Monster, P. Craig Russell’s Night Music, Ragamuffins, Reid Fleming Worlds Toughest Milkman, Rocketeer, Sabre, Scorpio Rose, Scout, Star Reach Classics, Strange Days, Tales of Terror (which was basically a continuation of Bruce Jones’ Twisted Tales from Pacific Comics), Unknown Worlds of Frank Brunner, Will Eisner’s John Law Detective, World of Wood, and Zot! Also, the older I get, the more I like a comic series that runs its course rather than going on and on and on for 100 or more issues.

    According to mycomicshop, Eclipse released a total of 342 titles, whereas First released 100 titles.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    If Az had actually been adapted as a film in the early ’80s, who would have played him…John Candy with a Conehead prop?

    Also, it appears that in Comico Primer no. 1 there were, in addition to Az, Skrog, and Slaughterman, two other characters–Victor, and a patriotic character named Mr. Justice. I wonder if Victor and Mr. Justice appeared again anywhere beyond that issue–and if Archie Comics contacted Comico to inform them that they had the trademark on the name “Mr. Justice,” as the original Mr. Justice, ironically, is not a patriotic character but is a Golden Age MLJ Comics character similar to The Spectre.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Grendel… had a different look back then, I see!

  • Snark Shark says:

    Anyone remember NOW Comics? and did anyone like them?

  • […] attempting to rank some of the recently-discussed-here comic book publishers broke out in the last post’s comments, so I thought I’d chime in with my own experiences and opinions and such. Since, you know, […]

  • […] name, I don’t remember really anything about the comic or the character. Customer Sean does bring up this good point about that period in Comico’s […]

  • Oliver says:

    I picked up the Comico Primer #1 very recently, and was, well — how to put this without it sounding like an insult — quite impressed by the energetic, unashamed amateurishness of it all. Phil Lasorda (RIP) and his collaborators got their creations into print and that’s what matters.

    My own indie superhero comic, ‘Komos & Goldie’, is pretty damn amateurish, I admit — but reading the Primer, I came away quite encouraged. If they could do it, I can too!