The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Two.

§ April 12th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown, indies § 4 Comments

Before I dive into the next batch of books, I definitely need to note the passing of comics legend (and sharer of my birthday) Al Jaffee at the age of 102. More than just “The Fold-In Guy,” Jaffee did so much great cartooning for so long that my quick little mention here will never do him justice. I’ll try to get more written about him soon, not that there’s a dearth of material coming out right now. Mark Evanier has a good remembrance of the man here, which includes a shot of a couple of my favorite Jaffee paperbacks, MAD Book of Magic and MAD Monstrosities. I’ll have to dig those out (nearly all of my paperbacks are boxed up) and give ’em a reread.

• • •

Okay, as explained last time, I’m going through the titles you guys picked as your favorite 1980s independent comics, starting with the comics that only got one mention apiece. Again, all good books, al deserving of a little love. Starting with

Bacchus (Harrier 1988) and Deadface (Harrier 1987-8)

I mean, well, technically I suppose I should have put Deadface first and alphabetized this under “D” but eh, I only think about this particular franchise under the name “Bacchus” anyway.

Deadface and its spin-off/continuation Bacchus were the beginning of a long-running project by cartoonist Eddie Campbell, putting Bacchus from ancient Greek mythology into modern times. Both moody and funny, it was a compelling read, particularly for your pal Mike who’d always been interested in the stories told in these myths and found Campbell’s retelling/reinterpretation of them quite enjoyable.

The Bacchus comics continued on through most of the ’90s in various places and formats, primarily in the series Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus that ran from 1995-2001. There were several short stories that appeared in various anthologies (like Dark Horse Presents) and one-shots and tie-in minis (The Eyeball Kid!) and I read them all, but boy what a series to collect because you never knew where they’d turn up next. There are a couple of omnibii from Top Shelf that appear to collect everything together into one place, which makes things easier.

Anyway, great comics and writing about them makes me want to reread them all, like, you know, I have the time!
The Badger (Capital/First 1983-1991)

…And there were several one-shots and minis after that initial run. The Badger has come up on the site recently, but let me quote what I said about the character back in 2016 when they were trying again to get the character off the ground:

“…The Wikipedia description of the character made it sound like a string of clichés, and to someone unfamiliar with the Badger, like presumably a good chunk of folks in today’s comics market, that surely doesn’t do him any favors. A dry description doesn’t accurately represent the actual tone of the book, as I tried to explain in Johanna’s comments. There was an overwhelming sense of…well, just plain weirdness, an off-kilter sense of humor at work in the comic that I could only describe in comparison to writer Mike Baron’s other major series, Nexus. It was wacky when it wanted to be, dead serious when it needed to be, with quirky dialogue and clear storytelling. It was more than the sum of the parts listed in that Wiki entry.”

I would go on to say, as I said again recently, that later revivals didn’t quite capture the same tone as that initial run. Even the initial run had trouble maintaining itself in the latter part of series, but when that comic was running on all cylinders, it was a hoot. I suspect revisiting the series now would turn up some humor that…hasn’t aged well (it’s been noted that one of Badger’s multiple personalities, a gay man, plays off a little better in earlier appearances than later ones). Those early issues, particularly the first 12 or so, are probably the best, and the first issue may be about as good as the Badger gets, probably one of the best debut issues in modern times.
Boris The Bear (Dark Horse/Nicotat 1986-1991)

Another series I adored. Began by Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley and James Dean Smith, later taken over mostly by Smith), the initial issue had Boris going after (i.e. outright slaughtering) thinly-veiled parodies of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knock-offs (and other funny animal comics launched in their wake). The next issue went after the giant robot genre, and so on. While parody was always a part of the series, it fairly quickly began to focus a little more on Boris’s life and friends and less on the ol’ ultraviolence.

It was a polished, professional comic book, but it always had this…amateurish edge to it. Not in the bad way, I hasten to add, but its origins in the waning years of the black and white boom, that touch of “do-it-yourself”-ness, always remained clinging to the comic. That tiny lack of polish was just part of the charm, reminding you this was someone’s personal vision, not just a churned-out piece of cynical marketing.

There were a couple of tie-in series, like color reprints of the early issues, and Boris Adventure Magazine which would focus on the parodies more so than the parent series. And somewhere along the way there was a parody of Boris the Bear in another black and white humor title, the name of which eludes me at the moment, but I think there was some sort of circle closing there.

• • •

Hoo boy these are talking longer to write than I expected! I may skip doin’ them this Friday but I’ll be back Monday to continue the countdown. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll see you next time.

4 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Two.”

  • LouReedRichards says:

    As I noted in one of the previous posts, The Badger, was my entry into the world of indie comics. I remember seeing ads for other series and feeling like I’d discovered an entire new universe* of comics. While not my favorite indie comic of the decade, it retains a nostalgic charm. Bill Reinhold’s artwork still holds up.

    The Badger’s appearances in early Nexus comics were great fun, and Rude’s Badger looked great, but that’s to be expected.

    These are fun posts Mike, looking forward to future installments!

    * no, not that one…

  • Thom H. says:

    I didn’t realize there was this earlier incarnation of Bacchus/Deadface at Harrier Comics, which I honestly hadn’t heard of until now. I really enjoyed the Dark Horse stories. I should reread those.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “It’s the Final Countdown!” *Doot-Deet-Do-Do*

    ” More than just “The Fold-In Guy,”

    yes, but those were so impressive! And they were EVERY SINGLE MONTH!

    “The Badger”/”description”

    Imagine if Batman had a personality more like the Joker!

    “new universe*”

    Hey, DP7 was pretty good!

  • Brad Walker says:

    Re: The Boris the Bear parody of a parody — might that be Blackthorne’s Laffin’ Gas #5?

    I liked #9 myself…