The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Four.

§ April 24th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 11 Comments

DALGODAGATE CONTINUES, as, in addition to the original Dalgoda mini-series, the follow-up Flesh and Blood, and the short story in the A1 anthology, reader Lane points out

“There was a Dalgoda story in the back of Doomsday Squad #1. That was Fantagraphics reprint of John Byrne’s Doomsday+1. Each issues had a new backup story, one issue had a Usagi Yojimbo.”

And lo, indeed there was a Dalgoda story in that series, as pictured here, scanned from my own copy of this comic (so I should have remembered):

A closer look, because why not:

And as Brad points out, there was also a Lloyd Llewellyn story by Dan Clowes in one of the issues. Each issue had a back-up…of note was an Adventures of Captain Jack story by Mike Kazaleh. Well, that’s of note to me, I love Captain Jack.

My memory of the main Doomsay+1/Squad comics themselves by Joe Gill and John Byrne was that they weren’t too bad. Getting reprinted on better page in Squad and recolored certainly helped the story’s presentation. Interestingly, the original Doomsday+1 ran 12 issues, with the first six coming out from 1975 to 1976, and then those first six stories getting reprinted as #7-12 starting in ’78. (The stories in the seventh issue of Squad were taken from the Charlton Bullseye mag.) Imagine having had been a big fan of this series, disappointed that it ended at #6, then getting excited seeing #7 on the rack a couple of years later only to find it’s a reprint! Anyway, I’m pretty sure it was reprinted like this due to Byrne’s popularity.

I’m not sure why the title was changed for the reprint…Doomsday+1 is a better name. I’m sure it’s explained somewhere. There was a reboot of the concept by Byrne in 2013 at IDW, titled Doomsday.1.

Okay, enough about that…let’s back to more of our single-vote getters from the “Favorite ’80s Indie” informal poll from a decade or three back.

Destroyer Duck (Eclipse 1982-1984)

Created as a benefit book to help Steve Gerber scrape together some dough for his lawsuit against Marvel Comics, the seven issue run contained some interesting work. Not least of which was the lead, featuring the title character, written by Gerber and illustrated by Jack Kirby and Alfredo Alcala. The first issue alone contained work by Dan Spiegle, Mark Evanier, Marty Pasko, Joe Staton, Shary Flenniken and more…plus the first appearance of Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragones!

The entire series is a great sampling of work from creators from all over the comics biz, and well worth seeking out. Also, there was a Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot released by Image in 1996. Written by Gerber, and illustrated by Chris Marrinan, it essentially functions (in pairing with the Gerber-scripted Spider-Man Team-Up #5) as a way to sneak Howard (in disguise) out of the Marvel Universe and into Gerber’s creator-owned control. Devious, but I don’t think anything ever came of it. Did Howard’s new identity of “Leonard the Duck” ever turn up anywhere else?

But back to that first series…yeah, it’s pretty great. The parody of the aforementioned John Byrne as “Booster Cogburn” is one of the great dunks in dunking history (playing off Byrne’s comment somewhere or ‘nother at the time that he was a willful cog in Marvel’s machine, leading to a wider discussion/free-for-all about creators and their relationship with publishers).

Anyway, good comic, solid pick for the best indies of the ’80s.
Dinosaur Rex (Fantagraphics 1987)

Whelp, you got me, here’s a comic I know very little about. I mean, I know it exists, we carried it at my previous place of employment, even sold a few out of the back issue bins. But I never cracked open a cover on any of the three issues released.

Which is my loss, because it was written by Jan “Dalgoda” Strnad and drawn by Henry Mayo, and included a back-up strip in each issue by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis “Also Dalgoda” Fujitake. So, you know, pretty much guaranteed Solid Comics Work.

This was under Fantagraphics’ “Upshot Graphics,” which was more or less the company’s general audiences/adventure line. It included the aforementioned Flesh and Bones series, Miracle Squad, stuff like that. It was a place for material “like that” as opposed to the more indie/altcomics stuff like Love and Rockets. It’s probably because the “Fantagraphics” label meant a certain kind of book to people, and may have been thought of as a barrier to sales to certain customers in the direct market. I don’t know, just sorta speculating here, but that’s my guess.

Also, if I recall correctly, somewhere in one of the Amazing Heroes issues is a sketchbook section featuring Mayo’s art, which was quite impressive. Which makes it even more of a mystery why I didn’t pick up this comic at the time. Ah well, something to keep my peepers open for in case they ever turn up in a collection.
Dreadstar (Marvel/Epic/First 1982-1991)

Well, here we go, a comic that, as opposed to Dinosaur Rex, I know almost too much about. In fact, when I intially started this topic, it was this series that was going to get my vote for favorite ’80s indie. It did not, however (we haven’t yet got to the title that did) but boy oh boy was it a close one.

Spinning out of the “Metamophosis Odyssey” story serialized in the early issues of Epic Illustrated, Vanth Dreadstar was a feller fighting tolitarian regimes an’ such with his merry band of misfits. It’s just pure weird cosmic space opera as only the man himself Jim Starlin could present it. (And later as only Peter David could present it, when he took over as writer and filled Starlin’s shoes mostly admirably, save for the final couple of issues being a cringey Star Trek parody).

It’s funny, it’s strange, Starlin kept the story moving and never let the status remain quo for too long, like when he put Dreadstar in a superhero outfit, which, whoa, happened way earlier in the comic than I remembered. I suppose that’s a testament to just how much was happening in the comic that I figured that costume change was, like, around issue 30 or so, not showing up on the cover with freakin’ #13.

Despite the occasional doom and gloom and melodrama that’s an integral part of this series (I mean, “Metamorphosis Odyssey” concludes with SPOILER the heroes blowing up the Milky Way galaxy — don’t worry, they had good reason, kinda — and the narrative just pushes on from there), it remains as a wildly entertaining adventure strip that holds up even now. The one caveat is Starlin’s penchant for recaps, as a whole lotta issues seem to have a bunch of exposition explaining What Had Come Before, even if it was just an issue ago. But, eh, you know, if you read a lot of comics every month that probably came in handy, so who am I to judge.

While this series is the primary Dreadstar content, there was other material before this series started (a short post-“Metamophosis Odyssey” story in Epic, a graphic novel from Marvel and one from Eclipse), and material after (a mini-series with Dreadstar’s daughter from Malibu/Bravura by David and Ernie Colón), an appearace in one of the ‘Breed series by Starlin). He also turned up in the First Comics crossover event Crossroads. And there’s new material still, with a Kickstartered graphic novel Dreadstar Returns a while back (which I got but apparently didn’t cover here…I’ll have to address that when I can) and a new equally-Kickstartered graphic novel coming very soon. And yes, both are All Starlin All the Time.

• • •

Good gravy, that’s enough typing. I’ll try to get to more titles on Friday (honest, I’ll really try next time) and we’ll see what weirdies I’ve dreamed up for you on Wednesday. Thanks for reading, pals.

11 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Four.”

  • Sean Mageean says:


    I make typos all the time, so I’m one to talk (or to write?), but I think you meant to type:”…keep my peepers open,” not: “keep my peppers open.”

    I totally recall buying some Doomsday Squad issues. I wonder why Fantagraphics Books felt it necessary to create new cover art–and why it was mostly by Gil Kane??? Honestly, they should have just used the original Charlton Comics covers, as that Byrne cover for Doomsday Squad number one isn’t even that great…it seems an odd choice to depict the protagonist as tiny featureless negative space figures on the cover. Interestingly, Doomsday Squad no. 3 is worth some money due to the Stan Sakai backup story “Village of Fear” featuring Usagi Yojimbo.

    Destroyer Duck was–and remains–great, although the last two issue tapered off after the Gerber/Kirby team was no longer involved with the book. Also if interest was The Starling backup feature by Jerry Siegel and Val Mayerik–a kind of strange, negative riff on the Superman concept…which I sort of wondered if Siegel wrote to vent his spleen?

    I totally recall buying the Epic Comics run of Dreadstar and its importance at that time, but I do think it would have been better not to have Vance getting a superhero suit. As to Epic Comics overall, I really enjoyed Coyote, Alien Legion, and, of course, Groo!

    I don’t think I ever picked up Dinosaur Rex, but I did dig the Miracle Squad comic–about a poverty row movie studio outfit, Miracle Pictures, in 1930s Hollywood–by John Wooley and Terry Tidwell. It had a follow up 4 issue mini-series published by Apple Comics–which I don’t think I ever bought. But the first mini-series was a fun read and Miracle Squad could make for an entertaining movie or streaming show.

  • I was the one who voted for Dinosaur Rex -and I can’t believe there’s a corner of comix arcana about which I know more than the Mighty Mikester. For the record, it’s a P.G. Wodehouse/Edgar Rice Burroughs mashup, and it works better than you might think. The backup strip, Dragons of Summer, is one of my all-time favorite stories in any medium.

    I had Miracle Squad, too.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    “Vanth” not “Vance”…sorry…must have had a Vance Astro/Vanth Dreadstar brainfart…

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    I was hundreds of miles from a comic shop when the direct market really got going, but I was able to read the first storyline of Dreadstar when Epic reprinted the first 6 issues as Dreadstar & Company as a newsstand distributed comic. Epic didn’t have many of those, but Groo, Elfquest and Dreadstar & Company definitely found their way into my buy pile.

  • Mikester says:

    Sean – sorry, my lifelong enjoyment of Dr. Pepper is clearly to blame.

  • John says:

    How did I forget about Usagi? Probably because I can’t believe it’s an ’80’s series since I’m still reading it.

    Can I change my vote? I’d really like to vote for Usagi, actually Nexus…or Flagg! Wait, I loved the Rocketeer too, but yeah Zot! as well.

    Arrgh, that special combination of book quality and coming-of-age discovery of alternatives to Marvel & DC.

    Still, I’m anxiously awaiting your comments on my own single-vote series Tales from the Heart.

  • Chris V says:

    “Leonard the Duck” did show up for a one panel cameo in the Vertigo Winter’s Edge #2 anthology’s Nevada short story written by Steve Gerber. That was it.

    I didn’t realize that Messner-Loebs had a comic strip in Dinosaur Rex. I thought I owned all of Messner-Loebs comic work, but I also have not heard of Dinosaur Rex. Was it this Dragons of Summer back-up series that was written by William Messner-Loebs? What was it about?

  • Mikester says:

    John – um, hate to tell you this about Tales from the Heart but I may have even less to say about it than Dinosaur Rex!

    Chris V – Ah, good to know about poor Leonard. He should be, like, Image’s mascot or something.

  • Philip says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has noticed how frequently Starlin recapped in Dreadstar. I get it. I think the comic was bimonthly for at least a while, and this was long before collected editions became a regular thing, but the constant recaps can make rereading the issues a bit of a slog.

  • MixMat says:

    As I recall from the hazy memories of those long ago Dreadstar comics, the recaps seemed to me then to also be padding and/or less work for Starlin in drawing pages for the (bi-)monthly grind.

    From Sable to Nexus to Dreadstar at certain points, the artists just seemed to be (not unenthusiastic but) using as many ways to produce artwork/comics pages as humanly possible.

    Rude did a few issues in a different, presumably faster than usual(tho still brilliant) drawing style to speed up his Nexus production. Grell did pencils only and a African sketchbook safari of animals. Starlin had 3 or 4 page recaps using previous issues artwork.

    I accepted reluctantly then, but felt the earlier issues artwork was preferable. Eventually Nexus, Dreadstar and Sable(rebooted/relaunced as Sable Return of the Hunter) all had replacement/new regular artists other than the original. Flagg! too.

    Deep in my brain then, i knew the toll/grind of 120/160/200+ pages per year were a reality and the artists needed to sustain their sanity/long term creative juices-but my then young mind lamented the lack of full issues worth of artwork from Rude, Grell and Starlin as in the earlier issues(which looking back-Rude/Nexus had fill ins early in the series; Grell did output 20+ issues over 2 years of the series from the beginning and Dreadstar/Metamorphosis Odyssey/the one shot Syzygy special/graphic novel had Starlin artwork that was amazing to me before the (multi page) recaps appeared. It is what it was.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Doomsday Squad”

    Finally, the full story of John Byrne’s personality!

    “Destroyer Duck”

    BTW, this has been reprinted by Twomorrows in a big fancy book! the original Gerber/Kirby run, that is.

    “Henry Mayo”

    His art looks a lot wile William Stouts. Nice!


    His last name should have been Stardust.