The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Five.

§ April 28th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 8 Comments

So it’s come to this…I’m continuing my look at your picks for your favorite 1980s indie comics, starting with the single vote-getters (no shame on single votes, everything is loved) and working my way up. Usually I have plenty to say about most of the comics we’ve discussed here, but this time I’ve got three books that I don’t have a lot of specifics to share here. I busted out my Amazing Heroes Preview Specials and my copy of the Slings and Arrows Comics Guide softcover for reference, and I’m going to do my gosh-darnedest to fill this post with something useful.

That said, awaaaay we go:

Dynamo Joe (First 1986-1988)

I made an oblique mention of Dynamo Joe in this post, where I’d mentioned that First’s Mars series contained back-ups I was…disinterested in. I didn’t call them out by name, but one of those was indeed that most dynamic of Joes, starting in issue #10 (1984) and running ’til Mars‘ end at #12.

From there it would continue as part of the anthology title First Adventures before getting its own three-issue mini-series. But huzzah, apparently it was popular enough to continue past that third issue to 15 total, It’s that 15-issue series noted here. A (1987) would reprint the material from Mars.

I am sure I read, or attempted to read, that back in Mars, but all I recall is that Id’ rather have had more Mars content in the comic, and less non-Mrs material. Alas, they didn’t listen to me, and look, Mars ended at #12. Coincidence? As such, I know very little about this, though I can tell you it’s about a giant battle robot piloted by living people, fighting a war against alien invaders or somesuch. Early on John Ostrander scripted over Doug Rice’s plot and art, but later on Phil Foglio would take over for Ostrander. Also, Ben Dunn drew an issue or two, spelling for Rice.

That Phil Foglio was involved gets my interest up a little, but not quite enough to have sampled more of the series beyond those Mars back-ups. But I know it had its followers…I can recall a little back issue movement on this title, but alas, all things had their day and ol’ Joe had his. Its? I don’t know. Slings and Arrows calls the series “surprisingly unpredictable” with the aside that some plots seem to pop up later on Babylon 5? Okay, that got my interest.
Eddy Current (Mad Dog Graphics 1987-1988)

Was this the series that put Ted McKeever on the map? I feel like this was the comic that introduced his particular and peculiar vision to the world.

I do remember seeing this series in the wild when it was originally coming out, but I didn’t buy it, instead going for McKeever’s other series Transit from Vortex Comics. I mean, I liked Transit okay, I suppose, but I guess I figured one Ted McKeever series was enough, on the limited comics budget I had, and as it turned out I put my metaphorical nickel down on the wrong book as Transit was the one that was cancelled partway through, and Eddy Current was the one that made it to the finish line, to some acclaim. (I would later pick up McKeever’s Metropol series from Marvel/Epic, and the Metropolverse, as it was never called I think, eventually encompassed the previous two titles.)

Eventually I did read Eddy Current when I picked up that nice hardcover collection Dark Horse did in ’91. Unfortunately, I sold it off during one of my infrequent purges, but I would later get the Atomeka Press 2005 reissue, which came in three small softcovers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this story, and as I recall it’s quite good, an excellent introduction to McKeever’s sensiblities. Our titular hero gets a supersuit from a comic book ad then gets caught up in world-saving…or is it just city-saving…shenanigans. Like I said, it’s been a while. Each issue of the series represents one hour in the narrative, which is a fun gimmick, and one I don’t see too often in the funnybooks. (Was it that Doomsday Clock prelude issue of Batman that took place over the course of…a minute, or something like that? That’s the first thing I thought of along those lines.)
Empire Lanes (Northern Lights 1986-1987)

Okay, you got me, I know nothing about this comic. I mean, I remember seeing it at the shop, but I can’t tell you a darned thing about it.

Well, okay, looking around online I can tell you that Peter Gross wrote and drew it, and as I recall Peter Gross is a talented artist. You can see that from the cover gallery for this series. I can also relate that the story is about folks from medieval times (no, not Medieval Times) who, through misadventure, end up in our modern world of, well, 1986-1987 I suppose. I do like the sound of that, so again, my loss for not paying attention to it before. This series of posts about ’80s indies is really going to end up with me searching out and buying a bunch of back issues for my own collection, isn’t it?

Interestingly, Comico would published a new #1 for a follow-up series in 1989, and then another new and different #1 in 1990? Am I understanding that correctly? Perhaps someone can clarify and I can update this entry. But there was for sure a paperback collection for the original series published by Comico (Empire Lanes: Arrival) in 1990.

This was reminding me of a specific movie, but I couldn’t remember the name, so when I went to Google I found out there were several movies along these lines, so there you go. But I bet the Peter Gross comics look the best. (The movie I was trying to think of was The Navigator, by the way.)

• • •

Despite my general lack of specific knowledge on these books, turns out I could still type a lot about them anyway. If you have more useful information on them than I had, feel free to drop that info in the comments. We’ll pick up again next week!

8 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Five.”

  • Jack says:

    I came to Dynamo Joe from Grimjack, which had a guest appearance by Joe and his crew. If memory serves, it was part of Dynamo Joe’s backstory that mercenaries fought against the alien enemy while the mecha were being built, and the panel that explained showed Grimjack as one of the mercenaries. The Grimjack issue was notable for having Gaunt just casually recognize Joe’s crew and say it was weird to see them alive again, a dangler which, as far as I recalled, was promptly never mentioned again.

    I had the entire run from the back ups to the series, and it was pretty solid for an 80s attempt at making an anime styled story. Haven’t dug it out in ages, but I wonder how well it’s aged. The mid to late 80s attempts at early anime styled stories were a mixed bag-I recall liking Adam Warren’s early work on the Eclipse Dirty Pair stories he did, though by the end they were less American versions of the characters and more Adam Warren’s cyberpunk fixations. Stuff like Dynamo Joe and Ninja High School were fun, but I suspect now I could spot how hard they were mimicking the form, a form that people were still figuring out.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “that nice hardcover collection Dark Horse did in ’91”

    Got that for a buck, then sold it on ebay after reading it. it was.. interesting.

    Got a stack of WARPs today for $1 an issue!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Snark Shark:

    I always thought WARP was underrated. The Frank Brunner art is great on the first 9 issues, and there were some interesting Steve Ditko-drawn backup stories.

  • JohnJ says:

    I really enjoyed Empire Lanes and wasn’t surprised to see Peter Gross’s art show up in mainstream titles.
    I’ll be curious to see if either Wandering Stars or Hepcats shows up in the list.

  • Rob S. says:

    I loved Empire Lanes — such a low-key oddball blast of fun. Basically D&D characters who come to live in a modern bowling alle (the Empire Lanes of the title). I wasn’t surprised that Gross teamed so well with William Messner-Loebs later on Dr. Fate; they’ve got a very similar sensibility, and the Dr. Fate of that era had a neighborhood vibe (and some time travel plot elements) that really called back to Empire Lanes.

    JohnJ, I really dug both Wandering Star and Hepcats!

  • Rob S. says:

    I was digging through my comics today for an unrelated reason, and just found, as far as I know, all the Empire Lanes comics that were published. I’ll read through them and let you know what my opinion is now that several decades have passed.

  • tomthedog says:

    I checked out Dynamo Joe about five years ago, mainly because of Ostrander and Foglio, and I enjoyed it, but I could tell you very little about it now. There was a funny talking cat with robot arms that was a mechanic I think? I actually had forgotten about the Grimjack connection mentioned by Jack above. Still have never read Mars, maybe I should look into that.

  • Rob S. says:

    I’m rereading the Northern Lights issues of Empire Lanes now, and they’re honestly terrific! There are a few sequences where it’s a little tough to tell what’s going on, but Gross is so inventive in his layouts and his character design that it’s really a thrill to read.

    Comico published those 4 issues in a trade paperback called Empire Lanes: Arrival, in 1990. Comico also released two new squarebound issues under its “Keyline Books” imprint in 1990 and 1991. I’ve got those, too, and will be rereading them shortly.

    These are some fantastic comics, by a really talented creator at the beginning of his journey.

    (Plus, in issue 2, there’s a fan letter from Mark Waid! Apparently he was sent issue 1 to review for Amazing Heroes, but he’d just left the magazine so he didn’t get a chance to do it.)