The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Nine.

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

Continuing the look at your picks for favorite ’80s titles:

normalman (Aardvark-Vanaheim/Renegade Press 1984-1985)

If I can let you in on a little blogging secret here…I wrote the middle bit about Pirate Corp$ first, and spent a lot of time doing so, which doesn’t leave me much time for the other two entries here. As such, I’m going to cheat a little and quote from a post I wrote nearly ten years ago on the topic of the great normalman comic:

“I bought the first issue of normalman back in the early days of my ‘hey, I just found a comic shop and I really want to try comics by people other than Marvel and DC’ phase, mostly because, well, it looked like it would be funny.

“And it was! This probably remains my favorite work by Jim Valentino (then, only ‘Valentino’)…fun, goofy comics about the one guy without powers on a planet filled with superheroes and villains. I recognized the subjects of the parodies on each cover, even if I didn’t specifically know a whole lot about all of them at the time. A couple of friends of mine were also reading the series, and we had a good time talking about some of the gags in the book (such as the ongoing, issue-after-issue roll-call of the Legion of Super-Heroes parody, and the highly-entertaining-to-a-bunch-of-teenagers Man-Man, with his Ganja-Breath.”

I stand by all that. It’s a wonderful series, best experienced in its original individual-issue format with its great parody covers and original coloring, with the caveat that the final issue wrapping up the initial run is in 3D in case you have trouble reading such things. There have been a couple of reprint books (one from Slave Labor that reprints the first series, one from Image that seems to reprint nearly everything) that feature the story in 2-D.

There were follow-ups over the years, like Image’s normalman/Megaton Man special (that brings together lots of indie folks, especially Flaming Carrot), and the 20th Anniversary special in 2004. Hey, we’re due for a 40th anniversary special next year! Hear that, Valentino?

normalman started as a back-up in a couple of issues of Cerebus (#56-7) before popping up in his own series. He also made appearances in the Aardvark-Vanaheim AV in 3D book (1984), Marvel’s humor one-shot Epic Lite #1 (1991), a wild appearance in Journey, plus several other little bits and pieces that are reprinted in that big ol’ Image book. Not reprinted is the Max the Magnificent one-shot from Slave Labor in 1987, featuring the supporting character from normalman as well as normalman’s best pal Captain Everything.

Good stuff all around, with the initial mini being the best. Worth seeking out if you’ve not read it.
Pirate Corp$ (Eternity/Malibu 1987-1988)

Okay, usually what I try to do here is list the first ongoing series for each property I discuss here, post a representative issue from that intial run, then in the body of the text I mention the other related series, if any. In this particular case, after the Eternity/Malibu four issue run, there was a transitional issue, the Pirate Corp$ Special released by Slave Labor in 1989 before starting their own ongoing series. That’s what I’ve got pictured here, because that was the first issue I ever bought of this title, for the primary reason that the Fishbone band t-shirt the fella’s wearin’ on the cover caught my eye. Being quite the Fishbone fan at the time, I had to pick it up and check it out, and I’m glad I did.

It’s a sci-fi “dramedy” following a gang of misfits and outcasts that is more sci-fi adventure when it starts out, and progressively focuses less on that and more on character-based stories during its Slave Labor run. Evan Dorkin writes and draws the book, mostly in crisp black and white, detail-filled panels (though the first two Eternity issues are in color). In addition to the four issue Eternity series and the Special one-shot, there were five issues of Pirate Corp$ from Slave Labor from ’89 to ’92, which changed its name to Hectic Planet with #6 in 1993 to reflect the de-emphasizing of the whole “this is a corp$ of space pirates” thing. Apparently there’s a second print of #5 with the new Hectic Planet logo, which I was only reminded of when researching online.

Now I was looking for something else in my collection when I came across all my Pirate Corp$/Hectic Planet comics, so I pulled them out in case I needed to reference them for this now overly-wordy blog post. And it’s a good thing I did because I 100% forgot about Hectic PLanet: The Bummer Trilogy from 2001, which I think is the final “new” bit of this series to see print. “New” is in quotes because it’s reprinting three stories from the anthology series Dark Horse Presents. Oh, and almost forgot the Vroom Socko one-shot tie-in, published in 1993, collecting material from the British comics/music mag Deadline.

The original Eternity run was republished in two black and white issues from Slave Labor under the name Pirate Corp$: The Blunder Years, and there were three trade paperbacks under the name Hectic Planet reprinting the PC/HP series with additional material.

It’s a fun series, well worth seeking out, and those three trades are likely the definitive version so look for those. (“The Bummer Trilogy” may not be included, as it was coming out around the same time as these trades. I can’t tell from the solicits on Diamond’s website and the Comics Database doesn’t have them indexed.)

One more thing, because at this point why not type more: at my previous place of employment, when these comics were being released, all of us at the shop were huge fans and recommended the comic to whomever we thought would be likely suspects. At one point our orders on the title were so high we’d get phone calls from the distributor asking if we’d meant to order that many, or if, like, a finger slipping filling out the numbers or something. “Nope, we want ’em all!” we said, and eventually we figured out we were selling about 5% of the comic’s print run. My former boss Ralph ran into Mr. Dorkin at the San Diego Con about that time and related our sales on the book to him, and according to Ralph he jumped right up and shook his hand. I certainly hope that moment made Mr. Dorkin happy, as much as his comics were, and still are, making us happy.

BONUS: this post from a couple of years ago where I show off an original Pirate Corp$ sketch in my possession, along with a much more pithy appreciation of the comic.
Puma Blues (Aardvark-One International/Mirage Studios 1986-1989)

Again, see my intro for normalman above, as I’m not leaving myself much time to write about this lushly-illustrated series. You owe it to yourself to find the originals for the covers alone, as they don’t make it into this otherwise exceptional hardcover collection.

I said back in that linked post that this was a dense, challenging, and rewarding read, set in the near future of the year 2000. It takes place years after a nuclear event set off by terrorists wipes out a good chunk of America’s wilderness, and nature’s recovery and the resultant mutated animals are the object of study. Again, it’s been a while since I’ve read this, despite having that big ol’ brick of the book in my possession, but it’s one I’ve been meaning to get back to someday. It’s simply just beautiful to look at.

And as I like to remind people whenever this comes up, Puma Blues unfortunately ended up in a dispute between Dave Sim and Diamond Comics Distributors. Dave decided to sell the Cerebus book High Society trade outside of Diamond, and Diamond retaliated by not carrying Puma Blues. Wild times.

• • •

Good gravy, that’s enough for tonight. Back to it next week! Thanks for reading, pals.

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

  • Chris says:

    That Puma Blues hardcover is indeed a thing of beauty. I picked up my copy for a crisp five bucks (Australian $) at a local comic shops closing down liquidation sale! Picked up a bundle of Pirate Corp$ Cheap on eBay but haven’t got around to reading them yet, I should maybe get onto that. Haven’t read any Normalman though I’m sure I’d probably enjoy it, I always used to get it mixed up with Megaton Man for some reason.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Three favorites! I got into normalman after Valentino took over the MythAdventures book and I went searching for his other stuff. It’s my favorite thing from him too.

    No, the Hectic Planet trades do not contain the Bummer Trilogy. I wish Dorkin could get back to the story; I seem to remember he was close to it at one point, but it never happened.

    One important point about that Puma Blues hardcover: _it finishes the story._ I did have most of the original issues before it came out (it was a quest for a bit), but the brick is _so_ worth it, simply to get an ending.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    I didn’t choose PIRATE CORP$ as my favorite 80s comic because I didn’t discover it until 1999 or 2000, but it is absolutely in my all-time top five. I bought a Hectic Planet shirt from Evan a few years ago, and he included a sketch of Fibby that I treasure.

    “The Blunder Years” are not in the 3rd trade. They were released in a separate collection (I think).

    This is one of the few series that I have in both individual issues and trades.

  • Chris V says:

    It is true that Puma Blues was left unfinished. While he did write an ending for the collected edition, it is worth pointing out that it was not the ending he would have written while originally writing the series (assuming he had any ending in mind at the time before the book was canceled).
    I found the entire run of the original series going for relatively cheap on EBay in the early-‘00s.

  • John Platt says:

    Three GREAT series!

  • Snark Shark says:


    So strange that Valentino would later go on to create SHADOWHAWK.

    ” and Diamond retaliated by not carrying Puma Blues.”

    diamnond were DICKS.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    “So strange that Valentino would later go on to create SHADOWHAWK.”

    It was quite a drastic departure, but even as a pre-teen I found Shadowhawk to be the most derivate and painfully edgy of the Image titles – and that’s saying something. Perhaps that was his misguided attempt to be more like his cohorts.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Shadowhawk is so dreary and Bloodthirsty, I don’t even get the fun I get now from reading some of the Liefield comics!

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    Yeah, Youngblood read to me as a Liefeld comic, WildCATs as a jim Lee comic, and Spawn as a Todd McFarlane comic. Shadowhawk read as someone wanting to fit in with the Liefeld/Lee/McFarlane comics, but not really knowing how.

    I’ve never read normalman, but I enjoyed the guest appearance in Journey. There’s a one-panel normalman cameo in a later issue of Journey, as a sick Wolverine McAllister hallucinates visions of people from his life.

    Never read Puma Blues, but I loved Michael Zulli’s art on Sandman and other comics. I need to get on that…

    Never read Hectic Planet/Pirate Corp$, despite being a fan of Evan Dorkin’s work. If Mike decides to do a best indie comics of the ’90s poll*, however, Dork! might be the comic I vote for.

    * Cue Mike’s response: “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

  • googum says:

    Aah, it kills me Dorkin isn’t huge. He’s the coolest. Vroom Socko deserves a reprint; hell, maybe a reboot.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Evan Dorkin”

    I like Milk & Cheese, The Murder Family, and his other wackier stuff. And I like Bill & Ted back when that originally came out.