The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty.

§ September 11th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown § 18 Comments

Finally back to the favorite ’80s indies poll, which I put off a bit because…well, I’ll get into it.

Mister X (Vortex 1984-1988)

My first exposure to the idea of Mister X came from Amazing Heroes #48, which cover featured the character and contained an extensive preview of the then-forthcoming titles. While the character was created by Dean Motter, who had originally planned to produce a series illustrated by Paul Rivoche, the initial issues of the first Mister X comic were by Jaime, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez.

That issue of Amazing Heroes came out early in my picking up that ‘zine, so I read and reread this issue and thought this Mister X thing sounded interesting. And the Hernandez Bros’ involvement of course caught my attention. Inexplicably, I ended up not buying the comic. I don’t know if I missed it on the shelf, or if I didn’t have the scratch for it (I was 15, long before I had the Infinite Comics Retailer Budget that all comic shop owners have now), but I just didn’t pick it up. And, to this very day, it still remains one of the very few Hernandez blind spots in my funnybook reading. Even now, as an issue from their run shows up at the shop, it’s just, like, a single copy of #3 or something and not a full run, I just go ahead and price and sell it.

Anyway, the Hernandezes left the book after the fourth issue due to some problems with the publisher, and Motter wrote #5 with Ty Templeton (who’d been lettering the book), and the art was by Klaus Schoenefeld (who’d colored the previous issues. Issue #6 through #13 were illustrated by Seth…yes, that Seth of Palookaville fame. The last issue was drawn by Rodney Dunn, which was redrawn by Motter himself when the story was included in a later collection. Motter provided most of the covers for the first series, with others drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, and Mike Kaluta.

The premise of the series I still remember form that Amazing Heroes preview (and I double-checked against Wikipedia, to make sure I wasn’t too far off): Mister X is a bald and bespectacled fella who lurks about in the wildly-designed Radiant City, and as allegedly its architect he seeks to maintain the city and deal with any problems that arise within it. He is also dependent on a drug to keep himself awake 24 hours a day. He is a man of mystery to most of the cast, though his girlfriend Mercedes refers to him as “Santos.”

There were more series that followed, including a second one from Vortex (1989-1991, mostly written by Jeffrey Morgan, with art by Shane Oakley and D’Isareli), a four issue series in 1996 from Caliber Press, and then a few mini-series from Dark Horse (2008-2015) as well as appearances in Dark Horse Presents. Also in there was a Mister X Special from Vortex in 1990 by Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins.

So yes, I missed a lot of this as it was happening. I think the only Mister X content I experienced in real time were entries in the A1 anthology from Atomeka (including a story by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean). And I never got around to these either, but other Dean Motter books that took place in the same “world” were Terminal City (DC/Vertigo 1996-7) and Electropolis (Image 2001-3), both by Motter. Mister X is in the latter…I don’t know if he’s in the former.

Now, if you wanted to read all this stuff now? The only collection currently available from Diamond is Razed, one of the later Dark Horse minis. Otherwise, this may take some searching, but Dark Horse produced two volumes of Mister X Archives, reprinting up to the second Vortex series. Volume 1 appears to have been in both hard and softcover. Volume 2, “Brides of Mister X and Other Stories,” I think was only in hardcover. A third Dark Horse release, Mister X: The Modern Age, reprints all of Dark Horse’s Mister X releases. (All of the Dark Horse minis have had their own trade reprints.)

From iBooks there were two volumes of Mister X: The Definitive Colleciton from iBooks in 2004-5, reprinting up through the second Vortex series plus lots of extra material (from A1 and elsewhere). And for you completists, there were also collections for Terminal City (in HC from Dark Horse) and Electropolis (in trade also from Dark Horse), both out of print.

Now I put off writing this entry because, like I said above, my knowledge of the series is almost exclusively from 1) the Amazing Heroes article, and 2) those segments in A1. Most of what I wrote here was cobbled together from those memories and what I could piece together from the Comics Database and Diamond’s old product catalog. It remains a pretty big gap in my comics reading, especially those early Hernandez Bros. issues. I can still recall a bit of that feeling of experiencing something new in comics when reading that ‘zine article, like when I first read about Cerebus in Comics Scene. But I missed out at the time, and hopefully I can make room in all the comic reading I have left to do to finally redress this omission.

18 Responses to “The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Twenty.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    The first four issues of Mister X are great and worth owning. If memory serves, the Hernandez Bros. quit because they got stiffed on getting paid. Hopefully, they finally did get paid. The world of Mister X is somewhat inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and other German Expressionist films and also film noir movies. I believe that Mercedes refers to Mister X as “Santos” because he’s her sugar daddy.

    The Seth issues are okay, but basically, after Los Bros. quit, Mister X was never as cool or visually striking as it had been.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    Not only do I hope the Bros got paid by Vortex, I hope they got paid for the Warner Books collection of “The Return of Mr. X” in 1987 that collected those first 4 issues.

    in 1987, Warner Books put out an initial selection of graphic novels – Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The Return of Mr. X and The Fish Police. I’m not sure what led them to include the two non-DC books, but I bought them all from the University Bookstore when I saw them available.

  • Chris K says:

    I am a huge fan of Los Bros and Love and Rockets – probably my all time favorite comic. So I did pick up and read their Mr. X run years ago and… honestly I can’t remember anything about it. I remember liking it well enough but it just didn’t stick with me the way L&R has.

    Los Bros have always been dismissive of Mr. X and I think that might have prejudiced me against it going in, like I had a preconceived notion of it as “lesser Hernandez.” So I’ve been wanting to revisit it for a long time now and give it another shot, but I just have not found the time for it.

    I found most of the Seth run in a bargain box some years back and grabbed them, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever looked at them; Seth has also dismissed his own Mr. X work.

    Mike, a few years back when you were selling old promo posters on ebay, I actually bought the Jaime Mr. X poster from you. So my fandom for Los Bros goes that far at least (despite my not being so much into this particular book)

  • Chris K says:

    Oh, yeah. Fantagraphics at some point put out a one shot called “Tales of Shock City,” which collected the backup features by Los Bros that did not feature the character of Mr. X (and with “Radiant City” renamed “Shock City” in the reprints). So there’s another semi-collection of this series.

  • A. J. Payler says:

    I finally got around to reading Mr. X from beginning to end during the last couple of years and came away pretty underwhelmed, though had I been savvy enough to pick it up in the 80s I can see how I would have gotten hyped about the promise within the series. Knowing it was never really fulfilled–or came to much of anything, really, other than a footnote in Los Bros Hernandez and Seth’s careers–likely took a lot of the potential thrill away. If I’d encountered the work as an impressionable teen, though? I’d likely have responded favorably to the surface affectations of cool–it’s very ‘cool’ in an arty 80s over-designed manner–and assumed its failings meant I just ‘didn’t get it’ because the creators were working on some higher level I didn’t yet comprehend.

    Overall, what narrative there is doesn’t add up to much. A lot of it is borderline incoherent, definitely emphasizing style over plot or character or anything a reader could get a grip on. X himself is less an intriguing cipher than just a poorly delineated character, and few other characters make any impression whatsoever. Nice art but difficult to get invested in, storywise.

    Not the great lost masterwork of the 80s, unfortunately. But it is a nice memento of a time when anything even slightly outside the rigid mainstream was automatically notable and worth investigating, even if it didn’t come close to living up to its promise (Thriller [the Von Eeden comic, not the album] anyone?).

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Mr. X has a special place in my heart.

    I have all of the original run after Los. Bros. left, and oddly enough, the aforementioned #3. In the early 90’s,finding single issues in the cheap bins was always a thrill. It was one of those books that I clung to like a life raft in the gritty, extreme 90’s era.

    Read out of order and in a disjointed way they seemed ok and I just knew once I could get the whole story, it’d be awesome.
    I bought the 2nd collection years ago and when I sat down to read it through I had the same experience A.J. Payler mentioned. The narrative is overly confusing, doesn’t really go anywhere and Mr. X himself was a let down.

    I will defend Seth’s artwork, even if he won’t. It took several issues for him to hit his stride, but starting with #10 “Nightclubs and Daydreams” his art came into its own and it looks FANTASTIC! Literally some of my favorite comic art ever. The complete realization of a Deco style, years before the Batman Animated series.

    Paul Rivoche did a lot of amazing work on it, and the later run with D’Isareli is nice too.
    The covers, as mentioned are from wide range of creators and are excellent as well.

    The coloring was also top notch!

    Mr. X, and Seth’s work in particular, were huge influences on a comic book a buddy and I were trying to develop, so there’s a bit of nostalgia for me in there as well – good times.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    So it sounds like this highly-voted for series kinda sucks, eh?

  • Tom W says:

    I used to own that book collecting the first four issues… and, like it seems most people here, found it unremarkable. The ideas were nice but the tone was all over the place, lurching from noir to romance to almost farcical. I sort of wish I’d kept it for the Xaime artwork and I guess the notability, but not more than that.

    Never saw the Seth issues, but Mister X publisher Bill Marks and Seth appear in Cerebus, in the volume where he gets his portrait painted – Church & State II? It’s not the Seth we’ve come to know since…

  • Oliver says:

    The Hernandez issues are still tremendous fun — Jaime’s style is already incredibly strong at such a young age — provided you’re willing to overlook what I always found to be a subway-sized plot hole: how come Mister X doesn’t know Reinhart is a woman; how can there be no public information on her for him to access?!

  • LouReedRichards says:

    @ Pedro de Pacas

    I wouldn’t say it sucks, but like many projects, the parts are actually greater than the whole.

    It has good, often amazing (IMHO) art & design work, a wonderful setting and concept. Motter is a good writer and artist, from what I can remember from his other works.

    For some reason it just never comes together as a cohesive package.

    It’s definitely worth picking up any of the Vortex color issues in the cheap bins.

  • Rob S. says:

    It’s been a while since I read it, but as you suspect, I’m pretty sure Mister X doesn’t appear in Terminal City. There was also a second series, called Terminal City: Aerial Graffiti.

    I don’t think these are connected to Mister X in any solid way, other than (perhaps) being set in another city on the same continent. (I could totally be wrong about this, though; I never followed Mister X closely.)

  • Snark Shark says:

    All I remember from the ONE issue I read is the Jaime art is great, and I had no idea what was going on!


    I bought a few of those this year!

  • Oliver says:

    ‘Thriller’ is equally fascinating and heartbreaking. The ambition and eccentricity of its early issues read very much like Grant Morrison before Grant Morrison, plus with Von Eeden’s art in full flow, but once him and Robert Loren Fleming were forced out, we never got to see what might have been.

    I did at least namecheck the comic tangentially in one of my own modest pages:

  • Snark Shark says:

    I remember REALLY liking the artwork (esp. on villain Scabbard), but being a bit confused by the story when I was younger.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    Re: Thriller, it would be interesting to know the backstory of why Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden left or were forced off the project before it was completed and why Bill DuBay and Alex Nino took over.

    I always thought Von Eeden’s art style in the ‘8Os was very cool. I was always happy to find a Von Eeden Catwoman backup story, World’s Finest story, Green Arrow/Black Canary story, Batman Annual story or whatever else Von Eeden was drawing at that time…it seemed that he was getting really experimental with his page layouts and also distilling some Alex Toth techniques to superb effect!

    I checked out the link to Kosmos Goldies Mission…it looks like you have Roger Ebert reviewing a film named after Johnny Quick’s formula, no?

  • Snark Shark says:


    There WAS an article in Back Issue magazine about Thriller, but I don’t remember the details. It was a short;ived comic-series issue, from around 2016/2017.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Snark Shark

    Speaking of shortlived ’80s comic series, I picked up a copy of Privateers no. 1 at Sterling Silver Comics the other week…an early Tom Grummet comic. Apparently it was supposed to be a twelve issue series but I think that only two issues were published by a Canadian comic company… Vanguard or Northguard or something. Grummet was really channeling John Byrne in this comic, which ends on a cliffhanger.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Tom Grummet”

    Don’t see his art often, but it’s good when I do see it!

    “Vanguard or Northguard or something”