Or there was some ballot-box stuffing goin’ on.

§ September 13th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 21 Comments

So Pedro said in response to Monday’s post about Mister X:

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

And LouReedRichards already gave a solid response:

“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.”

Just so this isn’t a lazy post where I reprint what you guys wrote in my comments and call it day, I do have something(s) to add.

First off, the votes. I’m just a little ol’ blog that pleaded for readers (and for pals on Xwitter) to contribute to my poll. It’s not a wide-ranging, comprehensive poll by any means. I think it’s not a bad representation of what fans liked, and by and large I think the results of my poll more-or-less reflect fairly well my own experiences over the years in the shops I’ve worked in.

But my poll isn’t perfect, and some titles got fewer votes than I expected, some got more. All it took was enough fans of a certain title to decide to participate in my poll, or enough people deciding not to, to skew things one way or another. Mister X is one of those titles that I was honestly surprised that showed as well as it did when I tallied the numbers.

As LouReedRichards said, there is plenty to recommend the series, even despite its uneven production and storytelling. A failed experiment can still be compelling and interesting and worthy of attention, even if it rarely, if ever, gels as a complete package. And it could very well be that the World’s Biggest Mister X Fan is reading this right now, buildin’ up a head o’steam over me daring to suggest the comic was lest than perfect.

One of my all-time favorite comic books remains the Andy Helfer/Bill Sienkiewicz/Kyle Baker run on The Shadow. It very famously ended mid-story, where the Shadow’s head had been put on a robot body, and someone somewhere decided “ooookay, let’s put everything on pause for a sec.” Many claims had been made to exactly why the series ended, and I covered them in a long-ago post here, probably link-rotted. I would point out that what DC said and what one of the creators said very much contradict each other.

But it’s unfinished. Even so, if I were asked to vote in some kind of favorite comics poll for which this series was eligible (“Series Most Likely to Give Old Fans of the Property Heart Palpitations”), I 100% would hang that chad for The Shadow.

On a related issue, I thought Matt Wagner’s Mage was highly and widely regarded as a classic comic series. Turns out that wasn’t quite the case, and, well, there you go.

Ultimately, there were enough people participating in my poll to give Mister X the good showing it received. That it’s received a certain level of critique for things never quite working out, there was enough there to make it a favorite title of some. It may not have always succeeded in what it was trying to do, but it succeeded enough.

21 Responses to “Or there was some ballot-box stuffing goin’ on.”

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    Also, the number of people who comment on comic book blogs in 2023 is pretty low. The sample of opinions expressed probably doesn’t reflect the majority opinion.

  • Thom H. says:

    I was a huge fan of the Helfer/Baker Shadow series. Such a shame the promised final issue/Special never materialized. I’m sure it would have been wacky fun, and it would have been nice to get proper closure on that chapter of the character’s adventures. The whole series would make for an evergreen series of trades, too, if it was finished.

    Also, speaking of Dean Motter, I read his Prisoner miniseries for DC back in the day. It likewise suffered from not quite gelling. The art and design were beautiful, as you can imagine, but the story never quite went anywhere. I haven’t revisited it in decades, so maybe I’d like it better now. But I remember being disappointed back in the day.

  • Chris Gumprich says:

    I really fell in love with comics in the 80s, when things were just heating up. My dad would buy the first issue of almost anything – I was exposed to early stuff from Pacific, Vortex, First, Eclipse — leading me towards what I like now. With so, so, so many possibilities it was difficult to even think of them all during the poll. I ended up with CROSSFIRE because it was a recent reread.

    MISTER X is a great example – I read issue 1 when it came out. Loved it, Dad hated it. I didn’t even see another issue until the mid 90s. It took me years to pick up the entire run, completely out of order, volume 2 issues mixed in with volume 1 and completely unclear what was going on… reading it in that fashion was genius. Sitting down and reading it in order… not so much.

    The Helfer/Baker SHADOW is somewhere in my top ten.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I tend to agree with what LouReedRichards wrote. Visually the Hernandez Bros. and Seth issues are very aesthetically appealing, even if the overall plot of Mr. X doesn’t necessarily hold up. It is very much a post-punk era comic…also, chances are that Grant Morrison was a fan–as he more or less looks like Mister X these days.

    I don’t know if this particular story ever got reprinted or not, but from this same early ’80s era, an issue of Silverheels, published by Pacific Comics, has a Jaime Hernandez back up story, which, I think ends on a cliffhanger that may have never been resolved.

  • Oliver says:

    I couldn’t stand DC’s ‘Prisoner’ sequel, even if McGoohan authorised it. The art was too sketchy and despite what Motter thinks, the sensibility of the Prisoner has nothing to do with the worlds of Le Carre and Fleming.

  • Eric Houston says:

    A somewhat or even completely genius passion project that never quite gels in the end? That’s comics, baby!

  • Tom W says:

    To counter the negativity I often provide, I really liked the Prisoner series. With the caveat that I never watched the original so didn’t have preconceptions. It used the comics page in a way I’d not seen before, watching a character followed by two people and not realising there was also a third, and though the artwork was rougher than you’d expect from a series built around Portmerion’s architecture it worked for me. Surely the ambiguous ending was honouring the original?

  • LouReedRichards says:

    I need to track down that Shadow series again. I found a run of them years ago, but ended up giving them to a buddy who had loved it back in the day, and my “to read list” was already long enough.

    Love me some Kyle Baker!

    I’ve always meant to check out “The Prisoner” series.
    I’ve only seen a couple of the episodes of the show, but my wife and I absolutely LOVE the Danger Man/Secret Agent series that preceded it. Tight plots, cold war intrigue, snappy dialogue, smoking-hot 60’s babes, and a handsome as hell, intelligent leading man – what’s not to love?

    @ Eric Houston – absolutely!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Lou Reed Richards

    A few years back all of the episodes of The Prisoner were up on YouTube…and might still be. There are some great episodes and some weaker episodes but it is worth watching all of them just to check it off one’s list.

    I’ve only found a few Danger Man episodes, but they were all very cool! There’s also an excellent made for British television film from the 1970s that stars Patrick McGoohan as an Irish hitman who wants to retire…but is forced to fulfill one last contract…

  • Sean Mageean says:

    The McGoohan made for TV film is called The Hard Way…it also stars Lee Van Cleef.

  • Lane Hermanson says:

    The Prisoner and Secret Agentman are available free on tubi. They are my rewatch list. I read the Prisoner mini, I don’t recall much about the story but art was unique. I should dig it out of my collection and reread it.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “where the Shadow’s head had been put on a robot body”

    STILL one of the Strangest Things Ever in comics, and this is COMICS we’re talking about!

    The Prisoner, much like Blade Runner, did not NEED a sequel, the story had already been told.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    @ Sean – thanks for the heads up, will have to look for the Hard Way.
    I found a boxed vhs set of the Prisoner in the thrift store in the late 00’s, just in time for us to ditch our last vcr. It now resides with my tapes of Misfits concerts bootleg, The Residents – Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats?, a bootleg of the 60’s FF cartoon, and the original Blade Runner release, outdated media that for some reason I just can’t part with.

    @ Lane Hermanson – thanks for the info, will put those on the watch liste.

    @ Snark Shark – I agree that Blade Runner didn’t need a sequel, and resisted watching it for quite a while. The first viewing confirmed my feelings. A second viewing changed my opinion, enjoyed it MUCH more that time. It’s still superfluous, but it has its own merits.

  • Matthew Murray says:

    @Sean Mageean: Grant Morrison uses they/them pronouns now.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “boxed vhs set of the Prisoner”

    I found a DVD set for free, watched it, then sold it on ebay. Well worth watching, but that last episode was very confusing.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ LouReedRichards

    Here’s a link to “The Hard Way” with Patrick McGoohan and Lee Van Cleef


    @Matthew Murray

    Thanks for the update and my apologies for getting Grant Morrison’s pronouns wrong.

    @Snark Shark

    Agreed that the last episode of The Prisoner is confusing.


    Any thoughts on the Howard Chaykin Shadow miniseries that came out prior to the Helfer/Baker run?

  • Thom H. says:

    @Sean: I own Chaykin’s Shadow mini because it’s really beautiful and sooo steeped in ’80s tropes, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s definitely provocative and pulpy (two plusses), but maybe also misogynistic and homophobic (turnoffs)? Unless Chaykin is being satirical (back to liking it)? That’s the thing with him — I can never figure out if he’s being supportive or critical of the ideas he presents.

    What do you think of it?

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    The last time I read it was in the ’80s, when I was a teenager, so I’d have to track the issues down again. My main memory is that is was very violent and I didn’t like the coloring very much…which I thought looked kind of muddy or muted. However, I did like Chaykin’s drawing style at that time…I feel his art has gotten more blocky/bulky now. I think Chaykin will always be controversial to some people based on the content (remember Black Kiss?) and opinions expressed in his work–whether he’s being satirical or not. But he is a major talent that left his mark on comics history.

    I just wonder why the hell Helfer and Baker put the Shadow’s head on a robot body and how Conde-Nast or whoever owns The Shadow signed off on that? It also makes me wonder if anybody has ever made a comic with Timothy Learey’s head on a robot body…

  • Sean Mageean says:


  • Thom H. says:

    Yeah, I haven’t read it in a while either. I’ll have to go back and see what I think with my 2023 brain. I really like the weird coloring, but that’s probably my ’80s nostalgia talking.

    “I just wonder why the hell Helfer and Baker put the Shadow’s head on a robot body”

    In case you haven’t read it: the robot body was supposed to be temporary while he had a new body cloned for himself in Shambala. It was also narratively convenient because Shiwan Khan had recently become a similar cyborg and having a robot body made their upcoming showdown more fair. Also, it was probably the dumbest/funniest thing Helfer and Baker could think of at the time, so they made it happen.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    Thanks for the explanation. I do recall buying a few Helfer/Baker Shadows back in the day, but maybe I stopped before the whole cyborg Shadow thing…I don’t recall for sure. I met Kyle Baker at a Wonder Con about 8 or so years ago…he was really nice and funny. I had him sign a copy of his Circuit Breakers comic and some Hawkman pages from Wednesday Comics, and a few other items …no Shadow comics, though. But, yeah, I’m not a big fan of some of the DC coloring on some Baxter paper comics…sometimes it was muddy looking. I do recall thinking John Higgins, Adrienne Roy, Lynn Varley, and Tatjana Wood all did great coloring on the whole.