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Jon Sable Twolance.

§ November 10th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 5 Comments

Yes, here’s the necessary follow-up to Wednesday’s post with extra info on Jon Sable Freelance that I missed due to 1) ignorance and 2) being too old to work the internet properly.

First, let’s get this out of the way…several folks left comments or sent emails essentially telling me “hey Mike you dummy, that Soldier of Fortune text you linked to actually has a link to actual scans of the magazine.” Said comments/emails were accompanied by links and/or attachments showing THE ACTUAL AD, the very one my dad spotted back in 1986 and informed me about. Hence:

I edited out the address/phone number, obviously, even though it’s right there in the original scans if you want to trek to this Canadian apartment complex and find Mr. Sable. (LEGAL DISCLAIMER: don’t do that.) Anyway, first person through the gate with this info for me was Sleestak of “Lady, That’s My Skull” fame, so thanks to him and to everyone else who tried to set my ailing brain straight.

More additions/corrections:

Chris lets me know that there have been a couple of Kickstarter campaigns (here’s the most recent one) to issue nice hardcover collections of the original Jon Sable series. Of note is that one of the “rewards” is Jon Sable Graphic Album #1, a 56-page “DC’s Black Label” format oversized softcover. Apparently this is a planned ongoing reprint thing for 2024, but available to Kickstarter supporters first.

Pal Nat reminds me that 1987’s Word Warriors contained a jam story that included Jon Sable and work by Grell.

Customer Sean asks how many votes Mr. Sable received in my poll. He was a 4-voter!

Mixmat points out my mix-up, giving the wrong title for First’s crossover series. It’s actually Crossroads, and I should have known better because it’s not like i haven’t talked about it plenty of times on this site. Ah well, fixed now.

Roel Torres (one of the aforementioned four votes!) talks about what sounds like his very impressive collection of Grell art, and notes that Bill Jaaska, the main artist of the Sable series, had a sad end. I went looking for more info and found this detailed accounting of the man’s life. Worth a read in remembrance of an artist who, like many, never really got his due.

CP Bananas slips in this one last question:

“A sincere question for the Sable fans here, from someone who’s never read any and isn’t sure this is google-able: what was the deal with the stuff on his face? I always assumed it was a concession to make a ‘real-world’ character look more superheroic on the stands but what was the in-universe explanation?”

I don’t remember any specifics, but my presumption is that it’s just like “warpaint” or such to help disguise his appearance, and maybe act as a form of camouflage. Just looking at the covers, I presume this origin issue (which was one of the earlier issues I hadn’t read) gets into more detail:

I’m sure one of you know the actual answer, so please leave it in the comments here! Thanks!

“HDMI Jack” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

§ October 16th, 2023 § Filed under indies, marvel § 13 Comments

So in response to my post about the passing of Keith Giffen, LouReedRichards brings up a title that I’m sort of shocked at myself for not remembering. On one hand, I couldn’t list everything, but on the other hand, I really should have pointed out this comic from 1987:

And here’s a sample page from the first issue:

Did ol’ Keith do 12-panel pages throughout the series? Oh he sure does, for the most part, with some smatterings of six and nine panel pages, so this is one series dense with storytelling. Even the last issue, featuring several guest artists (like Fred Hembeck! Walt Simonson! Trina Robbins! Jim Starlin!) is mostly 6 or 9 panel grids. There’s the occasional breaking of the format, including a pretty stunning two-page spread in the first issue.

So here’s the thing about this comic.

I remember really looking forward to it. I even picked up one of the promo posters at the comic shop, where they had a stack they were giving away, and had it put up at home. And I bought each issue off the stands as it came out, its release coinciding with my beginning months of college.

And I’m pretty sure that was the one time I read it. Well, okay, I probably reread the whole series once it was complete. And it’s been 35+ years and I remember very, very little of it. As I flipped through my copies, extracted from what remains of the Vast Comics Archive, I remembered bits here and there, some of the conceits of the series, the character designs, etc. But there is a lot going on and I’m sure there are plenty of details I’m forgetting.

Hell, I even forgot that this was written by former DC Comics stalwart Cary Bates.

I remember really liking the series. But I couldn’t tell you really anything substantial about it, beyond “dude falls into a TV world” and I’m not even sure that’s 100% correct. But glancing through it, it’s definitely a showcase for this era of Giffen’s art. I definitely would love to be able to reread it, but “rereading older comics” is on the backburner while I’m still trying to catch up with the new stuff. As I posted on Bluesky:

“Well, if I’m going to reread every book and comic I’ve bought and kept over the last five decades, I’d better get started.”

In some cases, it may be just enough to remember that you liked a think, even if it no longer lives in your memory and you don’t have time to revisit. Ah well.

And it took three and half decades, but I finally get the punny joke of the title. …No one’s ever accused me of being too on the ball. Do I need to tell the Ms. Tree story again?


§ October 9th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 4 Comments

So like I was talking about in this post from last week, I find myself trying to pick between reading a lot of comics and getting the backlog cut down, or reading a single graphic novel in that same time.

Well, I finally decided to pick up Kate Beaton’s autobiographical graphic novel Ducks:

…and I’m only halfway through, but I definitely lost time Sunday evening reading this volume, looking at the clock, thinking “oh sure I’ve got time before I have to go” and then checking again and realizing “oops, I’m late.” That’s probably a sign of a good book, right?

It’s the story of Beaton’s post-college jobs in the Canadian oil fields, which she took to pay off student loans. It’s both fascinating in the details of the work she’s doing, and harrowing in the casual sexism and harassment a young Beaton has to face. It’s densely told, usually lots of panels per page, but it never feels cramped. And for my long-suffering eyeballs, the lettering and the black and white art are both crisp and easy for me to read.

Usually one should finish a book entirely before giving a recommendation, but even at the halfway point I feel confident telling folks this is one worth getting your mitts upon. I’ve long enjoyed her shorter humorous works, and I’m finding her longform dramatic storytelling to be just a compelling.

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.

The Hero Dialectical-ed.

§ August 11th, 2023 § Filed under indies § 11 Comments

So pictured above is Amazing Heroes #45, the April 15, 1984 issue, back when it came out biweekly(!). This was the first issue of the ‘zine I purchased, and, enjoying the mix of reviews, interviews and humor within, I continued to buy each following issue for a few years. I did eventually drop off, likely more due to finances, but I did pick it up again eventually and kept onboard ’til the series’ eventual end.

Over the years I tracked down the issues I missed, both prior to my picking up that #45, and the issues I missed during my brief hiatus from reading it afterwards. (I did thankfully continue buying the Preview Specials and the always delightful and frequently hilarious Swimsuit Issues new off the shelf.) I currently have a full set of the Amazing Heroes magazine, ready for reference at a moment’s notice…

…assuming I know where to look. And after reading some of the responses to my post about Matt Wagner’s Mage, it brought to mind a review I remembered reading in Amazing Heroes of the first issue of the first mini-series, “The Hero Discovered.” I knew it was in that magazine, but where? Where?

Thus I did the logical thing…I went to the Grand Comics Database and checked the entry for Mage #1 to see if it had an on-sale date. Indeed it did (January 17th, 1984) with the added bonus that the entry indicated the release date info came from Amazing Heroes #40! With a starting issue in mind, all I had to do was quickly scan the contents page of each issue to see what comics were in that’s half-month’s review column…

…ending, naturally, with issue #45, the very issue I started with way back when. Probably should have been my first target, given that I probably read and reread that ‘zine nearly to the point of memorization, given that was my first sample of the title.

Anyway, seeing some of my good and faithful readers of this site wax…unenthused about Mage (either in part or as a whole) got me to thinking about that review. And look, of course it’s fine that you may not care for it. I’m not here to argue with you, though maybe I can move some to perhaps reevaluate the series for themselves. This is more about my perception, that my belief was that the series, despite its rough start, ended up culminating in a beloved series and a comic-bookical classic. Finding out that, no, some folks weren’t into it as much as I was, that’s a call for me to reconsider.

Not reconsider that I like the series, of course. I love the series. I think the first one, “Discovered,” is the best, with the second series “Defined,” being my second favorite, and “Denied,” the third, being, well, you know. But admittedly I’ve only read “Denied” the once, so upon a theoretical reread maybe it’ll go up a bit. But I still liked it.

Mostly what I’m reconsidering is the idea that Mage is not as universally highly regarded as I thought. What’s weird about this is…I know perfectly well not everyone likes every comic equally. Of course I know it. I run a comic book store, for Petes’ sake. How many times have I had someone ask me “do you have any really good comics, like [X]?” where X is a comic I wouldn’t read with someone else’s eyes?

Plenty of times, that’s how many. So I know how it is. But I just had a blind spot for Mage, assuming my love and appreciation for the specialness of the series was nigh-universal. Ah well, What Can You Do™?

Again, back to that early review of the first issue. I even said in my discussion of the comic that the first issue was relatively crude and amateurish, and that we got to see Wagner’s talent and skill grow over the course of the series. (Dave Sim is another example, where his linework and his lettering just became more and more refined over the clunky initial issues.)

This review, therefore, isn’t catching Mage at its best. The reviewer, R.A. Jones, goes on a little bit about the series’ seeming pointlessness and awkward dialogue, expressing surprise at the protagonist’s name, which, you know, fair enough, and concluding with this:

“A disjointed story, forced dialogue, and unimaginative art do not make for a big time winner. Comico’s titles have been dropping like flies, and Mage has only one wing to start with. Skip this one — you’ll be glad you did.”

Which is a bit tough. Yes, the dialogue needs some work, the art is amateurish, but not without its charms. And Jones states about Kevin:

“The ‘hero’ of our story — if such an appellation can be applied — is Kevin Matchsick(!!). Kevin is full of more self-pity than the Thing in his darkest moments. Since we see nothing to engender such pity, the man comes off as a whining bore.”

Now, I mean, the comic is subtitled “The Hero Discovered,” so we gotta start from somewhere, right? Seeing Kevin grow from this low beginning is part of the fun of the story, and the reviewer’s complaint that the titular Mage gives Kevin superpowers for no apparent reason…well, maybe there is a reason, to be revealed eventually. This is the just the first issue, after all.

I have the advantage of hindsight, of course…the review was written with only one issue in hand, and it’s not presenting Wagner at the height of his powers. I’m looking back, literally decades later, after the story has reached its final conclusion with its third series. I know where all that stuff complained about in the review of that initial installment is heading. Yes, I admit it’s rough, and that the protagonist’s surname of Matchstick is a bit something, outside any of its symbolic significance. But I happen to like that roughness, that amateurness, the idea that someone decided “hey I got a story to tell” and basically learned on the job how to tell it. That was wildly appealing to me, and I’m glad I didn’t skip this one.

However, the review stands as a reminder that not everyone found that endearing. And some of you folks reminded me, not everyone likes the same things I do. Which is not a lesson I really needed to be taught, as America’s #1 champion of Frank Miller’s The Spirit movie, but sometimes a little reminder is good. I love Mage, some of you don’t, and that’s all perfectly fine.

“Tongue-lashed” sounds dirtier than I meant it.

§ August 4th, 2023 § Filed under indies, publishing, zines § 11 Comments

Sorry for skipping days here and there lately…just have a lot of stuff going on, on top of my aged body just being too tired to blog at the late hours that usually are the only time I have for such activity. So, let me get a few topics out of the way today and maybe sometime next week I can get back to the Final ’80s Countdown.

First off, it’s here, it’s here…or rather, they’re here, a sample of the very bullet and casing used to shoot them holes right through the much-discussed-on-this-site Jab #3.

And there they are, direct from Jab #3 contributor and “Too Much Coffee Man” creator Shannon Wheeler his own self. The accompanying note reads “Never let me see you near my girlfriend again!” and the temptation was to just hide this item somewhere in my collection, unexplained, and leave some serious questions behind for anyone eventually handling whatever passes for my estate. But no, here I am blabbing about it on my comic book weblog, which of course has immense worldwide reach so all my secrets are revealed. Ah well.

But big thanks to Mr. Wheeler for offering up this peculiar bit of comic book history (and also for kindly answering my questions about the whole Jab #3 project). Also, I need to add links to the older Jab posts so they get the whole story if they come upon my writings via Google or Ask Jeeves or whatever.

• • •

Next up, reader Cassandra asked if I could post a link to William Messner-Loebs’ GoFundMe, and yes I can! That poor guy and his wife have had a real time of it for years now, and I most sincerely hope they can get themselves into a comfortable, stable place.

What would be nice is if more of his comic book work were in print and providing him at least a little money. Like, was any of his Flash work collected? A recent DC Pride one-shot had that one story of his with the Pied Piper, but beyond that there wasn’t a lot of comprehensive reprinting of his run, far as I can tell. I don’t think even #50 was reprinted anywhere, and that was kind of a hot issue at the time.

A chunk of his Wonder Woman made it into a trade that could stand reprinting. And how ’bout a nice big archival hardcover of Journey? Or maybe a new printing of Epicurus the Sage? Or just giving him new work if he wants to do it?

Anyway, help him out, even if it’s just spreading the word.

• • •

Sean asked about Pee Wee Herman (RIP the great Paul Ruebens) in comics, and the first thing I thought of was this:

…which, if memory serves, was a kinda/sorta parody of Pee Wee, maybe…it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but it’s something like that. Anyway, there you go.

• • •

Longtime reader Michael G. came by the shop in person and admonished me, tongue-lashed me in the cruelest manner, for my lack of content this week. But to show me all is forgiven, he gifted me with some Dave Sim Cerebus trading cards, which are, of course, the Dave Simmest, but you’d be disappointed if they weren’t:

Yup, they’re Swamp Thing-ish…the other cards are nice too, but look, I’m too tired to keep this post going for too much longer, so let’s just throw out one more scan here and call it a night.

• • •

As promised, one more scan, this time from my fanzine collection:

This ‘zine is from 1965, which means Spider-Man had only been around about three years. Weird, huh?

Get yourself Jupitered.

§ July 24th, 2023 § Filed under indies, pal plugging, this week's comics § 2 Comments

It’s here, it’s here, in my hot little hands direct from Jason Sandberg himself, as predicted by prophecy, the new Jupiter #1:

Jupiter was a black and white indie publisher too briefly in the 1990s, and I discussed that run here. Then in 2018 Jason put up a digital compilation of the best of Jupiter. And now, here we are, with a brand new color comic featuring his weird and wonderful cartooning.

Now, ever since I wrote that first blog post about Jupiter way back when, Jason and I have been online pals, chatting regularly, me hopefully being encouraging about his work, and he sending me the occasional goodie in the mail (like when he sent a stack of mini-comics he did for me to give away on Free Comic Book Day).

This time, he made sure I had plenty of the new Jupiter on hand, along with a few extra bits of business just for me.

First, he sent me a signed copy. That was nice!

Then there were the membership/fan club cards:

And of course, the official Jupiter coin:

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps entirely explicably, this WildC.A.T.s promo trading card:

He also sent me a personal note, but that’s personal, like I said. MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX

Last but not least, yours truly gets not one, but two mentions within this mind-shattering publication, including a plug for the very site you’re theoretically reading right now:

…as well as for the store I reportedly own:

“Drop?” “Drop in?” “DROP IT, PUNK?” “Dropout Boogie by Captain Beefheart?” You’ll have to buy the comic, or surreptitiously sneak a peek in the shop, to see the whole pulse-pounding prose Jason attached to mentions of ME ME ME.

Anyway, there it is. YEARS IN THE MAKING! I’m glad Jason’s funding campaigns were a success, and that hopefully more people will get exposed to his wonderful cartooning.

I think you can still order it from that Indiegogo link? I’m not sure. But while supplies last, you can order them from me! Tell me I sent you!

And you’re gonna get yet another post about this comic when that bullet arrives.

§ July 21st, 2023 § Filed under indies, variant covers § 5 Comments

So I somehow ended up in a Twitter thread with Too Much Coffee Man‘s creator, the wonderful cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, and I took the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions about Jab #3. You know, the comic what had a bullet shot through its middle?

My questions both involved this ad that was inside the comic, for copies of the magazine shot with more powerful guns than the .22 caliber used on the “normal” books.

My first inquiry was “were the variants advertised a real thing?” to which Mr. Wheeler replied “Yep!” He stated they only did a few, and that they didn’t take any pictures of the process. That was a shame.

My next question was “did you sell any?” and his reply was that they “seemed like they sold a handful, but not many.” He did volunteer the added info that the shotgun variant “was the most fun (but scary)” which, as someone who’s fired a shotgun, I can probably attest to.

Best of all, he offered to send me a spent bullet and casing from the shoot, and boy oh boy I can’t wait to have that. What a great, hilarious addition that’ll be to What’s Left of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives.

A big thanks to Mr. Wheeler for letting me bother him a wee bit about this weird but wonderful piece of comics history.

• • •

Speaking of the Twitters, I don’t know if folks without an account can read tweets there again, but the Twitter widget I had in my sidebar seemed to be working when I just checked right now. And by “working” I mean “running dozens of my tweets down the side of my page instead of the usual five,” which is par for the course considering the new management there. For the meantime, I’ve removed that widget and replaced it with a simple text link.

Also here’s a reminder that I’m also on Bluesky (still invite-only, sorry) and Mastodon. And (yuck) Threads as (also yuck) “mikesterlingjr.”

The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Three and a Half.

§ April 19th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown, indies § 10 Comments

Got an early morning doctor’s appointment, so I’m not staying up late to do a full ’80s indie entry, but I wanted to address a couple of questions from the last post.

First, in regards to my inability to recall where else Dalgoda had appeared, Damien rushed in to the rescue:

“There was a Dalgoda story in issue 4 of the British anthology A1 by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan. That might be the one-off you were thinking of.”

Yup, that’s the one. I have it (the full British run, and the later Marvel/Epic mini…didn’t follow the later ones), and I could picture some of the art in my head, which is how I knew it wasn’t original artist Dennis Fujitake on the story. But Nowlan is a good replacement. At this late date I can’t recall the actual plot, but I do remember being surprised to see the character again, even if it was just for a bit.

Customer Sean asks, hopefully facetiously

“Did Cutey Bunny and Omaha the Cat Dancer ever have a crossover story?”

While it’s possible they were both in the same jam drawing or something somewhere, as far as I know the two characters never met. Certainly the tone between the two is different (Cutey Bunny being very silly gag-filled stories vs. Omaha’s melodrama) and the naughtiness levels were certainly night-and-day (Cutey at most a little risque with no nudity, Omaha just full-on tab-A-into-slot-B action). So beyond the superficial element of each being sexy anthropomorphic animal types, they’re quite different.

Brad Walker notes

“You won’t get all the jokes in Laffin’ Gas #5 if you haven’t read Boris the Bear #1; likewise, you won’t appreciate the opening of Boris the Bear #8 (Return of the Ninja Critters) if you haven’t read LG#5.”

Well, I have read and enjoyed all of Boris the Bear, still one of my favorite runs. As such, I should get all the jokes in the LAffin’ Gas parody…which I should have in my hands Any Day Now as I found a run of issues #1-5 for cheap on the eBay. And I’m looking forward to seeing how that parody enriches the experience of Boris the Bear #8.

Which reminds me I made a…“joke” on Twitter about how I wanted to get a complete collection of 1980s black and white boom comics, sorta inspired by my purchase of those Laffin’ Gases. Now I’m likely just going to keep the #5, but I’ll look through #1-4 but those are probably destined for resale in my shop. I seem to do okay with these black and white books of the period. But all this, thinking about b&w boom books, doing the ’80s book thing here, has got me in a nostalgic mood, and those boom books are scratching that itch a little.

How far am I going to go? I mean, I have been on a search for Shadow of the Groundhog for quite some time. I imagine more will come up. I’m pretty sure I have an issue or two of Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils in the shop right now…will I keep them? Will I start seeking out those elusive issues of Fat Ninja? We’ll see!

Anyway, Brad has a link to a review of Laffin’ Gas #5 from a few years back in case you don’t have a copy for your own perusal.

That’s it for now, back Friday for more ’80s books!

The Final ’80s Countdown, Part Three.

§ April 17th, 2023 § Filed under final countdown, indies § 12 Comments

Back to addressing your picks for best 1980s indie comics, as I continue to look at the books that got one “vote” apiece. Again, I always like to emphasize this isn’t a reflection of their quality, but rather a demonstration of just how much good stuff was coming out in that particular period of time. Thanks, my friends, for indulging this nostalgic walk through what was a fun time for me personally to be collecting comics.

First, a brief update on my Boris the Bear entry, where I couldn’t recall the name of the parody comic that parodied Boris, itself a parody book. Well, it’s reader Brad to the rescue, as he came up with what my rapidly declining brain could not and reminded me that it was Laffin’ Gas #5 from Blackthorn Comics in 1987:

I think I see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Dalgoda (more on Mr. Dalgoda in a moment) in the background there. This is one of those comics I didn’t ever really consider picking up when we had plenty of copies at the old shop, but now those are all long gone, I desperately want one. I’m probably going to have that problem with several comics in our Final ’80s Countdown here. Ah well. Thanks, Brad, for letting me know.

So here we go with today’s three ’80s series:

Critters (Fantagraphics 1986-1990)

Well, here’s another comic which had an issue I could have bought from the old shop for relatively dirt cheap, but just never got around to it. It’s that first issue, pictured right here, which I wanted for the Cutey Bunny content, but is now apparently a Hot Collector’s Item because of ol’ Usagi Yojimbo there.

Despite that disappointing omission from my collection (I actually went into what’s left of the vast Mikester Comic Archives to see if I did have it and just forgot), I do own scattered issues from the series. Most notably I have issue #23, containing the flexidisc with “March of the Sinister Ducks” (lead vocals: one Alan Moore), mentioned waaaaay back on this site in this probably link-rotted post. And I have this “Not the Adventures of Captain Jack” issue from the latter part of the run where they deemphasized the Critters logo in favor of the title of the featured story.

I notice I haven’t made it clear exactly what Critters is, exactly. It’s a black and white anthology series featuring funny animal and anthropomorphic stories by a whole lotta creators, including stories over several issues with the aforementioned Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai. Also of note is Steven Gallaci’s “Birthright,” “Ambrose” by William Van Horn, “Gnuff” by Freddy Milton, a couple of Sam & Max stories by Steve Purcell…the list just goes on and on. And the more I look at the comics database entry for the series, the more issues I find I wish I’d bought. Sheesh.

But this was a solid anthology book containing lots of great work, at least based on the issues I do own, and based on what I’m seeing in my research, so it’s well worth sampling an issue or two. The extra-sized last issue, #50, is an excellent sampler.
Crossfire (Eclipse 1984-1988)

I like Mark Evanier’s writing. I like Dan Spiegle’s art. So why didn’t I read this series? Because I’m a dummy, I guess.

This spin-off from the super-team series DNAgents stars Jay Endicott, bail bondsman, who has assumed the identity of a deceased costumed villain to fight crime from the inside, which I’m gathering from the Wikipedia entry I have open in another tab. Well, okay, actually I did know at least some of that just from simple comic-selling osmosis and handling these books for years and years. But as I said, this remains a huge hole in my reading as there is nothing about this series that doesn’t say “Mike would enjoy this immensely.” Seems like many storylines revolve around showbiz-type material that Evanier knows quite well, something I quite enjoyed in the later Hollywood Superstars series.

There’s also a mini-series called Crossfire and Rainbow (Rainbow being a DNAgents member and Crossfire’s girlfriend, pictured on the cover here). I suspect most of these comics are fairly inexpensive to find, with the exception of issue #12 with the Marilyn Monroe cover by Dave Stevens. Darn you and your talent, Dave Stevens!
Dalgoda (Fantagraphics 1984-1986)

Okay, this series I read every issue (and the follow-up Flesh and Bones mini, and I feel like a short Dalgoda story popped up in an anthology somewhere…it better not be Critters or I’m going to be embarrassed).

The story (by Jan Strnad and Dennis Fujitake) is basically an alien life form lands on Earth in the near-future, and it’s Dalgoda, an intelligent humanoid being with more than a passing resemblance to a dog. Only fitting, as his name is an anagram of, well, you know. As can be expected, drama and hininks ensue, and…look, it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I can assure you that I really enjoyed it as it was coming out. I still have all those issues in my collection, so let’s add that to the “reread before I die” list.

A couple things I do recall about the series: one, the art was impeccable. Nice, clear and clean storytelling throughout the book, almost Moebius-like. The other was the setting, that this was a future Earth (a couple hundred years or more in the future, as I recall) and other than tech being more advanced, it looked more or less like modern day, which struck me as an interesting take. Again, been a while since I’ve looked at it, maybe I’m remembering that incorrectly, so feel free to jump in and let me know what I got wrong. But I’m not wrong about the art — it’s purty.

Dalgoa got a pretty good marketing push from Fantagraphics, with plenty of ads and some retailer promos (like Open/Closed and No Smoking signs).

Starting with issue #2, there was a fantasy back-up “Grimwood’s Daughter” (by Strnad, drawn by Kevin Nowlan) which…I’m sorry, the art was beautiful as should be expected considering who’s responsible, and Strnad is a great writer, but try as I might I couldn’t get into it. I was here for Space Dog, not elves, I guess. Maybe with my probably theoretical rereading I can give it another go and 40-years-older me can appreciate it more now than 40-years-younger-me could.

Anyway, if I recall correctly (and I may not) Dalgoda never really got a proper wrap-up. I don’t know if anyone involved would want to return to the project at this late date (presuming everyone’s still with us). Tacking on a new maybe-concluding chapter and releasing it all as a fancy hardcover (like Don Simpson’s Border Worlds) would be nice. One can dream.

• • •

That’s three more of your ’80s indie picks down! I’ll try to get to more this Friday. Thanks for reading, everyone…I hope you’re liking this trip down Mike’s fading-memory lane as much as I am!

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