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Monday, May 30, 2016

Our second podcast - chattin' with the Answerman (a Bob Rozakis interview)

When Chris Sheehan (Chris is on Infinite Earths) and Reggie (Weird Science DC Blog) told me that they were able to get an interview with Bob Rozakis, I could hardly believe our luck.

If the name Bob Rozakis doesn't immediately mean anything to you, then how about 'The Answer Man'? Or the assistant editor to Julius Schwartz? Or the guy who drove the DC Comicmobile in the 70s? Or the creator of Duela Dent/Joker's Daughter? Or the Production Manager for DC comics from 1980 and onwards?

The DC Comicmobile. Bob Rozakis on the right. Image source:

You can listen to the podcast here. Running time is about an hour.

In this podcast: Rozakis gives us an overview of his career and how he began working for DC comics. He also goes in-depth and gives us recollections about working with Julius Schwartz, what was happening at DC comics offices in the late 70s, and how the rise of the independent market and creator-owned properties affected DC comics. We discuss Rozakis' impact on the DC comics coloring process, a few anecdotes about working on the 1989 Hero Hotline series, the origin of the 'Mazing Man series and he closes off with a few stories about working with Stephen DeStefano. Thanks to Bob Rozakis for taking the time to sit and chat with us.

Music on this podcast: 
Fork and Spoon Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Know Your Suicide Squad: The Enchantress

The new Suicide Squad film is fast approaching and, well, I'm not even up-to-speed on the histories of all of the characters on the roster. This article is just as much for myself as it is for you, so hopefully you'll enjoy...

Know your Suicide Squad: The Enchantress

The Enchantress, created by Bob Haney and Howard Purcell, first debuted in 1966's Strange Adventures v1 #187. At this time in DC's publishing history, Strange Tales was a sci-fi/adventure anthology book that usually consisted of 3 or 4 features per issue. Like every other anthology, the features tended to last about 9 pages and were typically self-contained stories that a reader could pick up, read in one sitting and never think about again. Coincidentally, the stories tended to be one-shot tales featuring an 'everyman' character in an extraordinary circumstance (ex: Space Invasion) and how they dealt with it. The series tended to keep it's stories on "the fringe" and away from the mainstream DCU - so no stories featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or the Flash in here. Interestingly, recurring heroic characters (ex: Animal Man, the Immortal Man) were being introduced to the series around the same time as Enchantress was introduced.

Coined as the 'Switcheroo-Witcheroo', the early Enchantress stories played up the 'sweetly innocent person gets extraordinary powers and leads a double life' trope. In fact, she begins her super-hero career actively trying to help her fellow man. Enchantress had the power to fly, phase through walls, enlarge things, heat things up and, on a whim, change identities from mild-mannered June Moone to the powerful Enchantress. Actually, it's not clear what her powers were - I think she just had whatever power she needed to fit the story at the time. She was a character in an anthology feature during the Silver Age of DC comics, so I don't think too much thought was put into her powers and limitations.

panels from Strange Adventures v1 #187 (1966). Property of DC comics.
Origin: powers by Dzamor

It's not until her third story (Strange Adventures v1 #200, 1967) that we start to see the cracks in her armor: apparently June Moone is jealous of her alter-ego, The Enchantress, since she seems to be getting the affection of Alan [June's love interest]. This is an interesting plot idea to expand on, but would have to be explored at a later time since the Enchantress wouldn't appear in another DC publication until almost 12 years later. Why was the Enchantress' super-hero career cut short? One would assume that like most anthology titles of that era, the only thing that really mattered were sales. Reader response was gauged by fan mail, and if a feature wasn't getting much fan mail and the sales numbers were low when that particular character appeared in an issue, well... that character didn't appear as frequently anymore. [Or, in the case of the Enchantress, nearly a dozen years later.]

...and that concludes the pre-80s portion on the history of the Enchantress, now onto our favorite subject matter - the Enchantress during the 80s:

Written by Jack C Harris and edited by Julius Schwartz, the Enchantress re-appears in Superman Family #204 - 205 (1980) to battle Supergirl. A quick back-and-forth dialogue between the two indicates that Supergirl has previously known of the Enchantress and her mystical powers, and Supergirl goes on to question the Enchantress about her "turnabout" from fighting against evil. After a quick origin recap (that remains more or less the same as the original), it's revealed that the battle was necessary in order for the Enchantress to obtain power for the 'greater good'. This was all misguided of course, and Supergirl thwarts her. The Enchantress swears revenge on Supergirl and a new Supergirl villain is born. But wait! There's more...

The Enchantress is the red head in the green gown on the cover of DCP #77, apparently someone messed up the coloring. She is corrected on the cover of DCP #78

DC Comics Presents issues #77 and #78 have the Enchantress and a few other revived Silver Age DC villains (aka: The Forgotten Villains) battling Superman and the Forgotten Heroes. Written by Marv Wolfman and edited by Julius Schwartz, the Enchantress is a lot nastier now and shows no reservations about reducing a fool to a protoplasmic state should they provoke her. (Animal Man also expresses surprise that the Enchantress is now a villain.) Along with the new attitude comes a new look: no longer a brunette wearing a green witch/sorceress costume, she's going for something more 'elegant':

panels from DC Presents v1 #77 (1985). Property of DC comics.

A few readers wrote in to DC Comics Presents to express their joy that the Enchantress was back in comics, but disappointment that she was now a villain.

It should probably be noted that, of the 80s issues we've just reviewed, the only published Enchantress stories during this era appeared in Julius Schwartz-edited titles. Why that means something: Superman and Supergirl during the Schwartz-era were pretty much God-like (in the aforementioned Supergirl/Enchantress story, Supergirl effortlessly kicks the moon out of alignment) and it was getting more and more difficult to find ways to endanger them for the sake of the story. Unless they were up against a magical-based villain. Superman and Supergirl's only weakness was magic. The Enchantress may have been converted to a villain moreso for convenience (versus having to create an original mystical villain from scratch). Did DC have any other potential plans for the Enchantress? Why, yes. Yes they did...

In an interview with Jack C. Harris, the DC Women Kicking Ass tumblr blog asked Harris about a pitch he and Trevor Von Eeden made to DC editorial about an all female team back sometime in the late 70s/early 80s. The team was to be called "The Power Squad" and would feature Supergirl, Batgirl, Vixen and the Enchantress. When asked why he'd chosen the Enchantress for the team, Harris replied with "Enchantress was a minor heroine whom I had used as a villain in a few of my Supergirl stories. I liked the mix. I liked the science-based powers of Supergirl and Batgirl, balanced with the supernatural origins of Enchantress and Vixen". You can read the full article here.

In her Who's Who entry (The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #7, 1985), it's stated that June Moone and the Enchantress swap places when either says "The Enchantress" (similar to Captain Marvel/Billy Batson's "Shazam!"). The entry explains her change in appearance in the DC Presents issues as "the ability to change her own appearance (which she used to great advantage as leader of the Fogotten Villains)." It's also hinted that the Enchantress may have turned on the world after her encounter with Supergirl due to "some undiagnosed mental illness".

I'm going to glaze over her appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (1986) - I had to look very hard for her, and it ended up just being a side-profile head-shot. If it makes you feel any better, she's back to being a brunette dressed as a witch again.

Now we've moved onto 1987's Legends - the mini-series best known for introducing us to Task Force X/Suicide Squad. Legends #3 gives us a full glimpse of the Enchantress (looking more fashionable than ever, I might add). At some point during team introductions Rick Flag nonchalantly mentions that the Enchantress joined the squad for *other* reasons (indicating that she's not a criminal who's trying to attain a reduced prison sentence). It is also stated in the Legends mini-series it that the Enchantress has 'complete mastery over all things inorganic',  and the reader is introduced to the idea that she's a little nuts and can 'snap' at any minute.

panels from Legends #3 (1987). Property of DC comics.

This leads us directly to the ongoing Suicide Squad v1 series (1987) written by John Ostrander. Why was the Enchantress chosen to be part of the team? Well, I don't know for certain, but I do know that editor Robert Greenberger (who previously worked on Who's Who and The DC Challenge) was combing through the DCU for lesser-known character to use in the book, Ostrander gave his opinions on Greenberger's picks, and the Suicide Squad cast was fleshed out from there. I'm not giving you the play-by-play of what happens in these Suicide Squad issues (since Jason Brown already does such a great job of it), but I will say that - as far as character development goes - Ostrander really gives the Enchantress a lot of attention during the first sixteen issues of this series. [A major sub-plot in the beginning of this book is the idea that the Enchantress is so crazy, powerful and uncontrollable that she might compromise the missions - ensuing some pretty disastrous contingency plans on the squad's behalf and adding more drama/tension to the already volatile Suicide Squad.]

panels from Suicide Squad v1 #8 (1987). Property of DC comics.

A few changes that Ostrander brings to the character: the idea that the Enchantress and June Moone are actually two separate personalities, both personas are aware of and hate the other one [it is revealed that June joins the Squad in hopes of finding a way to 'keep her evil self in check'], that June is co-dependent of her Enchantress persona, and that the Enchantress gets crazier/harder to control every time June summons her.

panels from Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987). Property of DC comics.

About half-way through Ostrander's treatment of the character, she makes an appearance in The Spectre v2 #11 (1988). June Moone is summoned to meet with the rest of the DC mystical heavy-hitters, and at some point her Enchantress persona goes berserk and all of the other DC heroes need to rally together to stop her. I'm not sure what the point of her inclusion in this Millennium tie-in was - just to demonstrate how powerful she was? did DC have bigger plans for the Enchantress as a DC mystical character? At the time, both The Spectre v2 and Suicide Squad v1 were being edited by Robert Greenberger and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Ostrander's concluded his "The-Enchantress-is-a-psychotic-time-bomb" sub-plot with a new insight into the character's origin. It was revealed in Suicide Squad v1 #15 (1988) that the Enchantress was meant to be a force for good in some grand battle plan in the 'Nightshade Dimension'- a merging of 'The Succubus' and a human host - but the overpowering evil nature of 'The Succubus' corrupted the human host (which goes to explain the Enchantress' turning to evil). There's also some relation with Nightshade and her brother (he's the 'The Incubus', btw), and the story arc ends with June Moone losing the Enchantress persona/powers and Nightshade somehow getting the Enchantress' powers as a result of all this. This all creates a major link between the Enchantress, Dhazmor, Nightshade and the 'Nightshade Dimension'. Nightshade was getting a revamped origin around this point in the DCU, so this all tied together nicely. If you've read this far into the article, I'm going to SPOIL the resolution of all this: June Moone, feeling the 'separation anxiety' of no longer having her Enchantress persona, tries to (unsuccessfully) shoot and kill Nightshade in the hope of getting her powers back.[Mouse over text to view]

It would be nearly another decade until the Enchantress would re-appear again - this time in 1999's Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #13. 1999 is a bit out of our domain of expertise [we'll go as far as 1993, maybe], so on that note we're going to leave you with a few links to a few other articles that may capture your attention:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Upcoming Phoenix Comicon coverage!

Sorry for the lack of updates this week - we've been prepping for next week's Phoenix Comicon.

[We were waiting until it our press pass has been confirmed - which it has!]

Expect fantastic convention coverage from Chris Sheehan next week and (hopefully) interviews with a few comic pros from our favorite era of DC comics. Stay tuned....

Monday, May 23, 2016

USENET Fandom - Fan reaction to Alan Moore's version of Swamp Thing

Before we had the World Wide Web, we had UseNet. Developed in 1980, UseNet allowed a collection of computer users to interconnect via dial-up modems and post messages onto newsgroups (which resemble BBSes). Anywhere and anytime comic fans are able to congregate, you know they will be exchanging opinions and ideas about comic books - particularly DC comic books. In today's segment, Chris Sheehan examines what online comic fans were saying about Crisis on Infinite Earths. Please note: usernames have been removed for privacy reasons.

For today’s installment we will begin looking at the primitive Internet’s reaction to learning that all they knew about Swamp Thing... was wrong. As luck would have it, I hear tell there was recently a podcast on this subject... somewhere. You’re a resourceful bunch, I’m sure you can find it if you look hard enough.

Let’s look at a missive from a fella we’ll call MC, "Swamp Thing #21 (spoiler)" dated November 6, 1983. Curiously, almost two full weeks before the release date, if DCIndexes is to be believed (Release date listed as November 17, 1983). More likely the posting date got janked at some point in the past quarter century.

MC opines:

Starting at the start, Warrior Magazine was an anthology mag published in Great Britain. It featured several stories per issue, and would include Alan Moore’s early work on features such as V for Vendetta and the re-imagined Marvelman (aka: Miracleman). I lucked into a handful of these at a used-book store sometime around the turn of the century. They are amazing pieces of history to behold. Seeing the original V for Vendetta in all its black and white glory is a real treat.

It would be Moore’s work in Warrior as well as 2000AD that caught the eye of Len Wein, who at the time was working as an editor for DC Comics.

Contrary to the belief of many, Alan Moore’s first issue of (Saga of) Swamp Thing was NOT with issue #21’s "Anatomy Lesson", but with issue #20’s "Loose Ends". As MC offers, issue #20 was a somewhat middling affair, and served primarily as a bridge from the previous creator Martin Pasko’s stories to Moore’s new take on the character. It would close with the scene that would truly move the character into the new direction... it ends with the apparent death of the titular Swamp Thing.

As MC continues, The Anatomy Lesson is completely narrated by Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man. To his surprise (and likely that of the loyal readership) none of Swamp Thing’s internal “organs” would or could ever be of any use... at least in the way they’re intended. They were “stuffing” … Swamp Thing thought itself to be Alec Holland, and as such grew what it thought it needed to truly be Alec Holland.

Jason Woodrue - the Floronic Man

Woodrue thinks on a study done with flatworms... which, in fact actually occurred (on our Earth) in 1960. Granted, we get the inch-deep mile-wide explanation of the subject... that is all we really need here. The planarian worms would be fed pieces of chopped up worm, with the theory being that the eaten worm’s memories/skillset would be transferred to the eater worms. As if one’s memories are physically imprinted on a being’s RNA. On our Earth, the results were hotly contested... though, the test would be conducted time and again, often with government funding.

MC’s thoughts on the take are primarily positive, though he draws mention how this flies in the face of earlier stories. As it turns out in the letters column for Saga of the Swamp Thing v2 #6, editor Len Wein states that “all of the stories published after issue #21 [of volume 1] never happened, that is, Alec never became predominantly human”.

Moore’s take on Marvelman, as MC mentions has similar “everything you thought you knew was wrong” elements. Not wanting to be totally beholden to what came before, however, not wanting to disregard it all either... the Silver-Age exploits of the Marvelman family were, as stated induced hallucinations. A perfect example of having one’s cake and eating it too.

MC closes out his missive with a brief mention of a Jack Kirby return to the Fourth World characters and concept. I’m thinking this is what leads to the Hunger Dogs, however, before going any deeper into that subject, I’m going to have to do a bit of homework.

That’s gonna do it for this installment. MC’s forum post, sadly, went unanswered. That’s the way things went back when you had to dial in... and not every day/week either. No worries however, MC wasn’t the only DC Comics fan to opine on the Anatomy Lesson. Next time, we will look at some more. As always, if you have any additions or corrections, please feel free to contact me in care of this website. Thank you for reading. (Don’t forget to check out the podcast!)


Can't wait for the next installment in this series of articles? For more of Chris Sheehan, check out his highly recommended Chris is on Infinite Earths blog.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The 'El Diablo Interview' with Jai Nitz and Phil Hester by Michael Alan Carlyle

When I met Phil Hester, artist on 2008's El Diablo series, at the guest table of North Texas Comic Book Show he was wearing my shirt. Okay, that's not exactly true. He was wearing the same exact color and style of shirt I had put on that morning (and then sweated through) in preparation for my first-ever convention coverage as a writer for DCinthe80s.

"I was going to wear that shirt," was all I could think to say. He looked at me a little befuddled, this unassuming, soft-spoken man with the easy smile. I attempted to explain I had a printer issue that morning and in my cursing and kicking, perspiration had forced me to change shirts. But that was the exact same shirt I was going to wear.

We looked at each other and, in unison, said the name of the store we bought it from and I knew this interview was going to be a load of fun. It wasn't until I met Jai Nitz that I felt completely at ease, though. Jai wrote the version of El Diablo that will be soon thrilling audiences in theaters [August 5, 2016] and he shows the same quick wit in person that he does in print.

page from El Diablo v3 #1 (2008). Property of DC comics.
The new El Diablo (Chato Santana)

The easy-going pace of the North Texas Comic Book Show allowed the three of us to sit in the Downtown Dallas Doubletree Hotel conference room and have a chat about the origins of El Diablo, the dubious honor that working on this character had brought them, and the likelihood that this would be his only big screen appearance.

DCinthe80s: With the new Suicide Squad movie coming out, El Diablo has become a pretty hot topic again. Given that prior incarnations of El Diablo didn't have powers, why did you choose an existing name for what was essentially a brand new character?

Jai Nitz: What happened was: when I was at the DC offices I was given a chance to pitch my heart's desire. I was working on a couple of different things at DC at the time and the editors I was working for said "if you could pitch whatever you want, what would you pitch?" And I am Latino and I grew up with zero Latino superheroes. I have always loved the name 'El Diablo'. And I always thought both incarnations of the character, the original one – the western was by Gray Morrow and Robert Kanigher, when they created their El Diablo, he's a really bad Zorro knock-off. I mean a REALLY bad Zorro knock-off. And it's a white guy. Like why would a white guy choose to be El Diablo? Whereas Zorro is a Mexican guy. That makes a lot of sense that he would call himself "The Fox." But the fact that just some random white dude in the old west pops up El Diablo is in my opinion patiently ridiculous. And then the second El Diablo was created by Gerard Jones and Mike Parobeck. Gerard Jones has said often that it was his version of The Spirit. It was this non-powered guy trying to be in local politics. It was about as unmarketable and unsellable of an idea as I have ever heard. In looking at the comic itself, there is nothing wrong with it except it had as little bombast in a time when you needed bombast.

El Diablo (Lazarus Lane) and Zorro:
El Diablo from Weird Western #13 (1972). Property of DC comics.Guy Williams as Zorro (circa late 50s/early 60s). Image source:

El Diablo (Rafael Sandoval) and Will Eisner's The Spirit:
panel from El Diablo v1 #2 (1989). Property of DC comics. cover detial of The Spirit #6 (Feb. 1975). Warren Publishing

Phil Hester: Everything was over the top at that time and the relative success of that book had everything to do with just the talent.

Jai Nitz: I know an inordinate amount of information about Mike Parobeck, for whatever reason. When Mike Parobeck started on that book, he was from Ohio. He was a John Byrne clone. John Byrne did a lot of shows in Ohio at the time. I don't know if John Byrne was living in Ohio then...

Phil Hester: ...or doing a lot of mid-Ohio conventions.

Jai Nitz: I can just imagine this guy growing up: The biggest artist in comics came to his hometown all the time. He drew just like him. He got hired based on the strength of that. And this book looked really good, for a first book for a guy. You can see as the 16 issues go on, he gets better and better and better with every single page until by the end he's really morphing his style into what he eventually became which was this fantastic draftsman...

panels from El Diablo v1 #16 (1991). Property of DC comics.
Mike Parobeck art

Phil Hester: A Proto-Bruce Timm

Jai Nitz: Yeah, he's basically the style that Bruce Timm end up using for Batman: The Animated Series.

So in short, I have read every El Diablo appearance ever, because I prepped for it when I did this book that I did not want it to screw up anything good that had come before. There is very little good. I am not disparaging the talents of the many people who have worked on El Diablo, but there is very little good.

There is one El Diablo western story. It is four pages long. The story is terrible but it is Neal Adams inked by Bernie Wrightson. So that's great. That's good. But those the only four pages that are worth a damn of the entire canon.

page from Weird Western Tales #12 (1972). Property of DC comics.
Weird Western Tales #12 (1972). Pencils by Neal Adams, inks by Bernie Wrightson

Phil Hester: I think it is the only one people remember.

Jai Nitz: And it is memorable in its own way. But that's the whole point: I love the name. I love the idea of it actually being a Latino guy, but I wanted it to be something where it had some superpowers just to have gravitas... some ability to tell a story that, like I said, had some bombast to it.

I did not want to tread over the same path of the first two to begin with.

If we had been really, really smart we would have just come up with a new character name. But the name was so good and it was okay to tie to the old stuff and make it better.

Phil Hester: And DC had some interest in revamping the character, so they wouldn't have just tossed that out for you if they didn't want you to do that.

DCinthe80s: Perhaps keeping a copyright in play?

Jai Nitz: Yeah and it's funny because obviously at the time when we did this book – I'm very proud of it. It is a book that I still think stands up. And most people have never read it and never seen it because, while I am very proud of it, it was one of the worst selling titles in the history of DC comics. I think issue 6 of El Diablo was THE worst selling really DC comic EVER.

cover of El Diablo v3 #6 (2009). Property of DC comics.
Worst selling DC comic ever?

DCinthe80s: Really?

Jai Nitz: Yeah. It's in the bottom five anyway. Like it sold very, very poorly.

So I always said that was one of my claims to fame: I had one of the worst selling DC titles of all time. If you had told me two years after the book came out this guy's is going to be in a movie of any kind, I would have said "No he won't. That's never gonna happen." The fact that it is – hey, that's amazing. I'm very happy.

DCinthe80s: You nixed a lot of character designs for El Diablo, and one of them sounded interesting to me. Why not a lava monster? I'm saying: everybody loves a good lava monster.

Jai Nitz: The lava monster was second, I believe. My original idea was for him to be like a Balrog from Lord of the Rings. Phil drew that and Phil wisely said there is no emotion on a Balrog's face. And I went "you are 100% right. There is no emotion on a Balrog's face".

Phil Hester: He can't act.

Jai Nitz: Right, he has to say "I'm laughing." You can't tell that he's laughing.

DCinthe80s: You have to use word balloons for everything, basically?

Jai Nitz: So that just didn't work. When Phil turned in the second design, was the lava monster thing. It looked really cool. I don't remember why we skipped it.

Phil Hester: It's not really heroic still.

Jai Nitz: Oh, it wasn't heroic at all.

Phil Hester: And he's kind of an anti-hero but he has to interact with superheroes. An import component of the story was his wrestling with his humanity. To make him identify with a human was important.

DCinthe80s: You're saying the character design plays a big part in the visual storytelling medium. What did you want the look of El Diablo to say about him as a character?

Phil Hester: We wanted him to be readily identifiable as an anti-hero. For me when I think about anti-heroes, I think about The Man With No Name. So that's where the serape came from. Since he had the old west origins and the story ties back to those origins we decided to go with that sort of "spaghetti western" look but then jazz it up the luca mask and things like that.

Poster for A Fisful of Dollars (1964). No clue who owns the rights to the image of this poster...
Clint Eastwood is... The Man With No Name

DCinthe80s: Whose decision was it for him to join the Suicide Squad?

Jai Nitz: Neither one of us?

Phil Hester: But we're glad he did.

DCinthe80s: They didn't consult with you about the character or anything? They didn't talk with either of you?

Phil Hester: No, it was a happy surprise to us.

Jai Nitz: From what I was told, because I asked what happened – I didn't know they were going to use the character. When they did the New 52 at DC, DC went through their entire catalogue of characters and said these are the characters we are going to use. They had a shocking disparity of minorities. Very, very few minority characters. So when they did that they were specific about leaning to make there be as many minority characters as possible and they did that for different black characters, obviously we've had more women characters in the New 52 but they had very few Asian characters and very few Latino characters.

In the New 52 they gave Katana her own book and she had never had that before. They made a real push with Katana, oddly enough, where she was part of the Batman cartoon Beware the Batman and she was in a lot of different stuff.

With Latino characters they used Blue Beetle for almost everything. They said we are going to put Blue Beetle in everything they could. Teen Titans had Blue Beetle, Blue Beetle had Blue Beetle and lots of different stuff like that.

But then they didn't really have many other Latino characters that way, so they used El Diablo for Suicide Squad, because he fits in for the way the team was working. Again we didn't have any say over it, I just know they needed Latino characters.

Phil Hester: And he fits that "anti-hero" sort of Deadshot-type of antihero mode.

Jai Nitz: The bad guy you're rooting for. Someone who has to do good even though he's bad. It fit and it worked, so obviously there is no complaints from either of us. But we had not been prepped for it in any way, didn't expect it in any way and even when we did I was very happy as someone of Latino descent that they were using my Latino version of the character.

And he doesn't look the same and he doesn't have powers that work the same, but everything was a revamp for the new birth of the New 52 anyway so none of that was a problem for me, I went "Ahh, who cares they are still using the character. That's great!" Again, I didn't expect anything of it.

The fact that he shows up in the movie at all is bananas to me.

publicity photo for David Ayer's Suicide Squad (2016)
David Ayer's Suicide Squad cast. El Diablo on the far right

DCinthe80s: Any fear at all that, with the title of the book and the title of the movie being the 'Suicide Squad', that they might kill your character?

Jai Nitz: Yeah, it's not "Everyone Lives Squad."

Phil Hester: And if there are Vegas odds on it, I think he's probably your safest bet to die in the movie. Well, maybe him or Slipknot.

Jai Nitz: There are a lot of possibilities for the character dying but the good news for me was they let me meet some of the actors and it was really cool.

I got to meet the director, David Ayer who's also writing the film. He uses a lot of Latino actors in all of his films because he grew up in East LA. He grew up in a Hispanic community. His wife is Latina.

It wouldn't shock me if lives or dies. David might be "Hey, I'm not killing the only Latino in the movie," but it also wouldn't shock me if he dies... Like I said, It's not "Everyone Lives Squad."

Screenshot of Jay Hernandez as El Diablo in David Ayer's Suicide Squad (2016)

Jay Hernandez as El Diablo in David Ayer's Suicide Squad film (2016)

DC in the 80s: What projects are you both currently working on?

Phil Hester: Right now I'm writing Gold Key Alliance with Dynamite, which is a revival of all the classic Gold Key superheroes: Magnus, Turok, Doctor Solar and Samson. I'm also drawing a book for Image called Beyond Belief based on the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast and I'm writing a book for Image called Mythic with artist John McCrea

Jai Nitz: Go get Mythic! It's good!

Phil Hester: The trade will be out in June and I just wrote a Deathstroke Annual that will be out in June as well.

cover of Deathstroke Annual v3 #2 (2016). Property of DC comics.

Jai Nitz: I'm doing my book, Dream Thief, at Dark Horse. We are doing more of that right now that will be appearing in Dark Horse Presents later this year. I just a story come out in Creepy this week from Dark Horse. I have a couple of different books at Boundless right now, which is an offshoot of Avatar, so I'm doing a book called Hellina and a book called The Ravening. Hellina is out now and The Ravening will be out later this summer, and then we will have more projects there. And I have another project from DC comics later this year that has not be announced and when it does, you can imagine that it might have something maybe to do with the character showing up in the Suicide Squad movie. Maybe…

DCinthe80s: Seriously?

Jai Nitz (smiling): Yeah, Slipknot. I'm doing a Slipknot series. (chuckles)

It was shortly announced after this interview that Jai would be returning to DC to work on the new SUICIDE SQUAD MOST WANTED: EL DIABLO AND... mini-series.

Cover image of Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo and Captain Boomerang #1 (2016). Property of DC Comics.

This interview conducted by Michael Alan Carlyle. If you want to reference any of this article/interview, please credit Michael Alan Carlyle and Michael also writes the very excellent Crapbox of Son Of Cthulhu blog which we recommend you check out. Special thanks to Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and the North Texas Comic Book Show for making this possible.

Friday, May 20, 2016

2016 Ottawa Comiccon Panel featuring Whilce Portacio, Mike Grell and James O'Barr

On May 15th 2016, the Ottawa Comiccon held a panel called Creative Talk with Mike Grell, Whilce Portacio and Jame O'Barr. For the life of me, I have no clue who the MC was. If you know, please leave a comment and I'll credit him to this line-up.

[Please note: This panel was recorded with an extremely low-quality audio recording device. I wasn't able to catch everything, but thankfully I was able to catch a significant amount. If anyone has the complete audio recording, please contact me and I'll "fill the gaps". -J]

The panel was well into a story about Portacio's first experiences on Marvel's X-Men with Jim Lee (early 90s) before I got my recorder set up...

PORTACIO: Jim Lee, myself and Scott [Lobdell] were really proud of ourselves that Bob Harras, then X-Men editor, called us up and said "Hey, someone fell out so could you do this issue in 19 days?" and we stood up, puffed our chests and said "we can do it in 14 days". And here, Jack [Kirby] does it in 2 days.

O'BARR: ...and he [Kirby] wrote it.

GRELL: At my peak I was writing and drawing a couple different books, but I think the best I ever did was pencil about 5 pages a day.


GRELL: I actually fell asleep inking a page one day and the hand kept moving. When I woke up I had drawn this ball of... I don't know... snot or something like that 3/4 of the way down the page and rather than take the extra time to grind it off with an eraser, or painting over it with whiteout, I actually worked it into the design of the page.

PORTACIO: But seriously though, that is part of the job description. Because we have so little time. Let me brag a little bit - you now have concept designers for movies, animation and toys and you have animators and then you have storyboard artists and stuff. It's all the same skill set with comics. This is the way I put it: the plot that we get for that month and we have to do in 4 weeks - storytelling, designing of new characters, or whatever and writing - we get 4 weeks to do that. You put that workload to all of them, they get 4 years.

O'BARR: and we're doing, essentially, 6 or 7 drawings were they're doing 1. per page. so... it's a lot of work. At my peak - well, I can still pencil, ink and I do my own lettering too - a page a day. I don't play well with others. It's just easier if I do it myself.

Page from The Crow TPB Kitchen Sink Press. Property of James O'Barr.
James O'Barr's The Crow (1989)

MC: The thread I wanted to pursue in this discussion was the idea of independent comics.

O'BARR: You should get Kevin Eastman up here. He's the one who opened it up. The turtles opened it up for all of us. I mean, there was Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse.

GRELL: There wasn't Dark Horse. Not in the beginning. It was Pacific Comics first, and then First Comics.

O'BARR: Yeah, but they were doing full color comics trying to compete with Marvel and DC. But the turtles came out in a black and white book, and Kevin's a good friend but he'll tell you it was essentially a joke comic and it caught on. And it just kind of opened the doors for all of us. You didn't have to compete with Marvel or DC, you could do your own book.

GRELL: To understand what he just said about the 'joke' you have to fade back in time. At the time they did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the most popular characters in comics were Teenagers, Mutants and Ninjas. So they very cleverly added the 'turtle' part - which I think is the secret to the whole thing. The first book was a spoof - it was a joke.

O'BARR: It was essentially a MAD Magazine excerpt... and it caught on,... then they had to create a whole universe.

GRELL: "Oh crap! We're going to have to do this for a career now!"

GRELL: The other part of the independent publishers came about through a few different auspices: Kitchen Sink Press - they had just a tremendous amount of independent material at that time. Fantagraphics, too. Pacific Comics showed up on the scene and came knocking on my door, and they knew that I had a project called 'Starslayer' that had originally been intended as a counterpart to the Warlord at DC comics. The reason it never got published over there was because of the DC implosion that happened when a massive quantity of DC titles got cancelled.

O'BARR: It's a cycle. It happens every 6 or 7 years were they just go cancel 15 to 20 titles that aren't making enough money for them. So, it's a cycle.

GRELL: So Starslayer was supposed to be on the publishing schedule for DC. It was the opposite of the Warlord - I had a modern man in a primitive society, so [in Starslayer] I had a primitive man in a futuristic society. Pacific came knocking on my door said "how would you like to do it over here? We'll give you creator-ownership - which is #1 - and a royalty. If you sell enough copies, you'll earn your advance back and we'll pay you royalties" and that was unheard of in those days. So I jumped. I was the first artist to sign with Pacific. Jack Kirby was the second. Jack's book came out ahead of mine by about 2 months. Jack could write and draw a page while I've been yammering on here about Pacific Comics. I think Neal Adams was the third to sign on. Pacific didn't last - they just couldn't hold their act together. Hard on the heels of that came First Comics.

Starslayer #5 (1982) Pacific Comics

O'BARR: They lasted quite a while. 6 or 7 years?

GRELL: James was right when said they were looking to go toe-to-toe with the big guys.

O'BARR: ...and that's when comics were still on spinner racks. There wasn't a lot of space to go around. Marvel and DC pretty much crowded them out even though they had the same level of talent. It wasn't that the material wasn't as good as Marvel or DC's, but they already had a foothold on it. There weren't the comic stores like there are now, you had to go to the drugstore and they had the spinner rack. They essentially choked them out of the business.

MC: Are those models that you guys looked at while you were thinking of Image? Like previous ideas? [directed at Whilce Portacio]

PORTACIO: No, because we were young and dumb. [laughs] I think it was Rob [Liefeld] and Todd [McFarlane] that figured out the basic idea and then we go "yeah sure". My story? My story with that was every year at that time I would go to the Philippines for a month. So, I'm leaving, I'm going to the airport, and Jim Lee calls me up and says "Oh Whilce, something BIG is happening. we're going to do something and I can't say anything now but when you get back maybe I'll be able to tell you something" so I get back a month later and Jim calls me up again and says "oh, we did it." and I asked "what did you do?" and then goes "so and so, so and so. We've formed up Image and we're going to leave Marvel. and we've already written out the press release, so we're going to do it. so we just want you on board and want to know if you want to do it." and I was jet-lagged, still. So I just asked Scott, my best friend (we went to high school together), and he just said "yeah". Again, like i said, we were young and dumb. we were really full of ourselves - which is a good thing in art. You actually have to be that way in our business because it is a solitary business and, especially in the beginning, it was like - y'know - when you're younger your parents are after you and maybe you've got a girlfriend and she wants to get serious - and they're after you like "are you really going to do this?" so you really had to be confident that you were an artist. Think about it: Jim and I especially, we were in the X-office - the top office - earning the bucks, earning the royalties, getting the audience, and should we do this? What if it fails?

Whilce Portacio Uncanny X-Men #281 (1991) art

O'BARR: So what was the reason that everyone got together and decided to leave [Marvel]?

PORTACIO: I'll give it to you in a story that doesn't touch on any of the scandal parts. [laughs] Jim [Lee] and I would go to conventions, and kids would come up and we'd sign their books. All of a sudden we started noticing their t-shirts, and they had our drawings on them. But not only our drawings - there was like 10 or 15 different t-shirts with different drawings. So, we called up Marvel and said "Hey, do you KNOW about this?" and they said "Okay, we'll have our lawyers check". Weeks later, they called us up and said "the lawyers made a deal. so you'll be getting a cheque pretty soon". And this is the way I remember it: we got a cheque. I got a cheque for $34! And then I think it was Todd who found out it was a million dollar company. so - them: corporate lawyer, right? me: no lawyer. And then we started looking at the royalties, and at the time - remember they printed out the circulation sheets in the books...

O'BARR: ...required by law

PORTACIO: ...and at the time our books were making 400 a month. and we're going "this is a nice cheque, but... what's the computation for that?" and that with other things we started realizing there's a lot more money.

O'BARR: That's 400 thousand copies, by the way.

PORTACIO: yeah, that's 400,000 copies - which even back then I think translates to about a dollar of profit per issue. so that's 400,000 bucks right there.


[From memory: because Image was mainly comprised of all of Marvel's former superstars, the printers gave Image comics a printing discount on par with Marvel comics, realizing that Image could sell just as many books (if not more) than Marvel. Those gold foil and platinum limited edition variant covers? It didn't cost Image as much as you think it did to print them. A lot of their secondary market value was based on desirability and scarcity - not actual value.]

PORTACIO: Before this Photoshop thing with millions of colors and you could do all of these multiple shades, it was 4 color process. Meaning you would give them a color guide, and then some schmoe would need to cut the shape out.

[barely inaudible - I'm really trying to fill in the gaps here from memory]

PORTACIO: It was really Rob Liefeld's fault. [laughs] The real reasons multiple covers started: we all agreed that we'd start with our all-new books [WildC.A.T.S., Youngblood, Spawn] - but if you guys remember, very early on, we decided to do multiple books and bring in new artists. So this is how that happened: we're all oohing over our new books and bragging with each other about our first issues, around this time we had also bought fax machines in the office - you pay a lot for these office toys so you gotta make it worth it - so we started faxing each other all the time. All of a sudden, Rob started faxing us all these new character designs - with titles, too. And this one last fax had, like, a hundred titles and at the end it said "Hey, isn't this cool? By the way, I've copyrighted all of this". So Jim [Lee] gets on the phone and he starts asking people for ideas for titles and stuff and he sends it back to Rob. "If he's going to do this, then I'm going to do this too", Jim's thinking.


[One of the panelists, possibly MIKE GRELL, chimed in that while the battle of gimmick covers were occurring they thought DC was crazy for not jumping in and competing. Apparently, DC insisted on telling good stories and maintaining a solid, secure readership rather than getting 'caught up in the hype'. For the most part, this plan worked as DC's readership stayed consistent during the early 90s.]


[PORTACIO also told us a story about ashcans. I'm paraphrasing here and drawing a lot from memory - but if I recall correctly: Whilce explained that an ashcan was proof that you started a book - this was important because Image's production schedule was notoriously late in the beginning. An ashcan was an xerox of the first 10 or so penciled pages. Whilce went to a major convention and gave away ashcans for free from his booth that morning. They were all gone quickly. By noon, they were being re-sold by convention vendors for $40. Kids were bringing their ashcans to Whilce to be signed, and the signed copies were being re-sold for even more money. That's when the Image comics gang realized that there was a market for collectible and variant comics (gold stamp, platinum). I believe Whilce specifically gave credit to Rob Liefeld for this idea...]

Wetworks Ashcan (1993) illustrated by Whilce Portacio


[PORTACIO started a conversation by explaining that Wall Street was to blame for the eventual comic book boom and crash]

PORTACIO: they were the first guys to buy boxes and boxes of stuff [comic book]. So Diamond and everybody was saying "oh, we've got to print more" - and that's where the experiment started happening with pushing up the numbers from 400k. All of us had warehouses full of stuff.

PORTACIO: Do you know how Todd [McFarlane] beat the toy companies? Toy companies were basically Barbie at the time...

O'BARR: Barbie and GI Joe

PORTACIO: ...billion dollar properties. As corporate goes, and we knew corporate by that time, we knew they weren't going to touch that. They weren't going to rock the boat. Todd goes, "Okay, I'm making a couple hundred thousand a month on royalties for a comic book, let me spend 300k a month and I can throw it away on toys. So I'm going to pay the top sculptors, and I'm going to pay the prices to have a lot detail that nobody else will do - and then I'll lower the price too. Because I can go on for a couple months as long as Spawn comes out and not make money on my toys.

Spawn of McFarlane toys. image source: combosactionfigure.blogspot.c
McFarlane Toys

Thank you, once again, to the 2016 Ottawa Comiccon for organizing this event. Leeja and Denise, very big thank-yous to both of you.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DC in the 80s is launching it's FIRST podcast! Talking about Swamp Thing!

DC in the 80s is "test driving" a new podcast. We know there are tons of other podcasts out there, but here's why you should give ours a chance:

And you can listen to the podcast here.

Love it or hate it, leave a comment below.

[Note: Neither Darkseid, Parademons, nor 80s hip-hop is mentioned in this podcast. We just thought this image looked cool. -J]

Music on this podcast: 
Fork and Spoon Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

The Russia One - A review of Suicide Squad v1 #5 - #7 (1987) by Jason Brown

[Who is Jason Brown and why is he reviewing the late 80s Suicide Squad ongoing series? Find out here. Read his previous review here. -J]

title page of Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Opening page of Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987)

Politics bring a tear of boredom to my eye. Having said that, the opening of this storyline is well done. The title page in particular looks great, like a movie poster. The premise is plausible enough. There’s Gorbachev with his signature head-blotch, a clear eighties-ism. By this point I’ve zoned out and am skimming the details. The daughter of some revolutionary following her father’s example wrote a book the reds didn’t like, they threw her in prison, blah, blah, blah. All I’m thinking is the gang has to go on some crap mission to Russia and of course they do, they’re the Suicide Squad, and pretty much all of their missions are crap. That’s what makes it so fun. We read Superman or Batman and think, “So cool, I wanna be them!” We read Suicide Squad and we’re like, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to go do that shite.”

Enter the Penguin. >Wauuugh!< Another fun part of this book is how the core lineup stays the same while the more peripheral characters get changed out from issue to issue. The editor notes at the bottom of some frames keep reminding me of all the other great comics I need to read in order to fully understand what’s going on in this one. (Fair enough, but I got no time for Batman Annual #11.) >Waugh!< These notes keep me grounded to the reality that as far as the rich history of the DCU is concerned, this is only my first main course after the sampler plate of my few scattered readings from back in the day when the feng shui of my ten foot square bedroom was Marvel Comics and Iron Maiden Flags. >Quaaag!< I must admit though, what I’ve seen on this website in my casual browsing has sparked greater interest in some of the more obscure DC characters, and the DCU in general. It seems there’s hope for me yet, Justin! >Waugh!<

panels from Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Oswald Cobblepot: Master of Disguise

So the Penguin is needed on this one because he’s a better mission strategist than anyone else on the squad. Sure, I’ll buy that. We get some truly interesting back story on June Moon and how she became Enchantress. Her taut exchange with the psychiatrist should strike a chord with the bipolar readers among us, to say the least. Didn’t expect to see Deadshot having a drink at Boomerang’s place. Didn’t think he liked Boomerang, but it’s not like he’s got any other buddies around to chill with. Boomerang’s being left behind on this mission, so he’s cooking up a scheme to scratch his itch for some excitement of the illegal variety. That’s what I like about this book; in many ways these folks are just ordinary screwed up people with ordinary screwed up problems just like you and me, but they just keep living and making the best of it. They just happen to wear costumes to work. Most of us would too if we were allowed.

So fast forward and the gang is deep undercover on the grounds of the hospital where the extraction target, Trigoran, is being detained. So the plan is coming along splendidly and it’s time for Enchantress to pitch in, and of course we already know how that’s going to go before it happens. Flagg drops this eighties one-liner: “Hell may not be frozen over, but Russia is,” and I’m looking around for Action Jackson to pop out of the woods and ask, “How do you like ya ribs?” So Enchantress and Nightshade rendezvous with Nemesis but then the plan falls apart when the target, Trigoran doesn’t want to leave. And that ends issue 5. I don’t know if Suicide Squad is a typical example of DC storytelling, but the more I read, the more I just feel like the writers and artists really knew what they were doing. Everything just flows well, the credibility is there, and the rising tension is palpable. Good job DC!

cover of Suicide Squad v1 #6 (1987). Property of DC comics.

The cover of issue 6 is fantastic, a close-up of Deadshot aiming a rifle on a red backdrop. So cool. What I love about Deadshot is his consistency. His image, personality, lifestyle all match. And what I love about Suicide Squad is the inside look we get at characters that aren’t really heroes. Because you start to see everyone has at least a little hero in them, and the parts that are self-serving are just damaged goods, for the most part.

So the mission is blown, Enchantress is off the rails, and it’s up to Deadshot to bring her down without killing her. I think there is instant respect, especially among male egos, when in the company of a true marksman. We all feel that rush when we get the crumpled paper into the waste basket from across the room. It requires presence. Focus. Deadshot is just so damn good. I mean, yeah, so are all the other marksmen and markswomen of the comic book universes – let’s face it, ranged combat experts are an easy way to present new characters without having to go with powers, that and martial arts. But Deadshot is really winning me over. He’s just a true man’s man with a subtle sense of humor, a bit of a death wish, but not too full of himself to just come out and say he’s got a rep to protect. I think Lawton has the stuff heroes are made of and just doesn’t know it. For now he’s going with whatever the stuff is that goes ahead and shoots a Russian soldier in the head to get their attention. Should’ve told him, Flagg, should’ve told him! It’s like in Terminator 2 when John freaks out at his new Terminator friend.

“Jesus, you we’re gonna kill that guy!”

“Of course, I’m a Terminator.”

Ha ha! I love it! Then Lawton upgrades to some kind of bazooka and starts taking out transport trucks. He misses one on purpose just to “ make things interesting.” Penguin isn’t a fan. Ha ha ha! They get clear of the soldiers and Nightshades pushes herself to her limits to eventually get them all back to the embassy where they get their heads handed to them by secretary to the ambassador, Leonard Twilliby. Apparently they’ve created an international situation. Lawton get’s the final panel where he casually lights up a smoke and with a ghost of a smile on his lips, asks Flagg what he wants to do now? Love it!

cover of Suicide Squad v1 #7 (1987). Property of DC comics.

Issue 7 introduces us to “The People’s Heroes,” I guess like a Russian Avengers? Or, Ah – sorry - I meant to say, Russian Justice League? Nice. I can get behind that. Task Force X is in the embassy basement with 30 minutes to surrender, trying to figure out what to do. Lawton suggests killing themselves. Awesome. As you can guess, Flagg wanted to explore some other options first. So they work out a plan which involves stealing passports and clothes from Dudley DuReiht, (no joke) and some other American tourists. To keep them from talking, Penguin and Deadshot decide to go ahead and murder all the innocent tourists. An ashtray to the skull and a left cross to the jaw later, Flagg convinces Deadshot to discuss other alternatives. It’s moments like this my Deadshot fan club has to turn a blind eye. Yeah he’s maybe an anti-hero… or maybe just a sociopath piece of garbage? Ah well that’s what creates the drama in a book like this. Nemesis takes the fall so the squad can escape while simultaneously quitting said squad. He makes the comment that Penguin and Deadshot belong in jail, and of course, he’s right. When you think about it, the Suicide Squad is government corruption gone unchecked, especially when it’s for a stupid political mission like this one. This book is entertaining because it is about individuals not ideals.

Here we get a single page to check in on Boomerang back at his New Orleans apartment. He’s putting some pretty clumsy moves on a lady who turns out to be Black Orchid. Waller sent her to bring in Harkness who had been avoiding her calls by, y’know… leaving the phone of the hook. Remember that? I bet not everybody reading this does. I remember when I was a kid if your friend’s household had an answering machine it was exciting because you could actually tell your friend you were trying to find them. (Not as exciting when the friend’s parents told you to stop leaving so many messages and filling up the machine.) I love how Black Orchid flies away with Harkness dangling him by the freaking foot. That would be absolutely terrifying I think. Ah poor Boomerang. He’s like the court jester of this series.

Cut to the squad on a train. Wolves are following it making Pengy nervous and Deadshot is playing it up. There is a nice dialogue here where Deadshot tells Penguin he would likely do well in Russia’s corrupt political arena, unlike lone wolves like he and Flagg. Flagg objects to the comparison Lawton makes between them. I really like that this book gives time for moments like his. Just really good character- driven fiction. and the visuals are very well done as the conversation concludes with wolf silhouettes outside watching the train.

So the People’s Heroes catch up with the gang out on the ice and Bronze Tiger, Black Orchid, and Boomerang show up to help just in time, and thank God because Flagg and company are probably half frozen out there walking in the Russian tundra without their winter coats! The People’s Heroes have a nice mix of powers to go with their stunted English dialogue. I’ll skip the play by play here and let you read this for yourself. It’s a really good battle. Some Russian ‘copters show up then Sheba the Task Force X ‘copter shows up to counter fire. Then Action Jackson and John Rambo jump out of Sheba without parachutes or shirts and turn the tide for good. I may have taken a little artistic license with some of the details but you get the point. In the end Miss Trigorin dies and becomes a martyr like she wanted all along.

panel from Suicide Squad v1 #7 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Big Brother's answer to the Justice League

So there you have it folks. I just haven’t come up with a title for this one yet… From Russia with Blood? Tack in the U.S.S.R? Rambo V? Oh wait, I’ve got it… [see post title]

I am a just-starting-out fiction writer and musician living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. If you would like to contact me with work or collaboration opportunities, or just to make arrangements to send me cash, please email me. Cheers!

-Jason Brown 

All content in this article entry [except for the editor's note] written by Jason Brown. If you want to attribute any of this work, please credit Jason Brown.

Monday, May 16, 2016

DC in the 80s visits the 2016 Ottawa Comiccon

DC in the 80s was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2016 Ottawa Comiccon located at the EY Centre this year. This convention surpassed all expectations and treated many comic book/Steam Punk/Star Wars/Dr Who/Star Trek/Ghostbusters/anime fans to an exciting array of special guests, exhibitors, vendors, panel discussions and special events.

There was so much to see and do that this article can easily take up 20,000 words. Since I'm a child of the 80s, and I tend to gravitate towards 80s nostalgia, that's what we'll be spotlighting in this article.

Who were the special guests at this convention? Well, TV/movie celebrities that might interest you included Billy Dee William (best known as Lando from Empire Strikes Back), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky films) and Lou Ferringo (the Hulk from 1978's The Incredible Hulk TV series). Before you ask: nah, we didn't meet/chat with any of them.

Screeshot from Arrested Development season 1, episode 12. (2004)
Carl Weathers in Arrested Development: "Baby, you've got a stew going"

Comic professionals at this event included Mike Grell (John Sable Freelance, Warlord, Green Arrow), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Whilce Portacio (Punisher, X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men), James O'Barr (The Crow), Ron Sutton and Janet Hetherington. There were a few other comic professionals whose work I wasn't very familiar with (i.e. Dan Parent, Dave Ross, Eric Talbot, Marcus To, Jim Su, Mike Rooth, Robert Bailey, Tom Fowler, Fernando Ruiz, and Mark Shainblum) and I kicked myself and made a mental note to do more research on convention guests next time.

Whilce Portacio, Mike Grell and James O'Barr in a comic book discussion panel at Ottawa Comicon 2016.
Portacio, Grell and O'Barr held a panel about indie comics, but like everything else, it just ended up deviating into a conversation about Image Comics and the 'gimmick era'.

The Portacio/Grell/O'Barr panel was the only panel I attended - I'm not much of a 'panel guy' and would much rather wander the convention floor chatting with cosplayers and DC comics fans, but I will make an exception for a panel that is relevant to DC in the 80s' interests. Early at the convention, I manged to get a long interview with Mike Grell and a few quick questions with Kevin Eastman. I did chat with James O'Barr briefly (his voice sounds like Jack Nicholson's, in case you ever wondered) and I asked him if he'd ever work for DC comics. He told me the DC character he'd most like to work on is Batman, but he would need FULL creative control. So that answers THAT.

Guest appearances by 80s vehicles included the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters (1984) and the DeLorean from Back to the Future (1985) (not sure if they were the originals or simply replicas). It was one of those exhibits where you can have your photo professionally with the vehicle for a fee (all proceeds from photos taken with the DeLorean went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research - so, about $3000).

Ecto-1. Ottawa Comicon 2016. DeLorean. Ottawa Comicon 2016.

The convention's Ghostbusters/Dr Who/Star Wars/Star Trek/TMNT emphasis really brought in a diverse group of rad 80s cosplay and I tried to snap as many pics as I could:

Brockville Ghostbusters. Ottawa Comiccon 2016. Frank Do as Shredder. 2016 Ottawa Comiccon. Coolest cosplaying mom ever! Ottawa Comiccon 2016.  Stormtroopers (Capital City Garrison). Ottawa Comiccon 2016. Krang: costume by Marc Dion, cosplayed by Bruce. 2016 Ottawa Comiccon.

I was pretty impressed with this excellent cosplay of a character from an 80s film so obscure that I couldn't even guess who it was. Mouse-over the image if you want to know who it is...

character/creature from 1982's Dark Crystal film. 2016 Ottawa Comiccon. character/creature from 1982's Dark Crystal film. 2016 Ottawa Comiccon.

Major props go to Malcolm Beamish who cosplayed as one of my favorite non-DC/Marvel 80s characters: Matt Wagner's Grendel (Hunter Rose). Always a pleasure to see fans pay tribute to the 'good' books I grew up reading:

Malcolm Beamish as Grendel. Ottawa Comiccon 2016.

And finally, a big shout-out to this brave soul from the Capital City Garrison (they raised about $8,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation) who cosplayed as the FIRST Star Wars figure I've ever owned:

Weequay cosplay (of Capital City Garrison). Ottawa Comiccon 2016.

Weequay! Best known for 1) having a complexion similar to a California Raisin's, and 2) standing right next to Luke Skywalker A LOT while on Jabba's skiff (before he gets shot/thrown into the Sarlaac pit). This cosplayer casually mentioned that his Weequay mask was a special order/custom made, and there are only 8 in all of North America.

Weequay. Return Of The Jedi action figure (1983).photo source: screen shot from Return of the Jedi (1983). Property of Lucasfilm/Disney (?)

This action figure was obviously bought for me by a well-intentioned (but clueless) relative who grabbed him because he was the last Star Wars fig on the shelf at Sears. Whatever. I played with Weequay so hard throughout my youth that his back was permanently stained with melted crayon wax. And of course I lost his little weapon within the first day of owning him. (In hindsight, my parents probably threw it away for fear of me swallowing it.) I remember constantly rewinding and fast-forwarding to the 'battle on Jabba's skiff' scene in Return of the Jedi (1983) and I think I permanently ruined our VHS tape and/or VCR. As I was researching Weequay here, I found out that Star Wars fandom gave him a name: Queequeg/Pagetti Rook. They gave you a heart and they gave you a name, Weequay.

Unlike a few other "geek" fandom events we attended earlier this year, the DC cosplay was strong at this one. The most popular DC cosplay this year was Harley Quinn, Deathstroke, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Catowoman, Zatanna and... for some reason... the Riddler. Harley and Joker I can easily understand (with the new Suicide Squad film being released this August). Deathstroke recently received a resurge in popularity thanks to the CW Arrow series, so that makes sense. Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Zatanna have been consistently popular costumes among female cosplayers. But Riddler? That has me scratching my head. In the long-view, *any* DC comics representation is appreciated among the cosplay community, so I'm not complaining.

By far, my absolute favorite DC cosplay was the guy who dressed himself up as the Super Powers Collection Dr Fate. His costume even included a voice modulator to project his voice to different directions, to emulate that 'mystic' feel. This gentleman was part of The League of Superheroes volunteer cosplay group (who raised $1,500 for charity that week-end.)

Dr Fate cosplay. Ottawa Comiccon 2016. Super Powers Collection Dr Fate action figure (1986). photo source:

A really interesting '80s nostalgia' Ottawa-based vendor that I absolutely NEED to mention is Skuzzles, a retailer who sells limited edition screen print movie posters of really rad 80s movies.

The boys from Skuzzles. 2016 Ottawa Comiccon.
A staff of two

I don't usually spotlight vendors/retailers, but this stuff is too good not to mention. A sample of their wares:
Limited Edition Teen Wolf poster - Limited Edition Army of Darkness poster - Limited Edition War Games poster -

This event had no shortage of art prints, comics (TPBs, back issues, new and rarer stuff), action figures (vintage and new), cosplay accessories, board games, and other cool stuff to purchase.  I have a problem where I'm always $10 short no matter how much money I bring with me to these types of things. For example: even if I brought $500 with me, I'd still be $10 short. Thankfully, I was a bit more reasonable this time and brought significantly less than $500 with me. I managed to pick up a few complete non-sports trading card sets that I've been eyeing lately, on the cheap. However, once again, I was $10 short. The one that got away:

Impel GI Joe trading cards 1991. Image source:

The Impel GI Joe card set was released in 1991 and was frequently advertised in comic books. Now, unless I've got my p's and q's mixed up, at this time GI Joe was licensed by Marvel Comics - and Marvel was publishing a GI Joe comic book ongoing series in the late 80s/early 90s that I was quite fond of. So, by now I'm sure you're all aware of my love affair with early Impel card sets, thus Impel + GI Joe = instant gratification. I was a little hesitant since this set seemed to be more focused on the toy line than the Marvel comics, and I took a walk to think it over ("would I get $10 enjoyment out of this complete card set?", I wondered to myself) and maybe I was running to the ATM. When I had returned back to the vendor's table to buy it, some lucky son of a gun had purchased it while I stepped away. Just goes to show that you've got to move fast at these vendor convention tables. If you have any interest whatsoever in 80s GI Joe action figures or comics, you should check out GI Joe: A Real American Headcast by Aaron Moss.

This was a fantastic event and I hope to do it all again next year.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles/interviews with some of the guests we've spoken to <cough> Mike Grell <cough>.

Special thanks to Denise and Leeja.