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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Decade in the Life of Jonah Hex (1977 - 1978)


With a comics career spanning nearly 45 years, multiple cartoon appearances, a feature film, plus a guest-shot on the CW's television show Legends of Tomorrow (April 14th, see local listings), Jonah Hex is the highest-profile character in DC's Western stable. Created by writer John Albano & artist Tony DeZuniga (both of whom wanted to bring the aesthetic of "spaghetti Western" movies to comics), Jonah debuted in 1972's All-Star Western #10 (which was re-titled Weird Western Tales by issue #12) and quickly became a fan favorite. Albano parted ways with his creation after penning only ten issues, leaving him in the very capable hands of Michael Fleisher, who would accompany the scar-faced bounty hunter over to his first self-titled series, Jonah Hex, three years later.

Between 1977 and 1987, Fleisher fleshed out virtually every aspect of the character's life, giving readers details about Jonah's childhood and his wartime experiences, having him settle down and start a family, even revealing his final fate at the dawn of the 20th Century, as well as the possible nightmare to come in the mid-21st Century. In this series of articles, we're going to present you with a "highlight reel" of this ten-year period under Fleisher's tenure, showing you how Jonah Hex went from being a mere four-color cowboy to a legend that would survive the deterioration of the genre that birthed him.



When Jonah Hex #1 (March/April 1977) debuted, there were only a handful of Western comics still being printed, many of which either featured more than one character or were padded out with reprints. Starting up a brand-new Western comic based around one solitary character with a new story each and every issue may have been seen by some in the industry as a huge mistake, but both Fleisher and Hex were more than up to the task.


For his first self-titled issue, Michael Fleisher and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (who'd joined Hex's rotating stable of artists the previous year) have Jonah tracking down Tommy Royden, the young son of a wealthy plantation owner. Tommy had been kidnapped over six months ago, yet there’s been no ransom and no trace of the boy has surfaced. After two weeks of westward tracking, Hex comes across a boy-fighting troupe run by a man named Blackie LeClerc, and eventually learns that Tommy hadn’t been kidnapped for ransom, but to replace another boy who’d died in a fight. Sadly, Tommy himself died in the same manner not long before Hex's arrival, and since he doesn’t know whether LeClerc or his partner did the actual kidnapping, decides the best way to settle it is have them participate in "a little friendly fight! You know, like the kind you make those boys have!" The two men duke it out until they stumble off a cliff, and though LeClerc manages to hang on for dear life, his victory doesn’t last long:



The story perfectly illustrates some key facets of Jonah's personality: his black sense of humor, his unspoken need to protect the weak (especially children), and his determination to see that criminals get the punishment they deserve no matter what. It was a good way to introduce the character to potential new readers, especially since Jonah was about to embark on his longest storyline to date. Jonah Hex #2 begins with Jonah accepting a job from a man claiming to be with the U.S. Secret Service, but in truth, he works for Quentin Turnbull, a Southern plantation owner who wrongly blames Jonah for the death of his son during the Civil War. Turnbull was last seen back in Weird Western Tales #29-30 [1975] -- where we learned of the Fort Charlotte Massacre -- and though he appeared to have died at the end of that story, Fleisher brought him back to menace Jonah once more. Turnbull arranges this phony job wherein Jonah is supposed to win the confidence of a Mexican bandito known as El Papagayo, then spy on the man for the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the guns Jonah gave El Papagayo as a show of good faith turn out to be useless, and Jonah barely escapes the furious banditos by the skin of his teeth.

Turnbull must've known there was a chance the bounty hunter might get out of that mess alive, because he also arranges for Jonah to be framed for the murder of three lawmen, thereby placing a $10,000 bounty on his head...but even that isn't enough to satisfy Turnbull's lust for revenge. In Jonah Hex #4 -- the first issue of Jonah Hex to go monthly -- we're introduced to the Chameleon, a master of disguise hired by Turnbull in order to further discredit our hero. Masquerading as Hex, the Chameleon robs a stagecoach and murders one of the passengers, then later ambushes the real Hex and shoots him off his horse. Jonah is eventually found by a young lady named Joanna Mosby, who takes him back to her cabin. Though they get a mite amorous, it's soon revealed she's really in cahoots with the Chameleon, an alliance that turns sour when the Chameleon tells Joanna that, since she's seen his face, he's going to set the cabin on fire to kill both her and Hex. Too bad he didn't count on Jonah’s fancy footwork (take note of where the gun hits...owie!):



Hex and Joanna escape the blazing cabin, and though she says that she genuinely loves him, the man ain't buyin' it, giving her a good slap in the kisser before riding off. Moments later, we find that Jonah's been cleared of the stagecoach-robbing charge: an artist on the stage did a sketch of the robber, and while the Chameleon made himself up to look like Hex, he put the scar on the wrong side of his face, therefore confirming that he was an imposter. Hex is still wanted for murder, though, and worst of all, the Chameleon survives the fire, horribly burned and swearing vengeance upon Hex!

After this issue, the crazy Turnbull-backed shenanigans suddenly drop off, though Jonah’s “fugitive on the run” status still gets worked into each story. To that end, Jonah Hex #5 (a reprint of All-Star Western v2 #10 [1972]) gets a new framing sequence by Garcia-Lopez. The opener shows a posse in pursuit of Hex crossing paths with a woman on a buckboard. Turns out this is the same lady Jonah helped in his very first appearance, and when they ask if she’s seen him, she replies, “Ah ain’t laid eyes on thet man in more’n five years, sheriff!” The comic then rolls into “Welcome to Paradise” proper, and with the exception of some coloring changes, it's exactly as it was the first time around (complete with credits for Albano & DeZuniga). When the tale is through, we get a final page with the sheriff saying that Hex is now a wanted killer, and he tells the woman, “You see any sign of him, you let out a loud holler, hear?” before riding off. Cut to Jonah poking his head out from beneath the tarp covering the buckboard -- he’d been hiding there the whole time -- and thanking the woman for the assist. She in turn thanks him for what he did all those years ago: saving her life and paying off the farm. After the anger she’d shown him when they parted ways originally, this scene is rather touching, especially in light of the mess his life had become. It’s a reminder for both us and himself that he is a good man, he just has very rotten luck.

The next notable issues are Jonah Hex #7-8 (drawn by Ernie Chan, Noly Panaligan, and Vicente Alcazar), which reveal via flashback the origin of Jonah's facial scar. Back in July 1851, Jonah was a boy of thirteen and living with his abusive, drunken father. The elder Hex sells booze illegally to a local Apache tribe, and one day, in order to raise a grubstake so he can get in on the California gold rush, he decides to sell his son to them as well so they can use him for slave labor -- he claims that he’ll come back for the boy, but this is clearly a load of hooey. After two years of living with the Apache, Jonah rescues the tribe’s chief from a vicious puma, and they accept him as a full member of the tribe. Unfortunately, the chief’s son, Noh-Tante, isn’t so happy about this, nor about the fact that Jonah keeps making eyes at a girl named White Fawn. When they’re both sent out on a test of manhood -- stealing horses from a nearby Kiowa camp -- Noh-Tante betrays Jonah and leaves him to be killed by the Kiowa. Though he survives, the Apache have moved on by the time Jonah returns to where they'd set up camp. There’s a quickie glossing over of the next 12 years, taking us up to 1866, a year after the Civil War ended: discharged from the Confederate Army and wandering the West, Jonah stumbles across his old tribe. He tells the chief of how Noh-Tante betrayed him, and the chief decides this must be settled by trial-by-combat. Armed with tomahawks, Jonah and Noh-Tante go at it, but Jonah’s weapon was rigged to break. Deciding that one dishonorable move deserves another, Jonah pulls out the knife he keeps hidden beneath his coat collar and stabs Noh-Tante. Not knowing about the rigged tomahawk, the chief sides with his dead son and punishes Jonah for cheating:



So now you know: Jonah’s scar is the result of a red-hot tomahawk to the face. As with the Fort Charlotte Massacre and the "fugitive" storyline this tale is embedded in, it all boils down to yet another false accusation, as well as rejection by a father figure (in this case, his actual father is part of the equation), and in the long run, events like this have to color how Jonah thinks of himself. Michael Fleisher once commented that someone like Hex must have a certain amount of self-hatred to do what he does because, as a bounty hunter, he’s putting his life on the line constantly. To be sure, coming from an abusive household isn’t the best start for a boy, and suffering through the indignity of slavery would just lower his opinion of himself even further. But Jonah did manage take away one very important lesson from all this: he learned how to endure. Between what the Apache did to him and the torture his father already put him through, there’s little the world can throw at Jonah that he hasn’t already experienced. And there’s the more practical lessons in the form of hunting, tracking, and fighting skills that he picked up during his years with the Apache. So much of what makes Jonah Hex the man he is can be traced back to his Pa trading him away for a stack of pelts. Without that event, he’s nothing.

El Papagayo returns to get revenge on Hex in Jonah Hex #9-10, and in Jonah Hex #11, Jonah runs into Joanna Mosby again (sadly, she dies trying to protect him from some fellas that busted him up pretty bad earlier in the story, and Jonah shows that he indeed had feelings for Joanna by giving her one last kiss before she passes away). While all three issues reference the "fugitive" storyline in one way or another, there’s not even a brief mention of Jonah’s troubles in Jonah Hex #12, which focuses instead on Hex looking for a friend lost in the Louisiana bayou. It’s possible this tale may have been written before the current storyline was cooked up and held in reserve in case Fleisher fell behind, a theory lent credence by the fact that Jonah Hex #13-15 were written by David Michelinie, who Fleisher had brought to DC after coming across his writing samples in editor Joe Orlando’s slush pile. With the exception of the John Albano-penned reprint pages in Jonah Hex #5, those issues were the only ones not written by Michael Fleisher during the title's entire run.

When Fleisher returned for JH#16, he finally brought the "fugitive" storyline to a close. Jonah crosses paths with an inventor named Nostrum, who just happens to be familiar with the still-nascent science of fingerprinting, as well as the process of identifying the distinctive marks left on bullets when fired by certain guns. He can prove Jonah Hex is innocent! Unfortunately, the Chameleon has managed to track Jonah down and tips off local law enforcement (in disguise, of course) as to the wanted man's whereabouts. As the town prepares to put Jonah on trial, Nostrum continues to gather evidence to free him, so the Chameleon stabs Nostrum and impersonates the inventor in the courtroom. He gets on the stand and tries to convict Jonah with a damning testimony, but the real Nostrum stumbles in and manages to blow the Chameleon’s cover before dropping dead of his wounds. Furious, the Chameleon pulls a gun and rips off his makeup, ranting like a madman until Jonah whips out his handy-dandy hidden knife and shuts him up:




And that's it. After fifteen issues of non-stop action, Jonah’s troubles are all resolved rather succinctly in one page. Overall, the "fugitive" storyline is burdened somewhat by too much padding -- about half of the issues in this arc could be removed without affecting the plot -- but on the other hand, we did get Jonah’s "origin story" in the midst of all this craziness, along with a new bad guy in El Papagayo, who will turn up to menace Hex for years to come.



With its opening scene of Jonah getting trapped in a hot-air balloon and floating out to sea, readers of Jonah Hex #17 back in the day might've thought Fleisher was setting up another long-term storyline, but in truth, it was just a brief side-trip. The bounty hunter eventually ends up off the coast of Brazil, where we runs afoul of both illegal slavers and cannibals (he manages to survive both). By Jonah Hex #18, he's found a small patch of civilization in the form of a rubber plantation, and it's there that Jonah acquires something that would later be considered part of the "classic" Jonah Hex look: a matched pair of ivory-handled Dragoons.




Though there are errors in both the text and the art this first time out, it’s specified in the letter column of Jonah Hex #31 that these guns are meant to be Whitneyville-Hartford .44-caliber Dragoon pistols, manufactured by Colt Firearms back in 1848, with a limited run of only 240 (only a few dozen still exist). It’s not only a rare handgun, but deadly as well, with a firing power that wasn’t surpassed until the invention of the .357 Magnum in the 1930s, so you know Jonah didn’t just pluck those things off the wall at random. He uses the Dragoons to great effect later on in the story, and would continue to do so long after he left Brazil. How exactly he got back Stateside is unknown, as Jonah Hex #19 (December 1978) makes no mention of it.

In our next installment, we'll take a look at another comic that hit the stands around the same time Jonah was having his South American adventures. It presented a wholly different view of the bounty hunter, and would have an impact on Hex history for decades to come. 




Recommended reading:


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All content in this article entry written by Susan Hillwig. If you want to attribute any of this work, please credit Susan Hillwig. For more of Susan, check out her One Fangirl's Opinion blog.

Introducing Susan Hillwig's "A Decade in the Life of Jonah Hex" series

Jonah's been getting a lot of attention recently - no doubt due to the recent announcement that actor Johnathon Schaech will be portraying Jonah in CWTV's Legends of Tomorrow TV series - and we thought "what better time than now to reacquaint DC fans with Jonah Hex's rich history?" Jonah Hex was published by DC comics predominantly throughout the 80s (about 30+ years after the western-genre comic book was at it's all-time high), so this really falls into DC in the 80s territory.

This may sound clichéd, but Jonah Hex is one of my favorite DC characters. He wasn't always my favorite - I used to dread his comics as a kid (I was more interested in DC 'super hero' titles at the time) so I'd say that Jonah became an 'acquired taste' once I had gotten older and needed a reprieve from the 'super hero' genre. I really wanted to run something detailing how great Jonah was.




Admittedly, we kind of lucked out when esteemed blogger and fan-fiction writer, Susan Hillwig, offered to submit an article series detailing the evolution of the character. Susan is quite possibly one of the biggest Jonah Hex fans I know, being a major contributor to The Jonah Hex Corral and the  Jonah Hex, Via Pony Express FB page. Susan also wanted me to mention the Jonah Hex-themed Matching Dragoons website for your reading pleasure.  Seeing as how the first issue of Jonah Hex was published in 1977, Susan will start from there and lead us all the way to 1987. Hence, a decade in the life of Jonah.

Enough of my rambling and we're now going to leave you in Susan's capable hands...





Monday, March 28, 2016

Joe's 'Mazing contest submission

The Super Power hear an important bulletin on their wrist communicators! What is it?...




Our first North American entry comes from Joe Cabrera (@joecab) and features none other than Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano's 'Mazing Man (introduced by DC comics in 1986). Joe was strictly a Marvel comics fan until he picked up an issue of the New Teen Titans in 1980 and fell for DC pretty hard. We love the submission, Joe. (Joe gave us permission to post this early into contest.)

Joe's submission also references those one-page Hostess Fruit Pie ads that were quite common during the early 80s. Here's an ad featuring Aquaman, Aqualad and Mera (circa 1980):



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Peter David reveals DC's "Big Plans" for 1990's Atlantis Chronicles

Among the DC fandom community, Peter David is best known for his work on 1994's Aquaman v5 ongoing series (first 47 issues). David also contributed a notable amount of work to the 1989 Star Trek ongoing series (also published by DC comics) and a brief stint in the Action Comics Weekly (1988) anthology series.

Amazing Heroes had a chance to catch up with Peter David at The Texas International Comic Convention, Houston’s Comicpalooza, on May 24, 2015. For the life of me, I couldn't catch the name of the interviewer (and an internet search yielded nothing) so all apologies and if you know the name of the interviewer please leave a comment so I can credit them properly.


As per the usual disclaimer, this is a transcript of an audio interview. Anything in square brackets '[ ]' are my own comments and meant for clarity (or me trying to fill in words I might've missed).


Amazing Heroes: You worked on Atlantis Chronicles with Esteban Maroto, great experience?

Peter David: Oh! It was fantastic. I *loved* writing Atlantis Chronicles - I had so much fun with that series. And what's really killer is that I was at a DC Christmas party or something like that, and Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz were raving to me about Atlantis Chronicles because they loved how it was turning out. And Jenette said to me "we're going to give this book the [Moore & Gibbon's] Watchmen treatment. we are going to collect this as a trade paperback, we're going to put out merchandise, we're going to make sure that everybody loves this comic book" which they then proceeded to do nothing with. Atlantis Chronicles remains uncollected some thirty years later, which ROYALLY pisses me off.





David: When I wrote Atlantis Chronicles, I wrote it full script. And the script was translated for Esteban Maroto, who only speaks Spanish, by his daughter. So in the first issue I decided to have it be that the reason Atlantis sank was because of a meteor strike - which a number Atlantean scholars believe is what happened - so I described that the meteor was drawing closer and closer. And at one point, around page 30, I said "Panel 1: the meteor has drawn closer and for the first time we can now see the face of the meteor - it's craggy surface and exterior" now when I said 'face' I meant front/surface. We got the pages back, and to my astonishment, Esteban Maroto had drawn a death's head skull face onto the meteor. and I'm looking and going "holy crap there's an actual face!" and the closer it got, the more clearer it was that there was this giant death's head skull coming at you. And Bob Greenberger, who was my editor on it, said "do you want me to have art corrections change it?" and I looked at it and said "No,... y'know what? I like it" and this was my reasoning: if a meteor is coming toward you, and it's an ordinary meteor - you might have hope that you're going to survive. If a meteor is coming towards you, and it has a giant death's head skull - you're done - that's it - don't read any continue stories. Y'know - you're gonna pack it in. 'Cuz if a death's skull is coming at you, your ticket's gonna get punched. and so we left the death's head skull in there.


death's head meteor (Atlantis Chronicles #1 - 1990)


...and I wound up thinking "y'know there should really be some freakin' reason that a meteor with a death's head skull is coming at them" and I wound up then developing the entire story line in Aquaman [v5, 1996] that explained that it was not a meteor but a gigantic spaceship. Which made sense to me.





AH: Why did it take so long for you to end up on Aquaman? It was such a huge gap between that mini-series [Atlantis Chronicles, 1990] and you finally taking over the Aquaman [v5, 1994] book...


David: There was initially resistance because the editor of the series completely misread issue 7 of the Atlantis Chronicles and thought that I was portraying Aquaman's birth as an immaculate conception, and that I was basically putting forward the notion that Arthur was a Jesus figure - which wasn't anything that he was interested in. However, the guy who was writing the Aquaman series before I was, uh, apparently wasn't writing anything that was very popular and people weren't interested in reading it. Someone at DC said to him "For God's Sake, go talk to Peter David". I went out to lunch with him and he told me about his concerns and I immediately said "No, it wasn't an immaculate conception, Atlan the wizard was there. He had SEX with her and that's where Aquaman came from. I'm Jewish. It doesn't really occur to me to write Jesus Christ references into my books, it's not really part of who I am as a writer." And that immediately eased up the editor. Number one, I think he felt badly that he had come to that conclusion and number two, he felt much more relaxed then about the prospect of my coming onto Aquaman. I then started the series with doing a 4-part Time and Tide [1993] and then from there went into the ongoing Aquaman series. I had a lot of fun with it. 


Was it all a dream? Peter David sets the story straight...



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Again, I want to reiterate that this interview was NOT conducted by me and all credit goes to Amazing Heroes Interviews / Rolled Spine Podcasts for interviewing Peter David and asking the intelligent questions. I highly encourage you to check out the full audio podcast in which David discussed his early work at Marvel Comics (Spectacular Spider-Man, Mark Hazard: Merc, and Incredible Hulk) and his relationship with Image comics. Peter David also has a personal blog you can follow.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Usenet Fandom - more Crisis on Infinite Earths

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.

Today's piece is a special one. We will hear from "JF" about his thoughts, not only on Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the circumstances surrounding several of the heavy-hitters in the DC Universe at the time. In a long and vague post titled "Ramblings:long & vague" dated February 24, 1985 he offers the following*:




Let's start with Green Lantern. As Crisis began, John Stewart was growing into his role as a Green Lantern. In issue #188 of the Green Lantern title, John actually "outed" himself... removing his domino mask, and going public. JF did ask for Hal to turn rebel, well... Hal doesn’t see a change of attitude, however, we do find ourselves with a rebel lantern. Steve Englehart brings back Guy Gardner in Green Lantern #196. It may be argued that this book was in the midst of an identity crisis around this point. Following the Crisis, it was re-titled Green Lantern Corps and featured several lanterns, rather than just Hal or John. It is somewhat commonly known that Hal Jordan is a notable absence from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Hal does not make a single appearance in the maxi-series.

Now, onto ol' Barry. I cannot find anything to substantiate this, however it appears as though everyone figured out that it would be the Flash who would "bite it". I'll need to do some more digging to see if it was common knowledge that there would be significant "big hero" deaths. His own series continued well into the Crisis before ending with issue #350 (which arrived in shops the same month as Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, which may just have been significant itself...). In the lead-up to the Flash finale, Barry Allen was facing jail time for the murder of Zoom. This was quite an overlong story arc, so long in fact that DC Comics recently released it… not as a trade paperback... but as a Showcase Presents Edition. The entire 592-page epic hit in a black and white bookshelf behemoth in 2011. The Trial of the Flash will absolutely have its own Usenet Fandom installments as we roll on. Suffice it to say, it was long and not well-received.


Both Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 (left) and Flash #350 (right) hit the shelves at the same time:







"The kid with the wings" in Teen Titans JF is discussing is likely Azrael. No, not that Azrael. He first made his presence felt during the first year of the "Baxter" series of the New Teen Titans abducting sorta-kinda team-member, Lilith Clay. The two fall in love, though their romance is short-lived. Lilith leaves Azrael behind when she goes in search of her parents. Azrael winds up falling in with the Brother Blood Cult. One must wonder if the two were paired as a play on "Lilith and Azazel".

The "wedding issue" Tales of the Teen Titans #50 featured the nuptials of Donna Troy and longtime beau (and milquetoast sap) Terry Long. It was a wonderful quiet issue, and was a celebration not only of Donna and Terry, but of the Titans as a family.

Azrael and Lilith Clay (with Starfire in hot pursuit)




From letters columns of the era, it appears that JF is not alone in feeling that running two Titans titles concurrently was a "money hungry" move for DC Comics. It was, in actuality an attempt at producing Direct Market only fare, utilizing some of their biggest sellers at the time. Along with New Teen Titans, the Legion of Super-Heroes and The Outsiders all received "Baxter" paper upgrades. Rather than leave newsstand fans out in the cold, DC added "Tales of..." to the newsstand titles and ran both simultaneously. The newsstand editions would re-run the Baxter stories for the newsstand crowd one year after their original publication, eventually rendering these titles "reprint only".



That’s all for today, but we’ve only scratched the surface. There is plenty more Crisis curiosity ahead. If you have any additions or corrections, please feel free to contact me in care of this web-site. Thank you for reading.

-Chris

*Please note that this post was somewhat heavily edited to omit JF's thoughts on non-DC Comics properties.


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.
 
PLEASE NOTE: All sentences written on this page that aren't italicized were written by Chris Sheehan. If you want to attribute any of this work, please credit Chris Sheehan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

contest submission

Juan's original submission


Juan later added the following to his FB page:




ANOTHER contest submission that didn't qualify due to geographical reasons, Juan Havarti is a "fan artist with big dreams" with his own deviantart gallery. Love the reference to Batman's awkward arm placement, Juan.

Wanna enter the contest? it's not too late: check details here.

DC in the 80s interviews Michel Fiffe. Round 3

For those of you who don't know, Michel Fiffe is the creator, writer & illustrator of the smash indie comic book series COPRA. Not only is Michel Fiffe the one-man creative force behind COPRA, but he's also an avid and well-read fan of 80s comics (the concept behind COPRA was heavily inspired by John Ostrander's Suicide Squad [1987 - 1992]). Fiffe was one of the first followers of the DCinthe80s tumblr blog back in 2013, before we realized who he was we simply knew him as a connoisseur of 80s and 90s comics. Despite his frantic schedule of writing and drawing EVERY issue of COPRA on a monthly basis, Fiffe was generous enough to sit down with us and chat about DC comics from the 1980s.

When we last left off in the second part of our interview, Fiffe was telling us about his personal goal of reading every John Ostrander comic out there...

DCinthe80s: This brings us straight into Suicide Squad territory (and, by association, COPRA). COPRA started as you needing to take a break from your then-current comic project, Zegas, in order to get your Suicide Squad 'fix' out of your system, and it turned into Deathzone. One of the biggest things I've noticed (and like) about you is that you are really big on attribution. For instance, the opening sequence of Deathzone has a roll call of all the characters as well as the original creators and other creators that helped 'define' them. Until I reviewed this, I totally forgot that Steve Ditko was responsible for the creation of a good majority of those characters. I know you're a big fan of Ditko's - which Ditko creations would you appropriate if you had the chance?

Fiffe: You mean one that I haven't already? I can't come up with another one. The Odd Man maybe? I would just be forcing it at this point. Actually, the Question is a character I've always wanted to tackle. I got it out of my system with the earliest version of Zegas, actually -- painful stuff to look at. I would still like to make some Vic Sage comics.


Sketches of Vic Sage/The Question by Michel Fiffe:





DCinthe80s: On that note, I'm going to boldy state that you're not the biggest Vertigo-era Shade, the Changing Man [1990 - 1996] fan based on this quote:
"And they had Shade as a member! Not the milquetoast poet that’s currently being dredged up… I’m talking about the real deal SHADE! C’mon, any team that would have Ditko’s Shade the Changing Man as a member is OK in my book." [You Look Different Now, 2011]


Have you ever read Peter Milligan's Shade, the Changing Man in it's entirety? If so, what would you have done differently?

Fiffe: Milligan's Shade is a fun read, at least the first twenty-some odd issues are. That's all I've read. I generally like that specific era in DC comics, those pre-Vertigo books. Things like Animal Man and Hellblazer. They all took their cues from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, which is one of the greatest serialized comics from any period. I love those Swamp Thing comics to death. Anyway, Shade was fine tuned to that time and there's nothing anyone can do to improve it. It's its own thing. I personally have an affinity for the Ditko version, which was more of a straight-ahead sci-fi adventure with little to no introspection.



DCinthe80s: I'm also understanding that you were pen-pals with Steve Ditko. That's huge! The fact that you were able to have a mentoring relationship with a legend like Ditko is an article on it's own. What was the big take away from your correspondence with Ditko?

Fiffe: He's the closest thing to mentor that I've had and even that is stretching it. After all this time, I can't pick out a specific lesson because I feel like it's all a lesson. Ditko leads by example, and as the man has said, all we have to do is read the work, it's all in there.



DCinthe80s: In the same vein, I'm going to ask which Kirby creations you enjoy the most and would like to take a stab at writing. I know that you've expressed interest in his fourth world material and even contributed to the more recent Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers series - Captain Victory essentially being the continuing adventures of Orion (of Kirby's Fourth World Universe). Were you a fan of Kirby's Fourth World revival from the 80s?


Fiffe: I enjoyed them from a distance, in that they looked nice, particularly the Paris Cullins stuff, but I never dug deep into the revival. I liked them in their cameos, y'know, whenever Darkseid would pop into Superman or when Lightray and Orion joined Justice League America. I've always associated Mister Miracle and Oberon with the Justice League International, since that's where I first met them. It wasn't until Walt Simonson's Orion series in the late 90s that I got into the non-Kirby material.


DCinthe80s: So, back to COPRA. You've received some gushing endorsements - Chris Sims (of Comics Alliance) is a big fan, Oliver Sava of the A.V. Club is another big fan. For the last few years you are always on the BEST COMIC SERIES list(s). Sequart even wrote a review of your series. (I always felt that you've "made it" after Sequart gave a favorable review of anything you've done.) COPRA is very much modeled after Suicide Squad. You kind of mash all of the best of that era into a comic book series, but give it your own personal spin. I've only read rounds 1 & 2, but I understand that everything after issue #13 delves more into the characters (solo stories). Most of them can easily be matched with their Suicide Squad counterpart, but here are a few I'm not 100% sure on: Wir = Shrapnel or Calculator, Sniper & Brawler = Punch and Jewelee, Dy Dy = Marvel's MODOK, I have no clue who Vitas is based on, Castillo = Marvel's Punisher, and Xenia = Marvel's Clea or DC's Enchantress.

COPRA group shot


You've given a lot of attention to Rax/Shade the Changing Man, Gracie/Vixen and Guthie/Duchess. Is it kind of your way of saying that you felt their tenure with the Squad was too short (both had very short runs in Ostrander's Suicide Squad) and felt they should've been explored more? Waller, Deadshot, Boomerang, Bronze Tiger and Count Vertigo are kind of the backbone of the team - and you do use them sufficiently (Sonia/Amanda Waller you use exceptionally well). Are there any plans to add more Ditko homages to the team? [I'd personally love to see the Creeper or Hawk & Dove]. Also, if Sniper & Brawler are who I think they are, that means you don't think much of Punch and Jewelee....

Fiffe: DY DY is actually inspired by SUDE with a touch of Krang. WIR is inspired by Haywire. Spot on otherwise. Good call on Sniper & Brawler. I do like Punch & Jewelee, but I just didn't have the urge to put my spin on them. I ended up fleshing out Sniper & Brawler in issue 25, though; I was real happy with that. Vitas was originally based on Dumas, [Mark Shaw] Manhunter's nemesis, but he quickly turned into his own thing more than anyone else. As for focusing on specific COPRA team members, it's based on what the story demands, not as an exercise in wish fulfillment. Ostrander fleshed out the characters awesomely, especially for such a packed team book. So yeah, I wish Shade stuck around longer, but that's the beauty of those Squad books -- the creative team having to constantly be on their toes, at the mercy of the ever moving goalpost. I have the extreme privilege of having no editorial overseer.


 The Vitas/Dumas connection:





DCinthe80s: You've given a lot of fantastic interviews on your thoughts about Suicide Squad, so I'm not going to ask you the same old questions. Instead, I will tell you that I enjoy COPRA's DIY aesthetics and the fact that it's self-published. This really speaks to me (as someone who is a fan of DIY culture). Your success with self-publishing COPRA has been compared to Dave Sim's success with Cerebus. Do you think you'll be taking limos to comic conventions anytime soon? Since we're in an 80s mindset, I'm actually seeing more parallels between your success with COPRA and the success of Eastman & Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze back in 1984 (when back issues of TMNT were super-rare and selling for a small fortune). Why it's different in your situation is because your print run is low because your printing model was dependent on you selling out the previous issues:
"If I could've changed anything, though, it would've been to up the print run considerably. I did not see the tide of interest coming. I was making comics for the few folks already familiar with my work. Selling out of issues sucked; it's not as romantic the headlines make it out to be. I wanted to get books in people's hands!" [Michel Fiffe's COPRA: the One-Man Written, Drawn, Self-Published Villain Epic, 2014]

Fife: Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird's success is a story that's tied to the '80s direct market structure and mania. They were totally an inspiration point back when I was trying to figure out self-publishing, and before then as a fan of their comics. It was just a couple of dudes who put out a comic that got some traction and forced them to expand beyond what they were used to. The parallel ends there because there's no COPRA Saturday Morning Cartoon (yet). So no limos to conventions.

DCinthe80s: COPRA on comixology could be a major turning point for awareness and readership. I'm guessing that you've withdrawn from your ideal that comics/graphic novels need to be held in your hands in order to be appreciated? [Michel Fiffe’s Copra: The Most Well-Known Secret in Comics, 2015]

Fiffe: I do agree that a physical single issue is the perfect vehicle for many of these stories, especially mine. Some comics work better online or as graphic novels or comic strips... it's really a case-by-case basis. I wanted COPRA to have a wider platform, I wanted it to reach that portion of readers who are exclusively digital comics consumers. It became less about what my idealized version was -- which I achieved by simply publishing it -- and more about not omitting anyone from the experience.

DCinthe80s: I read your interview with Comics & Cola. You've got some interesting comic storage management techniques. For starters, you bind your favorite work, which I think is brilliant.
"Having these comics bound in such direct, no frills hardcovers made reading & storage so much more enjoyable & practical, but I also loved the idea of a curated collection of essentials. For this specific set of books, I got the idea to hit up a few of the related artists to put their own touch on the inside covers." [Cloak & Dagger Bound & Obsession Unknown: Suicide Squad Bound]
Another curious storage habit of yours is to buy bulk lots of comics and just throw them in the dumpster afterward: "I like to buy old stacks of comics, read them, then get rid of them. Not even for trade or anything, they just gotta go." I admire that about you. I still have tons of stuff I'm convinced is worth something to somebody and I'm not willing to give away yet. I think that's the 90s Comic Book Collector Bubble mentality that ingrained itself into my brain. My favorite quote from the C&C article was this gem:
"I once bought hundreds of Legion of Superhero issues in order to force myself to understand what their appeal was."
That was laugh-out-loud funny. It's mostly funny because I can totally relate. I'm one of those DC fans who never 'got into' LoSH the first time and had a hard time getting into it. Reader opinions on the LoSH are pretty polarizing - you either love them or you were indifferent to them. I very rarely hear of anyone who 'casually' collects LoSH comics - and it's for all of the reasons you mention in your article detailing your struggles with appreciating the Legion. Your article is so perfect and similar to my experience, that I plan on providing anyone who asks about my feelings on the Legion a link to your article and just saying "this".

Fiffe: I feel bad because that write up is a little petulant, in that it's basically "I didn't like this: WAHH." At least I tried to examine why I didn't like it. I tried being constructive. It's a testament to those 5YL comics that I eventually came around and ate crow and now I find them irresistible. Even the stuff from before 5YL... the time Giffen got back on the book and did his Maguire riff. I can certainly see the appeal of the Legion now, whereas before it was a blind spot for me.  

DCinthe80s: Just to drive the point home about how much of a 'child of the 80s' you are, I'm going to also add that you were a Atari/Ninetndo/Sega kid, grew up loving horror films, really dug those Masters of the Universe mini-comics packaged with the action figures, and... 


I'm not too clear on this... but were you also a GI Joe fan?


Fiffe: Not really. I had a couple of the comics and they were okay. I traded the COBRA-LA 3-pack for some Garbage Pail Kids. Zero interest. Same with Transformers. Give me Masters of the Universe or Blackstar any day. I only drew those GI Joe sample pages because it was the only title IDW was putting out at the time that I saw myself being able to draw. But no, I have to nostalgic connection to that franchise.

Michel Fiffe: child of the 80s


DCinthe80s: You also custom-painted some Vans slip-ons, which is arguably the most 80s shoe you can purchase on the market right now. I realize you can't talk about it [or can you?], so I'm just going to post a photo of them for all to admire:



Fiffe: Wow, that was so long ago. I considered painting on shoes as a side gig back then, but I never pursued it seriously. I only did it for friends. It was really fun and something I'd like to still do. I would just have to find the time to do it.


DCinthe80s: I saw you created a poster for a Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) show. Did you get to meet/chat with him afterwards? Did any other cult status 80s/90s bands pass your way?



Fiffe: Tons of them, but a highlight was seeing Mike Patton twice. That alone made my stint there worthwhile. Oh, and Fishbone, who lived up to the hype of being the greatest live band ever. Also, Robin Guthrie from the Cocteau Twins played a solo show and even though I was unfortunately stuck working the door, what I heard was unbelievable.



DCinthe80s: Final question, now that you've seen the trailer to the new Suicide Squad film (montage of movie clips set to the tune of Queen's Bohemian's Rhapsody) is this something you're going to want to stand in line and see? Are you watching any of the other DC comic book TV shows (Supergirl, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham)?

Fiffe: I tried to get into Arrow back when Deathstroke was introduced and it just didn't click with me. I'm not going out of my way to avoid these shows or anything. I catch them when I can, but I am the SO the wrong audience. Maybe I'm not, but I sometimes feel like the worst fan because I don't feel that twinge of excitement that fans must feel when their beloved characters are embraced on a larger scale. Last time I sort of felt that was for the Brave & the Bold cartoon, which was recommended, I didn't seek it out. It was great! Batman vs Superman, though, comes out this weekend and I cannot even pretend to care. I'll go see Suicide Squad out of a sense of... loyalty's the wrong word? Look, I just want John Ostrander to get gobs of money. He's the one who made that concept worth a damn. Without John Ostrander, there is no Suicide Squad. Without Suicide Squad, there is no point to life.


...and this concludes our interview with Michel Fiffe. Thanks again to Fiffe for taking the time to answer these interview questions. I strongly encourage you to check out his COPRA ongoing series, which lives up to it's reputation of being everything a fan of the Suicide Squad from the 80s would want to see in a book. Another one to watch for is Michel Fiffe's Zegas, which has more of an 'alternative' feel and has been picking up stellar reviews all around. You can also check out Fiffe's blog here. Late to the party? Read the first interview with Fiffe here

Because a fan blog merits a fan-drawn logo


I recently created this blog logo for friend and fellow contributor, Chris Sheehan. Chris writes at (the very cleverly titled) Chris is On Infinite Earths and all of those fun USENET fandom pieces you've been reading have been contributed by him.

Hope this tides you over until a better logo comes along, Chris! ;)

Also: Feel free to make fun of my lop-sided planets in the "IS".






Here's the original Crisis On Infinite Earths logo, for reference:






Tuesday, March 22, 2016

first contest submission

What urgent news has captured the Super Friends' attention?



...a hyper-muscular Captain Carrot, apparently.



To be fair, if a jacked-up super-rabbit was tunneling through my garden, I'd be contacting the Super Friends too.


Our first submission comes all the way from Spain, courtesy of Victor Grafico. Since he's doesn't have a North American mailing address, he doesn't qualify. BUT he gave us permission to post his submission - so here we are. Victor is a graphic designer and draws on the side. Check out his online gallery at http://victorgrafico.es/.

review of 1985's Hex v1 ongoing series


 
Jonah Hex was on it’s last legs when DC comics decided to to take a chance on this new series.

By 1985, Jonah Hex had been in publication for 9 years and had narrowly escaped three near-cancellations making it the longest-running (and only) Bronze Age Western comic book at the time. Things were looking pretty grim for Jonah Hex come 1983: super-hero titles were the popular genre at the time, the title had recently been passed up for the ‘Baxter’ treatment (higher cover price and better quality paper) because it wasn’t considered by DC to be a 'fan favorite’, and - the final nail in the coffin - Jonah Hex became a bi-monthly series after #85 (1984). Writer Michael Fleisher explained that the book wasn’t doing so well in the Direct Market (apparently Jonah Hex always did better on the newsstand) and it was probably due to all of the super-hero titles it had to compete with at comic book shops. What distinguished Jonah Hex from just about everything else on the market was the fact that it was a "typical Western" - it was set in the post-Civil War American West (circa 1850 - 1900), stayed within it’s own universe, the anti-hero protagonist was a flesh-and-blood 'everyman’, and the storylines were true-to-life with no super-villains, aliens or any other fantastic elements.  Michael Fleisher had written Jonah Hex stories since Weird Western Tales #22 (1974) and Jonah Hex had pretty much become his character by this point, so when DC decided to shake things up with the new Hex series it was a little surprising that it was revealed as Fleisher’s idea.

Well, actually that’s not the whole truth - Fleisher credits the idea of Hex to Ed Hannigan who, about a year prior to the publication of Hex, showed up in Fleisher’s office with a new electric pink 'Hex’ logo he’d designed for no reason whatsoever. This got Fleisher thinking about what kind of book would suit that title and a title about Jonah Hex trapped in a post-apocalyptic future was proposed to the DC editorial board. But I kind of suspect that story to be bogus, too. The first person (that I know of) to suggest pulling Jonah Hex out of his environment and placing him in a new locale to fight aliens and super-villains was a fan named Doug Taylor who wrote in to Jonah Hex v1 #76 (1983). Taylor argued that the series had gotten formulaic and that Jonah could be placed in any situation and still be interesting - he wasn’t criticizing, he was only offering suggestions on how to revitalize the series and it’s dwindling sales. The letter column writers dismissed the idea and Jonah Hex fans flamed poor Taylor’s suggestions in the letter pages of Jonah Hex for many issues to come.





There are some pretty obvious parallels between Hex and 1980s films like Escape From New York (1981) and the Mad Max trilogy (1979 - 1985) if for no other reason than they are set in a post-apocalyptic future and the anti-hero protagonist rides a motorcycle and is good with a gun. All of those films had a nice North American reception at the box office and earned a cult-favorite following - so that could’ve been another source of inspiration.

  • No matter what the true source of inspiration may have been, DC decided that Crisis on Infinite Earths was the best time to take Jonah Hex in a completely new direction and send him to 2050 AD. Harbinger (in the Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series) makes a very candid comment about Jonah Hex being plucked out of the past and being sent to the far future - so that pretty much wraps up everything, right? Wrong. Hex created two major continuity problems:Jonah Hex gets sent to a post-apocalyptic future that had somehow endured some massive nuclear war in 2045 AD that left North America as a (mostly) dystopian wasteland. This was in direct conflict with the Legion of Super-Heroes’ future timeline (then written by Paul Levitz). After the Crisis on Infinite Earths it was decided that the DC universe would be part of one consistent universe and only have one possible future, so now Levitz had to try to incorporate the new nuclear-ravaged North America into Legion of Super-Hero’s past continuity.
  • In Jonah Hex Spectacular (1978), Fleisher wrote “The Last Bounty Hunter” - a story which details the death of Jonah Hex in 1904. This creates the big continuity paradox of 'how was Jonah supposed to be killed in 1904 if he was stuck in the year 2050’? Fleisher never resolved this, but the ending of Hex indicates that Jonah does somehow make it back to his own time - the reader just never knows how.


Hex lasted 18 issues from 1985 to 1987 and was cancelled because sales were too low. I think the main problem with the series was that it outraged a lot of the die-hard Jonah Hex fans who felt that moving him out of the old West and into the far future was basically sacrilege. I suspect Jonah being sent to 2050 AD was a last ditch attempt by Fleisher to keep the book alive - Jonah Hex v1 #92 ended hastily with a lot of dangling plot lines left unresolved (the new Hex series was previewed in Jonah Hex #89).



Hex was still a good series, but I’m sensing a lot of it’s regular readers were new fans since many letters in the letter column inquired as to the origins of Jonah’s disfigured face. The series did not have the Comics Code Authority seal on it’s cover, but wasn’t overly violent and the language wasn’t profane (and I don’t remember of any implied sexual situations). Still written by Fleisher, the series was fast-paced and had plenty of action.

The Legion of Super-Heroes made an extremely brief appearance (Hex #10; ties in with Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #23) and a future version of Batman even guest-starred (Hex #11 - 12). I’m going to assume that the Batman appearance was just a marketing gimmick as Fleisher stated that Hex #11 received some of the highest sales of the series. Mark Texeira illustrated the majority of the first fourteen issues of Hex, and Keith Giffen pencilled issues #15 - 18. While Texeira was a great choice and natural fit for the Hex series, Giffen was not. Many fans wrote in to complain that Giffen’s art was too confusing and chaotic, and threatened to drop the book if Giffen wasn’t dropped as an artist.




I’m inclined to agree with the die-hard fans that Jonah Hex works best as a Western character in a Western environment (as nine years of continuous publication have demonstrated). Thankfully, Jonah Hex went back to his Western roots in DC’s Vertigo imprint during the early 1990s.



If you liked this:




This article first posted December 2013 on the DC in the 80s tumblr.

Monday, March 21, 2016

our first contest!

What urgent news has captured the Super Friends' attention?

Complete this image, scan it and send it in, and you could win a 'mystery prize'.
 
right-click and 'Save Image As...' to download image


The fine details:

Complete this image. You can use any media you want (ex: pencils, pens, markers, coloring pencils, paint, ink), but it's got to be your own work - so no cutting & pasting other digital images. You can also alter this image any way you want (ex: shrink it, enlarge it, draw over the characters).

The 'best' submissions will be eligible for a 'mystery prize'. What is the 'best'? We're not sure - we'll know it when we see it. The 'best' could be the funniest, the cleverest, the best drawn, etc. As we said, we're not sure yet.

Who are 'we'? Our panel of judges include:


More than one 'mystery prize' may be given out.  

Rules:
  • No more than 1 (one) submission per person
  • E-mail your submission here
  • Along with your submission, include your favorite DC comic book characters from the 1980s and your personal mailing address (don't worry - we won't send you junk mail). 
  • Let us know if we can can credit your real name for your submission (or if there's another name you want to use). 
  • Make sure you 'like' our Facebook page and/or our Twitter. 
  • Be funny, be serious, be somewhere in between - but don't be prejudiced.
  • Also, include this in your e-mail
"I hereby authorize DC in the 80s (www.dcinthe80s.com) and its assigns and transferees to use and publish my submitted image electronically."



This contest is only open to residents with a North American mailing address (because we're not made of money). Yes, this includes Alaska, Hawaii and Quebec.

Submission deadline is April 30th, 2016.

DC in the 80s interviews Michel Fiffe. Round 2

For those of you who don't know, Michel Fiffe is the creator/writer/illustrator of the smash indie comic book series COPRA. Not only is Michel Fiffe the one-man creative force behind COPRA, but he's also an avid and well-read fan of 80s comics (the concept behind COPRA was heavily inspired by John Ostrander's Suicide Squad [1987 - 1992]). Fiffe was one of the first followers of the DCinthe80s tumblr blog back in 2013, before we realized who he was we simply knew him as a connoisseur of 80s and 90s comics. Despite his frantic schedule of writing and drawing EVERY issue of COPRA on a monthly basis, Fiffe was generous enough to sit down with us and chat about DC comics from the 1980s.

When we last left off in the first part of our interview, Fiffe was telling us how his comic buying habits in his early teens were based on the characters being featured or the art in the issue itself... 

DCinthe80s: I'm more or less in the same boat - I was actually unaware of who was writing what when I was younger. I was buying issues based on the comic book character or team. I only put it all together when I was in my early 20s and I really started to examine the comics I enjoyed. We're pretty lucky as Millennials. I think one of the big advantages in our favor now is that a) we have a disposable income so we can go back and pick up the stuff we first missed, b) our generation is pretty up-to-speed on sharing information electronically (so recommendations about great books come easily), and c) nearly everything is now available in TPB form - so we can get it cheaper as reprints (versus chasing back issues). Which DC books from the 80s did you 're-discover' as you got older? What do you recommend as 'underappreciated gems'?

Fiffe: The funny thing about "disposable income" is that this is pretty much as cheap of a vice as they come. I think comics in general should be low cost entertainment, so bin diving for old gems is sort of perfect. As for recommendations... Thriller is the big obvious choice because it's reached cult classic status. I've beat that drum to death at this point. No one wants to hear what I think of it -- go out and buy it already! I would also recommend Haywire, written by Michael Fleisher and drawn by Vince Giarrano. Kyle Baker inked the first few issues which really complemented Giarrano's open, breezy style. The story itself has a lot of cool ideas and moments but it sort of meanders. The final issue has beautiful Bill Wray colors. Another series I'm fond of is Tailgunner Jo a fantasy comic written by Peter B. Gillis. Don't let that deter you, though Ty Templeton inked Tom Artis for the first 2 issues and that's all you need. These three titles represent the last time DC published these weird stories within their mainline imprint that had no commercial appeal. None of them tied to the rest of their line and editors must've been losing bets left and right.



 

DCinthe80s: A little off-topic here, but you also mentioned your discovery of alternative comics. What indie material left a lasting impression on you? What would you identify as 'underappreciated gems'? I definitely see a bit of Hernandez Bros and Daniel Clowes influence in your Knitting Factory flyers, concert posters, zines and other early Alternative comic work. 


Fiffe: I can't stress how much of an influence Evan Dorkin was. I was deeply hooked from the word 'go'. Milk & CheesePirate Corp$!Vroom Socko, DORK, you name it. I then discovered his Bill & Ted run and there was the proof: you can do independent work and work for the Big Two. I mean, this was as a teenager, I had no idea what the realities of the industry were. But yeah, Dorkin is so genuinely hilarious and so are his comics, y'know... it translates. World's Funnest remains one of the best comics DC has ever published.


Aquaman by Evan Dorkin. Excerpt from Dork.




DCinthe80s: Your blogs (zegas tumblr.com & michelfiffe.com) and really fascinating. If anything was ever a love-letter to the comic books of the 80s and 90s, these would be it. You don't just say "I like this" or "this is good", you explain "I like this because..." and "this was good because..." and really examine/study/deconstruct the material. You focus on design, form and color combination - it's really a study on style and composition. "What it comes down to is that sometimes you just gotta read comics for the art." You've done examinations on the work of Kyle Baker, Eduardo Barreto, David Mazzucchelli, Dennis Fujitake, Jorge Zaffino, along with a few others I'm forgetting to mention. Specifically, of the more 'better known' 80s artists out there, I'd say you had an affinity for Ernie Colon, Howard Chaykin, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Norm Breyfogle, Klaus Janson, Jerry Ordway, Mike Mignloa, Jose Lopez Garcia, Jim Aparo, and Walter Simonson. Any glaring omissions here?

Fiffe: I'd say add the Hernandez Bros. to the list. Two of my biggest influences. They're not mainstream, they're not alternative, they're beyond all that. They're the tops dogs. If you wanna get technical in regards to the blog, then Jaime drew a couple of Who's Who entries and he & Gilbert contributed to that huge jam piece in the History of the DC Universe. [Hourman and Jay Garrick]


Jaime Hernandez Phantom Girl art



DCinthe80s: I think my favorite material from your Michel Fiffe blog was your series about your attempts at 'breaking in' during the late 90's. My absolute favorite quote from this segment is your meeting with the late Dick Giordano
"Then I went into Artists Alley, right to Dick Giordano’s table because even though I knew he wasn’t an active editor, he had a history of working with many of my favorite artists such as Ditko, Miller & Aparo. If anyone there would’ve appreciated good, solid storytelling without boobs and blood, if anyone knew the difference between moodily crouching over a city and taking a dump, it would’ve been Dick Giordano."
 From the same article series

"I mentioned that I wasn’t too hip to what was going on in comics back in the mid to late 90s. I had no idea what the Vertigo imprint meant or what “Preacher” was but I flipped through it and saw that it had no superheroes... perfect!"

The big thing I'm taking back from your experiences with applying to DC (and Marvel among others) is that they had a specific 'house style' and for whatever reason you didn't meet the criteria. Which is a shame - I really liked your 'homeless Batman' (reminds me of Kelley Jones and/or Sam Keith's versions of Batman). I would've purchased that comic in a heartbeat. I guess you got the last laugh, after-all? By the way, you should illustrate that whole feature - definitely Harvey Pekar material right there.

Fiffe: I don't think there really was a house style anywhere, ever. There may be trends and fads and sometimes a line of books can have a homogenous look to it, but I always think there's room for a little variety in art style. And that's where I always thought I would fit in. I can't think of why I didn't break in back then; there are so many factors at play. All I can say is that even at their most conservative, Marvel and DC have a wide enough platform to accommodate some wonderfully off model styles. They repeatedly published Mark Badger, for f**k's sake!



Michel Fiffe's defender of the night and seeker of spare change

 


DCinthe80s: You've also collaborated with Mike Baron on a pitch. Are you also a huge Mike Baron fan (you've often mention your love of Marvel's Punisher in your blog). What did you think of his DC material from the 80s?


Fiffe: I absolutely adore Baron's DC material. His Teen Titans Spotlight two-parter and his Flash run are fun, tight, and batshit crazy. Baron's lean script and oddball concepts work really well with Jackson Guice's stiff, awkward style. It just works! There's something about that combination. Those Flash issues are textbook in terms of taking an old idea and injecting totally different elements into the status quo.Baron was good like that. But you know, I've never taken the plunge on Sonic Disruptors. I'll trade wait that one.



 



DCinthe80s: So, not only are you self-publishing a monthly comic book, but you are also an accomplished comics journalist. Not bad for a guy who didn't go to art school: "I wasn’t going to school for comic book study; I got accepted into SVA and the The Kubert School, but I couldn’t afford to go to either one."

You've:
-written for The Comics Journal
-interviewed Jason Latour 

-interviewed Trevor Von Eeden
-interviewed Tony Salmons
-interviewed Mark Badger
-interviewed Ty Templeton
-solved the mystery of why Thriller was cancelled

-and, probably most importantly, interviewed John Ostrander

I've noticed that you have a deep appreciation and great deal of respect for Ostrander. A few choice quotes:

"While writers sometimes make it obvious that they don’t have the world view to back up their ideas, Ostrander dealt with class issues and race semi frequently without veering into soapbox, insensitivity or parody. I’m not suggesting a writer needs to cash welfare checks to tell a story about the poor with accuracy, or that writers need to shoot a person to write a crime story with any sort of command, but Ostrander touched upon the subject with considerable maturity." (You Look Different Now, 2011)
and

"Ostrander is such a smart writer, he plays the characters just right. He just nails their voices consistently. I never cringe reading his stuff. There are modern comics that make me physically cringe. Like they're trying so hard to impress you, they're self-consciousness is really off putting. Ostrander, back when these comics were for young people - little kids - wrote confidently, he didn't need to impress shit. You have to understand, Ostrander came from acting, he came from improv and the stage. He entered comics when he was 33; this was a man with a life, not some putz who'd been fed on pretentious Grant Morrison comics all his life." (Consider My Weapons: the Michel Fiffe Copra exit interview, 2013)

Have you went back and re-read any of Ostrander's other early DC material (ex: Hawkworld, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm), did it hold as well as Suicide Squad?

Fiffe: Wasteland is particularly inspired and so the Spectre in a lot of ways. Firestorm, as honest of an effort as it was, suffers from having some of the worst artwork in all of comics in the form of J.J. Birch. That is some truly unforgivable horseshit. Anyway, a few years ago I set myself the task of reading everything he has ever written. The goal was to read everything chronologically and study his progression as a writer. It dawned on me that he is perhaps one of the best Batman writers ever, simply based on the smattering of opportunities he had to write him. But yeah, man, collecting every Ostrander comic? Rai and the Future Force almost broke me. I almost abandoned the entire stupid project when I saw I had to read Deathmate Blue.



Michel Fiffe was extremely generous with his time and this interview is so long that it needs to run in three parts. In our next installment, Fiffe discusses he was influenced by Ditko and Kirby, why he had so much trouble with the Legion of Super Heroes and...what you've all been waiting for... which DC characters the members of COPRA are based on.