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Friday, June 29, 2018

Neal Adams talks Batman villains, Continuity Comics and Bucky O'Hare

Neal Adams is a fascinating speaker -- he's interesting, he knows how to control the flow of a discussion and he's humorous. Attendees of the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon were very lucky to be treated to a one-hour Q&A Panel with Adams on the first day of the convention. When Neal Adams speaks, comic fans can't help but gather to listen.

The first twenty minutes of his Q&A panel had Neal Adams delivering a monologue encouraging new artists/writers to self-publish since most publishers are hesitant to take a chance on any concepts that seem 'too new'. Examples he cited were Dave Sim (creator of Cerebus the Aardvark) and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman from back in the 1930s). It was essentially a 'Don't give up your dream' speech. The rest of the panel was opened up for fans in attendance to ask questions.

I often tend to forget that Neal Adams played a big part in building some of the more popular elements of the Batman mythos; Neal worked on Batman in the early 1970s for several years and  was integral in helping Batman lose his 'campy' Batman '66 image and bringing him back to being a grim and brooding dark knight. I was the first to ask about the inspiration behind the new Batman rogues Neal Adams introduced.


THE CREATION OF THE LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS

Neal Adams: "That [idea] came from Murder Incorporated. Murder Incorporated was a semi-International murder/assassination organization that existed in the world. You also have the Yakuza. So there already were organizations like that -- at least two -- in the world. To pick up an idea that was lying around the street available for anybody, the League of Assassins was a very very logical thing to do."



First appearance of the League of Assassins from Strange Adventures #215 (1968). Art by Neal Adams.

Members of Murder Inc. photo source: Mafia Wiki



RA'S AL GHUL

Neal Adams: "The idea of Ra's Al Ghul is a little bit different. I was doing Batman with Denny O'Neil for Julius Schwartz, and [we] were trying NOT to do clowns, because basically -- you see, you guys don't necessarily know this because you're not old enough to know this -- Batman and his villains come from Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy had all these [villains]... Prune Face, Flat Top, The Blank... so when Bob Kane and Bill Finger were doing Batman, basically they stole the ideas of these crazy-weird guys from Dick Tracy. So we get the Mad Hatter, the Joker, the Penguin and all these kinda off-beat characters. A little hard to believe that a real Batman would be fighting these guys -- but you believed it with Dick Tracy, so why not Batman?"

"So when Denny and I picked up doing Batman, the question was: do we bring in the clowns? Not to begin with. So we didn't at the beginning, but we knew that sooner or later we were going to HAVE to. I went to Julie [aka Julius Schwartz] and told him that Batman needs a Moriarty. Julie said "what do you mean?" and I explained that we were going to start doing the Joker and the Riddler and the Two-Face, and we NEED a Moriarty. We need a real villain that's AS GOOD as Batman, because Sherlock Holmes -- the greatest detective in the world -- had Moriarty. As we all know. And he did well by him, if it wasn't for Moriarty, who knows if we would've had a successful Sherlock Holmes? We NEEDED one. Julie said "let me think about that"."

First appearance of Ra's Al Ghul & Ubu from Batman v1 #232 (1971)
Illustrated by Neal Adams and inked by Dick Giordano 

Neal Adams: "Julie came in on Monday and said "Ra's Al Ghul!" My reaction: "What does that mean?" He replied "It means that's your new villain. It translates to 'Head of the Demon' in arabic. It's up to you to figure out what he looks like." So I did. That was my job. He looks sorta like Jack Palance if you shaved his head back a little bit. Do you know who Jack Palance is? Evil, evil actor. A wonderful evil actor -- for those of you who are old enough to know: when Jack Palance came on the screen you'd start to shudder. His eyes were close together and sunken in his head -- just a horrible-looking guy. He was the villain in 1953's Shane. So that was Ra's Al Ghul. It launched Batman with a NEW villain, and then we can bring in the clowns, because there was always Ra's Al Ghul lying in the background. You don't see much of Ra's Al Ghul if you think about it. He's sort of like that entity that's waiting back there to mess everything up. And sometimes you think that Ra's Al Ghul is trying to be a good guy -- and then he kills a few people and you go "well I guess he's not"."

actor Jack Palance circa 1954. source: wikipedia 



MAN-BAT

Neal Adams: "Batman NEEDED a Ra's Al Ghul, and I think he needed a Man-Bat. He needed a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde who is not exactly a clown -- so I created THAT. By the way -- Man-Bat -- when is he going to appear in a movie? He's in the cartoons, he's in the toys, but he's not in the movie. They keep on resurging Two-Face. What's the deal with that? I don't get it."

Man-Bat from Detective Comics v1 #407 (1971).
Illustrated by Neal Adams and inked by Dick Giordano.



CONTINUITY COMICS

Back in 1984, a very small and relatively unknown (unknown to me, anyways) publisher was sporadically releasing comic books. This publisher was called Continuity Comics. Early titles you may recognize included Captain Power and the Soldier of the Future, Zero Patrol, Revengers, Armor, Echo of FuturePast (first appearance of Bucky O'Hare), and Toy Boy. During the late eighties, Continuity Comics really began stepping up their game and started releasing a flurry of new titles: Megalith, Ms Mystic, Cyberrad, Hybrids, Samuree, Crazyman, a big cross-over called DeathWatch 2000, another cross-over called Rise of Magic, and then... nothing. I always wondered what happened to this publisher. It was only a few years ago that I discovered that it was Neal Adams' publishing company. I've always wondered what happened to Continuity Comics...

Neal Adams: "Remember we had that thing in comics when all these collectors jumped into comics and started to buy all these issues? And we were getting sales of upwards a million copies per issue? A lot of you guys don't know about it because it's fading into the precincts of history... a lot of guys thought that they could make so much money from comic books by buying boxes and boxes of comic books. SO suddenly, a comic that you wouldn't expect to sell that well... sold a million copies. The comic book stores are going 'This is great! This is fantastic!'."

house ad in Continuity Comics circa 1991

Neal Adams: "Until one day, all these crazy guys who thought they could make all this money on comic books called each other and said "If we all do this, and put boxes and boxes of comic books in the garage, we'll never make any money on this! To hell with this! I'm quitting!." Boom! The next day -- nobody's buying 'em -- they're in the stores. 1500 stores went out of business. 1500 stores! People were selling comics for 50 cents a piece in boxes at the front of the store. You can't stay in business that way... you just paid $1.50 for those books, and now you're selling them for 50 cents! So they went out of business. Diamond [Comic Distributors] had to finance a whole bunch of comic book stores. We almost lost the business with this crazy collector nuttiness... and nobody backed off from it... they all thought "Oh! Money to be made!". Well, it was stupid."



Neal Adams: "Unfortunately we got caught in the middle. We had done Deathwatch 2000 -- it was a cross-over within our comic books. We had gone from selling 15,000 copies to selling 100,000 copies per issue per title for 3 months... I put 3 million dollars in the bank... and then everything fell out. And so, instead of going bankrupt (which certain comic book publishers did), I just backed off and went into advertising. And so our studio has been doing advertising since then until I started to get back into comic book now. And now we're going to go back into publishing. Carefully. Very very carefully."


Editor's note: A few years ago, I manage to acquire a small collection of Continuity Comics from the early 90s and decided to binge-read them on a long weekend. Most of the titles I read were pretty interesting -- they all had that Neal Adams realistic-type art and the colors were very vibrant -- and you could feel the plot momentum picking up as the books progressed. Continuity Comics went defunct a little too soon before they could fully mature and gain a strong cult-like following. I am curious to see what the new Continuity Comics will be like.   



DEATHWATCH 2000 TRADING CARD SET

In 1993, Continuity Comics released a 100-card trading card set celebrating their BIG comic book cross-over event: DeathWatch 2000. I do remember seeing these in stores, but didn't know these characters well enough to actively want to collect these cards. It always did strike me as odd, however, that there was a chase subset within the card set featuring Shaquille O'Neal, Ken Griffy, Jr. and Manon Rheaume -- three professional athletes being featured in a very decidedly NON-sports trading card set.

DeathWatch 2000 Shaq and Ken Griffey Jr. insert cards. source: www.tradingcarddb.com


Neal Adams explained: "You have to remember that those cards were produced by another company, and that company is a sports card company. They worked with us and planted that stuff with us, with a plan in mind that we were going to continue to move on with it. And we ended up not continuing on with it."



THE ORIGIN OF BUCKY O'HARE

Bucky O'Hare will forever be remembered as a cartoon about a bunch of anthropomorphic animals (led by a green rabbit) who piloted a spaceship and had galaxy-spanning sci-fi adventures. The cartoon had a really catchy theme song, a Nintendo game, and a series of highly-articulate action figures. Like, seriously, this could've held up against Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And then... as quickly as it appeared... Bucky O'Hare vanished. Neal Adams told us all about the rise and fall of this rabbit.

Neal Adams: "It became a television show for one season, and then Hasbro ruined it. Now we're coming back with it."

screenshot from Bucky O' Hare and the Toad Wars episode 1 (1991)


Neal Adams: "I'll tell you how it all happened: understand that I'm a socialist in the worst way. I foment trouble. That's what I do. I look like a fireman or a cop, right? But I'm a fomentor, okay? I'm always going to be doing SOMETHING that's going to upset SOMEBODY... all the time."

"What was I going to do here? I was going to go to Europe with certain properties and go to the Frankfurt Book Fair and show the properties and sell them to one magazine or another (or a book publisher). They would buy it, and I would come back to America and I would take it to DC or Marvel comics and they would say "Oh! I like that! We'll do it as a comic book!" and I would have to say "Gee, I'd like to sell it to you as a comic book, but I can't -- I sold first-time rights in Germany... so you can buy second-time rights or third-time rights.. but you can't buy FIRST-time rights". They'd reply "What does this mean?" and I'd reply "What this means is that you DON'T own it! You can NEVER own it! But you can use it, and you can print it... but you can never own it." Like, let's say I brought Torpedo from overseas and brought it to America -- nobody in America could own it because it's owned in Europe (or the first-printing rights are owned in Europe -- which I can withdraw)."

"So this creates a problem for American publishers. American publishers WANT the first crack at it, but I'm taking Howard ChaykinMichael Golden (and other different really good artists) to Europe, selling their properties, to the first-time licensor and then bringing them back to America. So I went to people in my studio who I thought were good, intelligent and creative. I went to Larry Hama and I said "Larry, do you have any characters you'd like to do?" and he said "yeah, I've got this bunny... this rabbit... an intergalactic rabbit." I asked "well, what's he named?" and Larry replied "Buck Bunny". I said "Buck Bunny? okay... So how about writing it? I will take it to Europe and try to sell it. I will license it. I will control it. But you will OWN it." I don't own Bucky O'Hare -- Larry Hama does. I control it, which is -- for me -- better, because then I can fight people. Which is good."

panel from Bucky O' Hare #3 (1991). Art by Michael Golden.

Neal Adams: "So, we had to find an artist. Who could we find to do this? Who was the most brilliant artist I could think of? Michael Golden. It took him about a year, and he did six pages. So, I took him to Frankfurt, along with with other stuff that we did, and I presented it to this guy named 'Bilar' from Germany -- and he [Bilar] looks at it and says "Ha! Bucks Bunny? Ve haff a Bucks Bunny! Ve get it from Varner's!". Oh crap. (It did sound a little like 'Bugs Bunny', didn't it?) So, I'm in Chicago and I'm designing a show called 'Warp'. (Some of you guys may have heard about it. And if you haven't -- too bad. It doesn't matter [for this story].) So we're heading for the airport and my wife, Marilyn, looks at the sign to the airport and she says "O'Hare! O'Hare is a rabbit, too, isn't it?". I said "yes, it is... Bucky O'Hare." So that's how 'Bucky O'Hare' got his name. So now it's 'Bucky O'Hare', now I can sell it."

House ad from a Continuity Comic promoting the new TV show & Hasbro action figures.

Neal Adams: "Now we started to peddle it: we did a television show (13 episodes), we did toys, we did licensing. Between LarryMichael and myself, we made 3 million dollars... and then Hasbro pulled the plug on it because they screwed up the distribution."

Fun fact: Neal Adams co-wrote the Bucky O'Hare cartoon theme song.



To close, Neal Adams talked a bit about his plans for Deadman -- but we interviewed him BEFORE the panel about this, and he gave us a more in-depth interview -- which you can read here. He also explained the origins of the comic book Direct Market, but it's a pretty long and involved story, so we may post that at a later date. All in all, it was a very enlightening Q&A session and I learned many things I was previously unaware of.

Once again, we wanted to thank the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon and Leeja Murphy and the rest of the Agence Pink for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Neal Adams speak about the characters we grew up reading about and watching on TV throughout our youths.

-Justin Francoeur

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Anthony Kuchar interviews Peter David for DC in the 80s

Peter David is one of those names in comics that any seasoned reader has seen appear more than once. From his unforgettable run on Marvel's Incredible Hulk to his memorable runs with DC's Aquaman and Supergirl, his reputation as a hardworking writer -- pumping out stories for a hungry comics readership -- is the stuff of legend. As warm in life as he is prolific, I got the opportunity to interview David at Niagara Falls Comic Con this year.

---

Anthony: You started working for DC with Star Trek in 1988, this was when the original movies were still being released...

David: ...well technically the original movies are STILL coming out...

Anthony: ...true, but I'm referring to the original cast with William Shatner as Kirk and Leonard Nemoy as Spock and all those other great guys. This was an interesting era, because Star Trek The Next Generation was just staring to air on TV. You were writing a lot of comic stories... I have one here... "Who killed Captain Kirk?". This was an interesting run of stories because you incorporated some of the animated series characters (i.e., M'Ress).

"Who Killed Captain Kirk?" TPB. Published in 1993.

David: Well technically, I didn't 'incorporate' them as the characters were already part of the crew when I came on board as the writer. So, y'know, I just wanted to... People are always crediting me for things I didn't do. People come up to me and say "How did you come up with the idea of turning the Hulk back to grey?" and I keep saying "I didn't do that, Al Milgrom did", and people are always surprised.

Anthony: Was it a bit of a logistical nightmare working on Star Trek comics? Trying to keep things in continuity -- was that something you were concerned about or anything like that?

David: No, I really wasn't really the least bit concerned with that. My stories were set in the time period BEFORE the movies, pretty much. I wasn't really concerned with what they were going to do in the NEXT movie that was going to screw up my comic books, especially considering they blew the freakin' enterprise while I was on the book, so no, there wasn't really any logistics. That wasn't a problem. Star WARS was a problem with logistics -- when they had to do the comics that were set in between the movies with no idea what was going to happen in the NEXT movie. Jo Duffy once told me how she turned in a plot and Lucas Films said "No, you can't have a speed bike chase" which then told her there was going to be a speeder bike chase in the next movie. Star Trek was not any particular logistical nightmare other than getting stories approved.

Anthony: It's interesting because I was reading the foreword to this collection (written by George Takei) and he mentioned something about a villain being introduced that was based on a real-life politician, who was campaigning an anti-gay platform in the late 80s...

David: (chuckles) ...it's entirely possible... God knows I don't remember since this was almost a quarter century ago.

Anthony: No problem. Let's talk about super heroes. The Phantom -- your first super hero work for DC -- you brought the Phantom back to his roots (he was fighting pirates and smugglers and that sort of thing). You wrote the first Phantom mini-series, what was that like?


Issue #2 & #4 of the 1988 The Phantom mini-series

David: Oh, it was tremendously exciting. First off, I had to impress my new employers -- I had to show them that I could turn out stories that were publishable and written within a reasonable length of time. I also worked with Lee Falk, the creator of the Phantom, which was tremendously exciting for me. I mean, I still have the cover of issue #1 autographed by Lee Falk to me. So, it was a wonderful experience.

Anthony: You wrote the first 4 issue mini-series, but you didn't write the follow-up ongoing series published after that. Was there a reason you left the title? Or were not brought back on?

David: I honestly don't know -- they were continuing with The Phantom, but I was doing so much other work at that point that it may simply have been a matter that I didn't have the time.

Anthony: Next I'm going to ask about Action Comics Weekly -- namely Green Lantern. You wrote Green Lantern in that series (from issues #609 to #620). What was it like writing a Green Lantern feature for 1989's Action Comics Weekly 'experiment'?

Action Comics Weekly #614 (1988). Cover by Mike Mignola and Ty Templeton.

David: It was NOT one of my most fulfilling assignments. I kept asking Denny [O'Neil] for advice in terms of what I should be writing, and Denny kept telling me that I could write whatever I wanted to write, except that it turned out that Dick Giordano had very specific ideas that he wanted to use... (laughs) ...which Denny never told me. So, the stories I was producing weren't up to Dick's expectations of the comic -- which is understandable because I never even KNEW what his expectations were. He wanted me to write something dark and gritty, and I was writing something that had more humor to it -- so it was pretty much diametrically opposed from what Dick wanted. I have no idea to this DAY why Denny didn't tell me what Dick wanted me to do, but as a result, Green Lantern was not one of my enjoyable forays.

Anthony: That makes sense. It was kind of in a weird place -- the actual book had been discontinued at that time -- the last 'regular' issue being Green Lantern Corps #224 in 1988. Did you have any affinity for Hal Jordan?

David: My take on Hal Jordan was that his origin pretty much made no sense, because the ring was supposed to find somebody who had NO fear. The only type of human being who has no fear is a psychotic. Everyone who has ANY rationality has fears of some kind or other. If nothing else, a fear of dying. Finding someone with no fears at all meant that the ring had found someone completely insane.

panels from Action Comics Weekly #609 (1988). art by Tod Smith and Danny Bulanadi



Anthony: Do you remember working on the Blasters one-shot? It was an Invasion! spin-off...

Blasters Special v1 #1 (1989)

David: If you say so. (laughs) I barely remember anything about it. The only things I remember are... #1 I got to work with James Fry -- a long-time friend who's one of the funniest people in the entire universe. I still remember when James called me up and he said "Peter! I want to tell you this: he's a werewolf, she's a vampire, they're detectives, they're... (wait for it)... Thirst & Howl!" and I started laughing hysterically, and James said "You think that's funny?" and I said "I think that's hysterical!" and he replied "You're the first person who's laughed!". And I said "well everybody else is an idiot, I think that's friggin' brilliant." I'm going to do that as a comic book someday, I swear.

So, at any rate, I remember that... and the other thing I remember about Blasters is 'Ben Steel and his bear, Hans'. I think it was James' joke -- it was not mine -- I always thought that that was amusing. Other than that, and the fact that Snapper Carr started it, I remember absolutely nothing about Blasters. Remember, you're asking me about stuff in the 80s -- that was 35 years ago.

panel from Blasters Special v1 #1. pencils by James Fry, inked by Robert Campanella


Anthony: Oh yeah. Well, anything you can recollect is great. Do you remember Giglamesh II? Jim Starlin wrote that series, but he claimed it might've been based on an idea that you had? Do you remember anything about that?

David: I pitched Giglamesh to Denny O'Neil and he said "That sounds really interesting, let me think about that". Every so often I'd check in with him and say "Should I write something down?", and he'd say "No no, don't write anything yet. I'll send you a format." Which he never did. One day Denny calls me and he says "I've got some bad news. We're doing a Giglamesh comic, Jim Starlin's doing it, he came up with the idea totally on his own." And I said "Well that really sucks", but I knew it was possible -- things happen. That was until I spoke to Jim. I asked him how he came up with the idea and he said "I didn't come up with the idea, Denny pitched it to me." After I uttered a string of profanities, I went straight to Dick Giordano and said that I'd been ripped-off. I had told him what had happened, and they paid me a 'kill fee' for the work that I wound up never doing, and Denny swore that they'd be doing two Giglamesh comics now -- Jim's and mine -- which I knew was absurd. And, which of course, was absurd because they never did it. So, I was flat out ripped-off with Giglamesh.
Gilgamesh II v1 #1 (1989)

Anthony: Wow. That's a shame. It's interesting -- there was a lot of interest in Giglamesh during the late eighties -- I guess because some of the work had finally been translated.

David: Yeah.

Anthony: It's a shame that never came though. I wanted to ask you a few questions about Aquaman. Probably second to your Incredible Hulk run, Aquaman is one of the characters you've had a lot of history in terms of reviving and revamping (both aesthetically and character-wise). How did you get the Aquaman assignment and what was your approach to it going forward?

David: DC offered me the Aquaman assignment -- they really liked they way Atlantis Chronicles had come out -- in fact I seemed like the logical person to take over Aquaman. They launched it with a four-part limited series called Time & Tide and, I guess, were satisfied enough with the work I did that they felt I could handle the ongoing book.

Issues #2 & #4 of the 1994 Aquaman: Time and Tide v1 mini-series

David: I started trying to think of ways to make Aquaman interesting, because you have to understand -- that at the time that I was taking over Aquaman -- the general public had zero interest in him. I mean, when I told fans that I was going to be writing Aquaman, the most asked question was "Why?". He was seen as one of the lamest characters. Certainly his portrayal in Super Friends didn't help.

Aquaman as seen in the 1980's Hanna-Barbera Super Friends cartoon

David: To me, Aquaman was tremendously exciting, I saw him as the Tarzan of the Apes of the DCU. He survived in environments that no ordinary person could, he was super strong, and at the very least he was bullet resistant (considering how he could stand up to the crushing pressures of the ocean with no trouble). I thought that he had tremendous amounts of potential.

I decided that I had to radically change his appearance, that that would be a good start. So I gave him the long hair and I gave him the beard, and I developed the idea of him losing his right hand and having it replaced with a harpoon. I thought that would make him look a lot more 'dynamic'. I mean, if the old Aquaman walks into a room, you'd go "hey Aquaman! What's going on?". If the long-haired bearded guy with a scowl walks in and he's got a harpoon on his arm, you're gonna go "um.. yes? what can i do to help you, sir? don't kill me." I wanted that kind of gravity to his appearance -- so that when this guy walked into a room -- you KNEW he was a bad-ass. He was NOT someone you wanted to screw with.

panel from Aquaman v5 #5 (1995). art by Jim Calafiore and Howard M. Shum

David: The harpoon-hand was an idea that I REALLY had to sell DC on. I had a meeting with Paul Levitz and the top editors about what I wanted to do, and I had to convince them of the quality of the idea and that it would totally work for Aquaman before they eventually signed off on it. So that was signed off on at the highest levels of DC comics.

Anthony: Wow. Because obviously such a dramatic change affects the brand of the character. Kinda like taking Superman's 'S' away.

David: Absolutely. Yeah, exactly.

That was one of the hardest sells that I'd ever had to come up with.

Anthony: It's interesting because you also altered some things about his past, but then there's other things that kinda come before -- like his son being killed by Black Manta, his relationship with Mera -- that you didn't change. What was the reason for the those kind of decisions?

David: Because it worked. Why should I change the concept of Ocean Master being his half-brother? It worked. It had for a couple of decades, I saw no reason to screw with it.

Anthony: Were there any Aquaman stories you never got to do? That you felt unfulfilled?

David: Well, yeah. I mean, I had a conclusion to the whole harpoon-thing. I was going to kill Aquaman off, Aqualad was going to take over the mantle of Aquaman, then eventually Aquaman was going to return as an elemental being with no attachment to humanity, and Mera (of all people) was going to manage to ground him enough that he would be able to restore himself to his human form. At which point he would no longer have the harpoon-hand. That is, essentially, what DC wound up doing, but -- while I was still writing Aquaman -- I did this storyline where I killed him off and was then told that I had to bring him back immediately. And I said "but we have this whole storyline I was going to do!" and they said "You can't kill him off. People won't believe it because they'd just got done killing off Superman" and I was furious because that was my whole friggin' storyline. And I finally threw up my hands and said "That's it! I'm outta here!".


The 'Death that was Not Meant To Be' from Aquaman v5 #45 (1998)
Pencilled by Jim Calafiore and inked by Peter L Palamiotti 

Anthony: That's interesting. So editorial was really concerned that the Death of Superman storyline would take away the thunder of the Death of Aquaman storyline?

David: Yeah, except my attitude was that Aquaman was a LESSER character than Superman, so people might readily BELIEVE him being killed off. But the editor said "no, we can't do it", at which point I threw up my hands and said "Fine! I'm out!". They brought in other writers to write Aquaman, and then several years later they killed off Aquaman and brought him back as an elemental being. So they finally got around to doing MY story -- except, y'know -- other people had their names on it. (chuckles)

---

It's hard limiting yourself to "on topic" questions when talking with Peter David. The man is a wealth of information, and could talk for any subject for extended periods of time. During the weekend, David had a pretty constant stream of fans coming to his booth, getting copies of Incredible Hulk, X-Factor and Supergirl signed. Something I found interesting was that a fan asked David to sign a particular issue of Supergirl where the cover had the title character with a bunch of kids, and no title. But the kids where using american sign language to spell SUPERGIRL. It was a really cool moment.

cover of Supergirl v4 #65 (2002)


As always, we'd like to thank the 2018 Niagara Falls Comic Con for organizing this event, and Susan Carver of the Press Relations team to allowing us the opportunity to meet with Peter David. The NFCC was a great show, we can't wait to see who next year's line-up of guests will be, and if you're ever in the area you should make a special effort to check it out.


-Anthony Kuchar

A graduate of Brock University’s Dramatic Arts Program, Anthony has had an interest in comics since he was young and his favorite 80’s DC books are Batman: The Cult, Sandman, The Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Ronin.

if you enjoyed this interview, you may also enjoy:

-Peter David reveals DC's "Big Plans" for 1990's Atlantis Chronicles
-Review of 1986's Aquaman v2 mini-series


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Making a big splash down at the 2018 Niagara Falls Comic Con

Niagara Falls Comic Con only occurs once a year (in early June) and is always the best opportunity for comic fans of the Niagara region to meet comic pros in person. This was my sixth year in a row attending the event, but my first time as a correspondent for DC in the 80s.

This was a good year to be a fan of early 90s comics; featured guests included Peter David (Aquaman, Hulk), Chris Bachalo (Shade the Changing Man, Generation X) and Renée Witterstaetter (She-Hulk, Silver Surfer). Other big-name comic pros in attendance included Jim Sternako, Neil Adams (we interviewed him at Ottawa Comiccon earlier this year), Michael Golden and Gerhard (Cerebus).

Chris Bachalo waving 'hello'. Yes, we interviewed him. :)
Photo credit: Sheldyn Prime

Not surprisingly, 1980’s fandom was on full display this year. There were a few celebrities in attendance like Ralph Machio (the Karate Kid himself), signing autographs and promoting the new Cobra Kai show he’s made as a Youtube Original series.




Coincidentally, the original cast of Revenge of the Nerds were also in attendance (and held a panel Q&A), which I was lucky enough to attend. I even got to ask them a question: if they ever met Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo (who did the score to Revenge of the Nerds II). Sadly, they didn’t remember. In that panel sat Donald Gibb to the far right, who played the recurring role of Ray Jackson, the dimwitted but lovable sidekick to Jean-Claude Van Damme in the classic 80s martial arts flick Bloodsport.

Revenge of the Nerds Q&A panel. Photo credit: Sheldyn Prime



Other celebrities in attendance: Johathan Frakes of Star Trek, Jaleel White (aka: Steve Urkel of Family Matters), Kim Coates of Sons of Anarchy, Micheal Rooker of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Walking Dead, Dean Cain (star of Superman: The Adventures of Lois and Clark), Steve Whitmire (voice of Kermit the Frog from 1990 to 2016), George Wendt and John Ratzenburger: Cliff and Norm of Cheers. Wrestlers included Big Show and Ric Flair. Woooooo!

Arriving early with my friend Tyler Højberg (who had a booth of his own) we checked in on Friday and decided to walk around before the crowds showed up. I noticed that my Alma mater, Brock University had a large space set up for them, advertising the schools video game development program among other things.

Some other feature attractions included the 1989 Batmobile, a replica of The Interceptor from 1979's Mad Max, the Mystery Machine, and a life-sized replica of a Return of the Jedi speeder bike.





All vehicles photos above taken by Sheldyn Prime

There where a lot of vendors selling various trinkets and collectibles, figures and fragrances, movies and games. One of the oddest was a booth selling heated neck pads for upper back problems. Not sure what that has to do with comics. There where plenty of comics vendors. My LCS, Mostly Comics, from St Catharines Ontario was there, as well as Big B Comics from Niagara Falls. I also recognized the guys from the Kitchener Comics Warehouse.



Above photos taken by Sheldyn Prime




DC cosplay was sparse this year, however, we did note a lot of cosplay based on the Marvel Avengers films this year. Some of the cosplay that stood out:

Wonder Woman:

Photo credit: Sheldyn Prime


TWO John Constantine’s. This was a total coincidence, the one John was at a booth selling prints when we asked if we could take his picture, when another walked behind us and I asked if I could get them both.

Photo credit: Sheldyn Prime



The Teen Titans. Inspired by my favorite version of the team, the 2003 Cartoon Network series.

Photo credit: Sheldyn Prime



This event also had a 'retro zone' filled with arcade cabinets from the 80s and 90s:



Above arcade photos courtesy of Sheldyn Prime



Scouring the vendors I found a few cool things I couldn't resist picking up:

An Ice figure to add to my JLI action figure collection. It was a little dirty, probably from a million fans touching it con after con. But I brought it home and after a little mild cleaner it looks good as new. Now I just need to find a Fire to keep her company.

photo by Anthony Kuchar


A few Superman TPBs and single issues of Weird War I picked up on the cheap.

photo by Anthony Kuchar


A reprint copy of 1982's SwordQuest written by Roy Thomas and with art by George Perez (originally by DC comics but now reprinted by Dynamite).

photo by Anthony Kuchar
There’s actually a pretty amazing story behind this comic, and the Atari video game it was based on: it was included as a pack-in with every cartridge of the game sold, and hidden inside of George Perez’s art (for example on a column or in a rock formation) are clues that correspond to details in the game that solved certain riddles. Atari held a contest and prizes that were offered included a *real* gold sword, crown, chalice, talisman and philosophers stone. If you solved the riddle, the first one to mail-in the answers would win the prize. Almost all of these prizes disappeared when Atari suffered the video game crash of 1983. (Pictures exist of the prizes in the Atari offices and in the official Atari newsletter from the time so we know they existed. There's still controversy about what happened to the prizes to this day. For more info, you can watch The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of SwordQuest.



All in all, I'm going to have give credit to Niagara Falls Comic Con for organizing another successful show. Special thanks to Susan Carver of Press Relations. Extra special thanks to Sheldyn Prime for being such a cool photographer.

-Anthony Kuchar

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A look at the 1993 DC Editorial Presentation


It always tickles me when I happen across something I didn't even realize existed.  It's like so many of us feel completely "dialed in" to the comics industry via the internet, that nothing really excites or surprises us anymore.

Then, from the corner of your eye... you see the textbook-sized DC Comics: 1993 The Year of Change Editorial Presentation... on a shelf with a $2.00 price tag on it.  Now, tell me... who could say no to that (besides, of course, the dozens of folks who had already passed it by)?

So, just what is this thing anyway?  Well, it's part Previews Catalog, part State the Union Address... and if you care to join me, together we can take a deeper look into this odd little time capsule from the "boom era" of DC Comics.


Milestone Media

1993 saw the birth of the multi-cultural imprint known as Milestone.  With the mission statement of presenting "exciting heroes in a context of urban reality", we are introduced to the imprint's four titles: Icon, Blood Syndicate, Hardware and of course, Static.



For those unaware, these titles take place in the city of Dakota... sometimes referred to as the "Dakotaverse", much later as an actual city in the DC Universe proper (pre-Flashpoint).  During a gang war between three rival gangs, the secret police use a radioactive "tear gas", which leaves many of the survivors "altered".


Piranha Press

An imprint near and dear to my heart, Mark Nevelow's Piranha Press was DC Comics' first attempt at a true "Mature Readers" line of alternative comics.  It was also the first imprint from DC Comics to allow creator-owned material.  This imprint would run from 1989 until 1994 when it would morph into the more "boutique" brand, Paradox Press.



The big news out of Piranha in 1993 was the launch of its Factoid Book Project... otherwise known as the "Big Book" Series.  The "Big Book" line would actually never hit shelves under the Piranha Press banner... DC would hold off on the release until the Paradox shift was complete.



Worth noting that this very book does announce what would be, the final (though we didn't know that yet) Piranha Press offering... Prince: Three Chains of Gold.



What nobody really knew then, was... the very idea of Piranha Press was about to become redundant, because...


Vertigo

1993 also saw the official launch of DC Comics' Vertigo Imprint!  Bearing a Mature Readers warning... and playing with DC Comics-owned characters (as well as creator-owned work), the writing was very likely on the wall for Mark Nevelow and the gang.



Ongoing DC titles marked with a January, 1993 cover date... including Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Shade the Changing Man, Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Hellblazer were shifted over to the nebulous new imprint to continue their current volumes.  Seeing as though this was the early 1990's, Vertigo even went as far as to announce its first semi-line wide crossover event!  We know it as "The Children's Crusade", however, here it's pitched as "Family Values".




Bloodlines

After two years of using Annuals for crossovers (Armageddon 2001 in 1991, and Eclipso: The Darkness Within in 1992), DC sought to make 1993 the biggest one yet with... Bloodlines.  Interestingly enough... all of the issues announced would come out just as they were announced in this very book!



It's shocking to see such forward-planning and commitment from any given comic book company.  These days it feels as though DC (and Marvel) check the way the wind's blowing before committing to an order at the drive-thru!


Knightfall

One of the biggest events of 1993 for DC (and comics in general) was the "Breaking of the Bat" in Knightfall.  While this book refers to the storyline as Knightfall, it does not elaborate much.  What we do get is the announcement that something big would be coming in Batman #500... a new costume (designed by Joe Quesada)... and the most shocking change in Batman's 50-plus year history.




Reign of the Supermen

Speaking of playing their cards close to the vest... "Supermen" is the watchword for the Superman family of titles.  But, get this... the retailers (who would likely be the only ones getting this book) received the same information as the readers... which is to say, not a whole lot!



All four of the new "Supermen" are introduced, via outlines... without nary a hint as to whether or not any of them are the Real Steel Deal!  This could not happen today.


By the Numbers

Flipping through this time capsule really affords us the opportunity to see, at a glance, where DC Comics' priorities were.  For a little fun let's take a look at the Top Three characters when it comes to who had the most "paginal real estate" in this very book.

Batman - 34 Pages
Lobo - 18 Pages
Superman - 14 Pages

To close out, this was a ton of fun to flip through... and lemme tell ya folks, we've only scratched the surface!  There's a lot of weird stuff we didn't look at (I mean, there are 18 pages on Lobo alone!).  If you enjoyed this piece, please let us know... and we can share a bit more of this massive tome with you. 

-Chris

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Chris Sheehan writes the very terrific Chris Is On Infinite Earths blog, and was one of the first contributors for DC in the 80s. When he's not writing about the BEST ERA OF DC COMICS ever, you can find him co-hosting the Cosmic Treadmill and Weird Comics History podcasts with Reggie Reggie