Interviews Reviews Guest Spots Baxter Stock Etcetera

Friday, April 16, 2021

DC in the 80's Five Questions with Michel Fiffe About Superman Red & Blue #3

Everyone knows we at DC in the 80's have a deep fondness for Michel Fiffe. Not only is he the driving force behind COPRA, one of the best comics coming out today, but he is also the cover artist for the first issue of our zine, Baxter Stock. He even came up with the name! Well, when we found out that he was going to have a story in SUPERMAN RED & BLUE #3, coming out May 18th, 2021, we HAD to do an interview with him. Seriously, when it comes out, go to your LCS and buy it. 5 Questions with Michel Fiffe Interview with Mark Belkin is below this totally RAD image from the comic. 

Ummmm yes times infinity.

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Mark Belkin: Question #1How much of a dream job is it to do a Superman story?

Michel Fiffe: This is the first comic book character my little kid eyes ever saw, it's one of the earliest figures I ever drew with my little kid hand. That in itself carries a lot of weight. There's a formative component I couldn't escape even if I tried. So yeah, file under Dream Job.

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Mark: Question #2: Did you specifically request using Booster Gold, Hawkwoman and Cyborg? Why?

Michel Fiffe: "Panic In The Sky" was the crossover that originally inspired me, it got me thinking about what kind of story I wanted to tell. Superman's relationship to his peers is fascinating to me, and squeezing in as many characters as possible was appealing at first. I wanted to tell a tight story, though, not clog my 8 pages for the sake of clogging them. So I whittled it down to a core team, which allowed me to better focus on each member. In a way, that specific roster is a nod to John Byrne's Action Comics run.

Booster showing Superman who's boss.

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Mark: Question #3: Kilg%re is definitely a villain I could see in COPRA. What drew you to using them?

Michel Fiffe: My affinity for the Baron/Guice Flash material is no secret. Plus, I needed an unlikely antagonist with untapped potential. Let me be clear, I had 8 pages to express the totality of what I think about Superman, and I wanted to cover as many bases as possible. Solid teamwork, crisp action, leadership, superpowers, tension, danger, humor, nuance beyond good guy vs bad guy while very much being a good guy vs bad guy story. I wanted to feature Superman's uniqueness but not at the expense of those around him. Plus, I drew my ass off. I'm still reckoning with the filtering of my influences on such a major property. 

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Mark: Question #4: If you could do a Justice League book, who would be on the team?

Michel Fiffe: I like the challenge of context, such as... who are the characters that are available? What's the project, a cool one-shot or the main brand? So many options. Let's just say that with my favorite being the JLI-era, I'd most likely pick a similar line-up. Maybe Extreme Justice, simply to prove that something cool can be done with just about any roster. I wanna draw that Booster armor.

DC, you know what must be done. 

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Mark: Question #5Can we expect an 80's DC Comics Presents type book with Superman meeting COPRA????? 

Michel Fiffe: It's not something I've considered, but now you got me thinking of all the possibilities. Damn you, DC in the 80s!


I could seeee ittttt.

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You can get the Superman Red & Blue #3 at your local comic book store on May 18th, 2021.

You can get COPRA either in your LCS or through Michel online. 

Thanks again homie!!

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You can find Michel Fiffe at:

http://michelfiffe.com/ 

https://www.patreon.com/MichelFiffe 

https://twitter.com/MichelFiffe

https://www.facebook.com/michel.fiffe

The Superman Comic

And on the cover of our first Baxter Stock!!!! CHECK THIS AWESOMENESS!!!




Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Figures Toy Company Q & A

As surveyors of all things DC comics-related and retro, DC in the 80s tends to keep an eye on what's going on in the action figure market. The Figures Toy Company, who've been making waves among collectors -- particularly for their attention to detail in recreating MEGO-sized action figures along with the little cloth outfits that go with them -- has caught our attention for their diverse variety of DC-themed action figures they've been producing. We were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and talk with company representative, Chris Depetrillo, and get the inside story of how this company came to be and what we can expect to see from them in the future. Enjoy!

Justin (for DC in the 80s): So, most people may not have realized that the Figures Toy Company has been around for a while -- it was originally known as Figures Inc. in 1989 and specialized in selling collectible toys and action figures via print catalogs, magazine ads or direct selling at collectible shows in New England. I understand that back then it was a one-man operation, run by Anthony Balasco.




Chris (for Figures Toy Company): Yeah, at the time it was a wide array of toys and collectibles. Our catalogs featured everything from original Masters of the Universe to vintage Star Wars figures to Kenner and Toy Biz superheroes to wrestling figures. A lot of the items we acquired were deadstock, clearance, and warehouse/factory sale items that we were able to build into an amazing selection of merchandise for the collectors out there. If you had built a collection in those days, there was no eBay or Facebook marketplace to scan for what you needed. Keeping a varied stock of such classic toy lines (and some oddities as well) helped us build the business by allowing fans to fill the voids in their collections or "buy back" their childhood.


Justin: In 1993, Figures Inc. decided to re-strategize itself and focus its' attention on selling Collectible Wrestling Merchandise. This was an important move because it would ultimately lead to the creation of the Figures Toy Company (partnering with Steve Sandberg), the purchase of Figures Toy Company's first licenses (WCW and ECW), the launch of your WrestlingSuperStore.com e-commerce website, and your first manufactured products (WCW and ECW Replica Belts). The Replica Belts were a huge hit with wrestling fans and are now highly sought-after collectibles:


Figures Inc. WCW replica belt (1999). Photo source: www.ebay.com

Chris: When we were acquiring merchandise for Figures Inc., we wound up with a tremendous amount of the WWF Hasbro action figures. We had stock of nearly every character, including earlier releases and the final "green card" wave which was not widely available and features some of the most sought after figures in the entire Hasbro line. Once we had those available they became a huge seller for Figures Inc., and it led to Anthony [Balasco] looking into other avenues to enter the wrestling merchandise market. The only belts fans could buy in those days were plastic toy belts unless they had the money to commission an actual replica, which is of course very costly. We were able to gain licensing rights with both World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling right as the wrestling industry began to boom, and released replicas of all of their championships at a much more affordable price. This allowed fans who always wanted their own belt(s) to choose from the same titles they saw defended on TV every week.

I'll also note here that it was those WWF Hasbro figures that led to my hiring at Figures Toy Company. Back in 1999, my friend placed an order for a figure through an ad in a wrestling magazine, not realizing that the Figures Toy Company office and warehouse was just minutes away. He called to ask if he could pick the item up, and I took the ride with him. After meeting the staff and engaging in some chit chat, Anthony felt that my fandom and enthusiasm for pro wrestling and pop culture would make me a good fit for the company. I was hired in December of 1999 and have had a hand in numerous aspects of company business. I had graduated high school only a year before and was in my freshmen year of college and managed to land a dream job.

Justin: The Figures Toy Company started manufacturing 'classic 8" action figures and accessories remeniscent of action figures from the 1970s' in 2004. (Which is pretty much saying you were creating Mego-compatible action figures.) Was there a major change to the original Mego designs/molds? Or did you stick to the original designs as much as possible? Also, I'm going to assume that the choice to go with 8" action figures versus, say, 3.75" figures was mainly due to Anthony's love of his Mego KISS action figures when he was younger...

Anthony Balasco with favorite Mego KISS action figure (circa 1978). Source: figurestoycompany.com 

Chris: The goal was to try and recreate as much of the original aesthetic as possible. Our figures were and are very obviously influenced by the original 70's figures and Anthony's love for them (especially those KISS figures you mentioned). We wanted our figures to be able to stand alongside those childhood favorites and also serve as an extension of the format.

Justin: You've picked up a lot of licenses since 2014 (most notably, DC Comics -- which is what prompted today's interview). I've also browsed your website and seen then you've obtained licenses for Evel Knievel, Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, KISS, Harry Potter, Hanna-Barbera, Three Stooges, Gilliagan's Island, and the US Presidents... can you tell us what other licenses you may have in the works? Also, I've always wondered: how does the whole 'toy-licensing thing' work? For example, if Figures Toy Company purchases the license to manufacture DC Comics figures at an 8" scale, no other company can do the same until you've released the license -- essentialy making the license-holder the exclusive manfucturer of that product while they hold the license?



Chris: Licensing varies on a case by case basis, so there's not really one blanket way to go about it. There are different options and aspects that go into every deal. While I can't speak to anything in regards to new licenses, I can say that new products based on the licenses we currently have, such as DC, are always in the works. With DC especially, we'll always market the cornerstone characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but have done a lot of deep dives into the DC Universe as you can see by our release of The Creeper and upcoming release of Blue Devil and Kid Devil. The goal is to appeal to both the casual collector and the diehard fan, and I think our company has done a great job in finding that balance.

Justin: As a collector of DC action figures, I just want to tell you that I'm really excited with the selection of DC action figures the Figures Toy Company has been manufacturing: lots of DC retro characters, Super Friends, and Batman '66. Now, with a teaser of modern-age DC characters to come [ex: Bane] it really opens up some possibilities:
Bane

Justin: Are you allowed to give us a hint on what new modern figures we might expect to see? I'm also equally impressed with the vehicles and playsets, but these seem to be only be released sporadically and sell out quickly. Are there any plans in development to release new DC-themed playsets? (ex: Hall of Justice, Legion of Doom Swamp, Titans Tower, etc)



Chris: There's so much that's in the pipeline right now, a lot of which was delayed due to the pandemic and the ensuing factory shutdowns. Now that things are up and running, there are so many items in different stages of production that I can't wait to get on our site for fans to collect. Characters from Watchmen, Blue Devil, Kid Devil, Bat-Mite, Hourman, John Constantine, Geo-Force...we've been going to every corner of the DC Universe, looking at hundreds of characters from comic history so that we can give collectors the largest variety of retro figures on the market


Chris: Vehicles and playsets are a different animal. Tooling varies from piece to piece and some items just may not be cost effective. That's not to say there won't be more, because we've had great success with items like the Batcave and the variety of DC vehicles. But that's also why, as you said, they're sporadic in their release.

Justin: Speaking of Geo-Force, I do remember seeing a preview for him and having a bit of a 'fanboy' moment. While Mike W. Barr's Batman and the Outsiders was a comic I remember fondly from my youth, no way did I ever expect *that* incarnation of the team to get the 8" action figure treatment. With Batman, Geo-Force and Metamorpho available, does this mean we'll be getting the rest of the team (ex: Black Lightning, Halo, Katana, Looker) in the near future? If so, can't wait to add that to my collection!


Metamorpho

Chris: We'll be doing a whole lineup of Outsiders, so yes, many of the names you mentioned are already being designed.

Justin: On that note, a very common question among DC action figure enthusiasts who are purchasing your products seem to be "do they plan on making [x] figure?" Some of the more popular requests include 1940s Justice Society of America/All-Star Squadron figs, the original Doom Patrol (Elasti-Girl, Chief, Robotman, Mento, Negative Man and Beast Boy), and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

How do you decide what figs get made next? Do you send a request to DC asking for permission to create so-and-so? Or is it as simple as DC told you that can manfacture ANY character in it's library? (including, say, figs based on Neil Gaiman's Sandman). I mean, Abby Cable (Swamp Thing's love interest) is pretty obscure -- so it would appear that the sky's the limit:



Chris: Everything has to be cleared, from character to the particular design of character. We have to look at it from a marketing perspective to, from the character's popularity to how it fits in with what we're doing to how many requests we have seen the figure get. We pay close attention to the "wish lists" out there and a lot of figures have come from the fact that we appreciate our fans and hear them. The flip side to it is that not every character may be available, or may not be available in the form we'd want to do them in. Certain characters from the Batman Classic TV Series could not be made due to the rights to those actors being unavailable. We're doing our best to ensure that the line stays fan friendly and delivers characters that DC fans have been hoping for.

There's also a domino effect when it comes to brainstorming, because we consider the character appeal on its own, how it would fit in with other heroes on a team/series basis, and which version of the character might be the best choice. A lot of thought goes into our choices because as comic fans and toy collectors ourselves, we look at it from both the business and the fan perspectives.

It's also fitting that you mention Justice Society here, because last March, right when things started shutting down, one of our figure announcements was of a Golden Age Sandman. We've already done Beast Boy as part of the Teen Titans line, but as you can tell by scrolling through figurestoycompany.com, we've done variant versions of characters numerous times.


Justin: I was going to comment on your Teen Titans collection: not only do you have the Bob Haney/Nick Cardy roster (ex: Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl), but you also included a few obscure Titans like the original Hawk & Dove and Duela Dent. For the Marv Wolfman/George Perez 1980s roster, you even went to the trouble of including Jericho and Terra. That's how I know there must be some DC comics fans in your company if you're taking deep-dives like that.


Duela Dent (aka: Joker's Daughter)

Justin: Your Super Friends line of DC figs are pretty extensive, too. Based on the Hanna-Barbara cartoon, you guys cover some pretty obscure figs -- like the time Joker was revealed to be a member of the Royal Flush Gang (which only happened in the cartoon) or Superman from that infamous 'Death of Superman' episode.


Justin: I also noticed that a lot of figs, vehicles and playsets are retired after x amount of time. Not counting the Limited Edition products that were only offered for a limited quantities at conventions and etc, are there any plans to bring a few retired products back from 'limbo' for a while? I know a few friends who would probably be interested in purchasing a Dr. Fate fig if they knew it was up for grabs again.



Chris: Some items do return, others don't, but the "don't" could be for a variety of reasons. When something sells out it's not always necessarily a hard "no" that we won't carry it again, because we have restocked some of our most popular items. If it's an item that does well for us and is a hit with the customer base, the odds are in favor of us pushing to be able to release more of them at some point in the future. Limited and exclusive items are just that, but for any of the core Figures Toy Company releases we do our best to ensure that our fans can get their hands on all of the characters they wish to have.


Teen Titans van with exclusive Wonder Girl fig 


Justin: This is great, Chris. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I can't wait to see what surprises the Figures Toy Company has planned for us in the future.

Chris: It's been a pleasure, Justin.

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Chris was also nice enough to share a preview of the new Phantom Stranger figure they will be releasing soon:

Check out the Figures Toy Company at www.figurestoycompany.com. Production runs appear to be limited, so if you see something you like, grab it before it sells out.

-Justin

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Review: 1994 Sugar Puffs LEGENDS OF BATMAN trading cards

As a youth, I LOVED all things DC comics (thanks, Super Powers Collection). As a youth, I also LOVED sugary cereal (thanks, aggressive Saturday morning marketing). So, combine the two and I was ALL OVER whatever DC comics-themed promotion some Saturday morning cereal was pushing. (Unless it was the cereal itself. I don't have an unopened box of Ralston 1989 Batman Breakfast cereal sitting in my storage locker waiting to be eaten -- that would be... unique.) If it was released between 1982 to 1993, I either owned it or currently own it now. 

Unless, of course, it wasn't available in Canada

Thanks to the power of the internet, I can now purchase said items and show you what we both missed out on. Case in point: these 1994 LEGENDS OF BATMAN trading cards that were only available in boxes of Quaker OatsSugar Puffs cereal in the United Kingdom (UK).

Sugar Puffs was not a brand of cereal I was familiar with. Apparently, it tasted very much like Kellogg's Honey Smacks -- which I probably would've enjoyed. 

After a bit of internet sleuthing, I determined that the front of the cereal box would've looked something like this:

Discarded box of Quaker Oats' Sugar Puffs cereal from the UK.


..and the back would look like this:

Reverse of the Quaker OatsSugar Puffs cereal box. Image from http://cerealoffers.com/


Upon further inspection, it looks like Quaker Oats' Sugar Puffs cereal was all about about cross-marketing in the 90s, since they had promotions for X-Men, Spider-Man, Judge Dredd and that awful live-action Flintstones movie starring John Goodman as Fred Flintstone.


As per the cereal box's sales pitch, you got 5 random trading cards (wrapped in cellophane) per box of cereal.

So... what did these trading cards look like? Glad you asked:


There were 9 cards to collect in all -- the ninth card (not pictured) was of the Joker, which -- if you found in your pack of 5 cards -- could be redeemed at your local toy store for a LEGENDS OF BATMAN action figure based on whatever symbol appears on the Joker's card. (Remember: I mentioned this was a cross-promotion; the goal here was to get kids interested in these LEGENDS OF BATMAN action figures.) I believe that all these cards were based on figures from the first wave of the LEGENDS OF BATMAN toyline -- except for the Gameboy card, of course. (FYI: That would've been the card you wanted -- get a Joker with a Gameboy symbol and you got to redeem it for a Nintendo Gameboy AND a copy of the Batman: The Animated Series game. Otherwise, depending on the symbol on his card, the Joker allowed you to redeem his card for one of the fig figures or two vehicles above -- if you were lucky enough to get a Joker.)

Okay, so this 'contest' expired back in July 31, 1996. From a collector's point of view, are they worth tracking down?


Let's take a close look at these cards:


To call these 'trading cards' is a very generous description. They are printed on VERY flimsy cardstock, maybe one step up from those firm sheets you use in dividers to separate your papers. They measure 10cm x 7cm, and -- while they look like they may be lenticular [aka: shifting the card slightly changes the card art] -- they are NOT. They are deceptive like that.



The back of the card isn't much better; black print on cheapish cardboard, a running sentence promoting Future Batman, no mention of which comic he appears in, and no credit to the artist. Most of the card is devoted to the contest rules and a promotion about the new LEGENDS OF BATMAN toys (which I suppose was the goal of these cards).

Six of these cards (and I'm including the Joker card, here) feature the same art as the far-superior LEGENDS OF BATMAN trading cards released by Skybox in 1995. The only card art exclusive to this set where the Batcycle, the Batmobile and the GAMEBOY screenshot cards. The Skybox cards were included with the LEGENDS OF BATMAN action figure you purchased, and I promise we'll get around to reviewing these someday since I have a bunch in my 'junk drawer'.

LEFT: Sugar Puffs 1994 LEGENDS OF BATMAN trading card
RIGHT: Kenner 1995 LEGENDS OF BATMAN trading card by Skybox

Noticeable difference between the two cards:

  • The Skybox card has a denser cardstock -- like a real trading card you'd purchase in a pack of trading cards.
  • The Skybox card is slightly larger than the Sugar Puffs card.
  • The Sugar Puffs card has a thin white border, and included the 'Sugar Puffs' logo on the front of the card.


Is it worth it?

Only if:

  • You're a die-hard Batman fan, and NEED to own every piece of media he's ever been featured on (this includes international cereal promotions)
  • You're a die-hard collector of all things Sugar Puffs or Quaker Oats.
  • You can pick up the entire 8-card set for under $10 USD. The Joker card is going to cost you extra; it was pretty scarce since they would've been redeemed by kids wanting their free prize, and then probably destroyed by the toy store.

Otherwise, I'd watch for the Kenner LEGENDS OF BATMAN Skybox trading cards. They will cost a bit more, but you can see the difference in quality immediately.  

The bottom line is that these Sugar Puffs cards have no 'WOW factor' -- you'll get the set, look at them for a while, and then shove them in a drawer and never look at them again. As a DC comics or Batman fan, there's nothing here that will really blow you away.

Addendum:

Apparently some sort of LEGENDS OF BATMAN poster was available, but I'm not sure if it was randomly included in boxes, a mail-away, or an in-store promotion. What I DO have is a nice scan of the poster thanks to cerealoffers.com:



-Justin   

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Update:

A few people have sent us e-mails asking if we can post some sort of checklist (who knew?), so -- in order to oblige our loyal fans -- here we go:

#1 Future Batman
#2 Cyborg Batman
#3 Catwoman
#4 Power Guardian Batman
#5 Nightwing
#6 Batmobile
#7 Batcycle
#8 NINTENDO GAME BOY
Bonus: Joker (there are 8 variants -- all with different prizes on the front of the card)

(PLEASE NOTE: Checking these boxes won't actually save them to the webpage and you won't see them next time you log in. Either record the cards you're missing, or print this checklist.)



Monday, March 15, 2021

Review: World's Finest: The Collection Darkseid Vinyl Figure by CultureFly

One day I woke up feeling that my writing desk was looking a little empty and decided that some sort of DC-themed statue, bust, sculpture or model diorama would help 'liven things up' a bit (or at least make my office more visually interesting). So, I decided to immerse myself into the wild, wacky world of hunting down and purchasing a statue/bust that I could be proud of. The only problem was that I knew NOTHING about materials (ex: resin vs cold-cast vs vinyl), so I had some research to do.

If you only have room for one statue/bust/sculpture on your desk, you better make sure it's a character you REALLY like and has some sort of impact (aka: no Waverider for me). I decided that Darkseid, the gravel-faced Lord of Apokolips, would be the perfect character to give my office space some gravitas while striking fear into my enemies' hearts.

My requirements for a sculpture/bust consisted of:

  • Can't be any shorter than 4"
  • Can't be taller than 8"
  • Ideally would have a thick enough base
  • Not so fragile that it would break if you looked at it the wrong way
  • Reasonable price point

After a lot of hunting (i.e., comparing prices & checking different seller platforms), I stumbled upon this:

Image courtesy of www.culturefly.com

This sculpt really piqued my interest because it appeared to be modelled after the Jack Kirby/Super Powers Collection Darkseid I grew up reading about, and not the JLU Animated series or New 52 Darkseid designs.

Okay, so I knew I liked this sculpt, but what were the dimensions and how much did it weigh? This was a bit trickier to uncover since no online retailer really gave this information out. So, I just bit the bullet and bought it regardless. As you can see, it arrived in a really sturdy box that kept it from rattling around:

Sorry for the clarity of the photo, folks. Lots of glare on that plastic window.

The fact that the box said 'AGE 4+' kind of made me immediately re-think this purchase. Good for 4 year old kids and anyone older? If it's good enough for a 4 year old, is it good enough for me? I was hoping for something a little more... sophisticated. How cheap was this thing going to be? Also, the box was incredibly light.

Measuring about 13cm wide x 13cm deep x 14cm high, this bust weighed a measly 140 grams. Despite being a hollow vinyl sculpt, it was actually heavy enough to be used as a book-end (for a row of paperback novels) or even as a paper-weight (for a very light stack of papers).

One BIG positive thing I will say about this bust is that it IS durable -- no wonder it's safe for a 4 year old. The vinyl figure is all one piece of durable plastic, and I'm sure it can survive being dropped on the floor a few times. (No, I'm not going to try it.)   

Normally, I'd re-box this and try to re-sell it to get my money back, but this vinyl sculpture kind of grew on me. The musculature and dimensions of Darkseid are proportional to the Darkseid I grew reading about, and he kind of has that "Come and get me!" pose made famous by Marvel's Thanos from Infinity Gauntlet:

Portion of cover from Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet #4 (1991). Illustrated by George Perez

Also, I kind of feel like I lucked out finding one of these at an affordable price (after much hunting). You see, this vinyl bust was part of a CultureFly 'mystery box' from Spring 2020 that you needed to subscribe to. Needless to say, this mystery box has been discontinued, so it's pretty rare to find. The mystery box also contained other items that I really had no interest in (ex: socks, a t-shirt, a notebook, pins, decals, stickers, etc...), so I feel like I got the best of this deal.

The contents of CultureFly 'Heroes & Villains' box released in Spring 2020.
Image courtesy of www.culturefly.com


So far, my favorite thing to do with this vinyl bust is to use it as a 'figure study' to practice my drawing:

Faces are hard. So sue me.


Overall, I am pleased with this purchase and imagine you would be too if Darkseid is your jam.

-Justin



 



Tuesday, February 9, 2021

DC in the 80's Talks to Tom Scioli About His Brilliant Jack Kirby Comic

Comics would not exist as we know them today if Jack Kirby hadn't done what he did. Maybe there would have been some form of comic books, but Jack Kirby contributed immensely to the mythology of superhero comics in the forties, sixties, seventies and still into the eighties. The DC comics of the eighties used so much of what he created and even wove it into the fabric of the DC Universe (ex: Mister Miracle and Big Barda in Justice League International, Darkseid, Apokolips, and the New Gods in SupermanEtrigan the Demon in Swamp Thing, Kamandi in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the New Gods/Apokolips characters who appear in Kenner's Super Powers Collection toy line.)  

New Gods Mister Miracle and Metron in Justice League International.

One of Jack Kirby's biggest fans is Tom Scioli, who put together an AMAZING illustrated biography of the King, which is available right now. You can also find some of his work in the Super Powers backup story in Gerard Way's Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, published from 2016 to 2017 by the DC Comic's imprint Young Animal.  

One of the best illustrated biographies ever.


Mark Belkin asked Tom Scioli if we could ask him five questions about the book, and he obliged! Without further ado, here is our socially distant interview about his amazing Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics

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Mark Belkin: Question #1What was the first Jack Kirby book you ever read? How did it make you feel after reading it?

Tom Scioli: Thor Treasury with the Mangog story. I loved it. I felt smarter just for reading it with all the 'thees' and 'thous' and the 'billion, billion beings'. It was thrilling. I assumed it was business as usual. I hadn’t read very many comics at that point and I assumed that most comics were that good.

Action!!!

Mark: Question #2: If you could travel back in time and be the boss of any of the comic companies Jack Kirby worked for, what's one thing you would absolutely change in how he was treated?

Tom: Profit participation and creative control. That’s all he was asking for. If he were writing novels instead of making comics, it would’ve been standard.


Mark: Question #3: Of all of Kirby's DC creations after leaving Marvel, which was your favorite?

Tom: I love New Gods. I was fascinated with Darkseid when I first saw him on the Super Powers show. When I later learned that he had a son other than Kalibak who was the main character of a whole other super hero mythology I was blown away. Orion is such an amazing character and he flies under the radar.

The 80's reprints of the New God's series, with some additional parts.


Mark: Question #4: How was it working on your Super Powers back up in Young Animal? What did you read or look at to prepare for it? Did you ever collect the action figures, and if you did, which was your favorite?

Tom: I looked at all sorts of stuff. The cartoon, the old comics. Kirby’s super powers and Ramona Fradon’s SuperFriends comics. When I was told I wouldn’t have access to the new gods or the JLA/Super Friends, I started digging deep into obscure Kirby DC stuff like In The Days of the Mob and his 50’s stuff. I loved the action figures. I was excited when those and the Marvel Secret Wars toys came out. Prior to that there was just the mego super hero’s which seemed old fashioned. It was cool having Star Wars figure sized super hero toys. My favorite was Superman. I got the Lexor 7 mainly for the kryptonite.

The King in all his glory.

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Tom Scioli's Super Power's backup. 


Mark: Question #5: There was so much emotion in your Jack Kirby book. From his time in World War 2, to his relationship with Roz Kirby, to how he was treated by major publishers (i.e., inkers, editors, night time hosts, etc...) Obviously you have a love and admiration for Jack. Was there any part of the story where you felt "This is really hard to read about and illustrate!"?

Tom: All the stuff you named. I really wanted to get it right. His illness and death were emotionally challenging for me to write and illustrate.

Mark: Thank you for talking with us, Tom!

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I highly recommend the Jack Kirby book. I learned so much I did not know, and it made me cry a few times. It's powerful work about a powerful man. You can order it directly at:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/608042/jack-kirby-by-tom-scioli/?pdivflag

Tom Scioli has a lot of great work that he has done over the years (I am particularly partial to Godland and Transformers vs. G.I. Joe). You can find him on:

Twitter @tomscioli

Instagram @tom_scioli

His Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=44878299

His websites: tomscioli.com and ambarb.com

His YouTube channel, which is called 'Total Recall Show': https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC06b4W-wdvMDkilT-hAVxmQ


 More Tom Scioli Super Powers!

Monday, February 1, 2021

DC in the 80s '8k Twitter followers' contest

Our Twitter account just hit 8,000 followers, and to celebrate we're having a contest!

All you need to do to enter is send us an original illustration (via e-mail [dcinthe80s@gmail.com]) of your favorite DC character(s) from the 1980s.

You could win:

  1. A secret DC comics-themed prize,
  2. Your illustration published in our NEXT fanzine, AND
  3. A FREE copy of our NEXT fanzine!

Contest rules:

  • Illustration MUST be Safe for Work (i.e. no nudity, excessive sexuality or gore)
  • Illustration must NOT be political (i.e. no Trump or Biden gags, please)
  • Illustration must NOT be religious-themed or contain any hate-themed content (self-explanatory)
  • Your illustration MUST be an original, and NOT be a swipe of someone else's work (i.e. no tracing Frank Miller's splash page from DKR. We're good at spotting this stuff -- we'll know.)
  • Illustration must fit within 8.5" x 5.5" page (because that's how big our 'zine pages are)
  • We primarily print in black and white. If you decide to send us a color illustration, be sure to also include a black and white version that will look good in print.
  • Please send the illustration as a .TIF or high-resolution JPEG (300 dpi) file. This is the optimal DPI that our printers use.
  • By entering this contest, you grant us (DC in the 80s) permission to display your art on our Facebook, Twitter and any other social media feeds we use.


Previously submitted fan art from years past:

'Very 80s Justice League' by John Gagliano


'Hip-Hop Darkseid' by Brennan Bova



Blue Devil by Dan Hammond

FAQ:

Q: I don't have those fancy artist pens that professional comic book artists use. Can I still participate?

A: Absolutely. Use ballpoint pens, crayons, coloring pencils, oil paints, water colors, mechanical pencils, pastels, sharpies, charcoal or chalk for all we care. Hey, you can even go totally digital on this one and use Photoshop (or even MS paint). All we care is that it's original work, and that it will look good in black and white, and that it will fit nicely on a 8.5" x 5.5" page.

Q: I don't live in North America. Can I still participate?

A: Sure! Just keep in mind that, if you win, we'll be sending out your prize via standard mail in a regular envelope -- so it might take a while to arrive.

Q: Do I need to send you the original art?

A: No, just the high-resolution digital scan in .TIF or .JPEG format will be fine.

Q: I can't draw for the life of me, can I get my brother/sister/cousin/friend to do it?

A: Sure. As long as they realize that we will be printing it in our fanzine if they are the winner.

Q: Can I commission someone to do the illustration for me?

A: Sure, but remember that the DC comics-themed prize and the fanzine is probably worth about $10 USD in total. You're really playing for bragging rights and have your illustration shown to a wide audience of DC comics-loving fans.

Q: So... how many people will see the winning contest entry?

A: Without going into specifics, we have a reach of about 27k+ monthly viewers/readers (and these are the months that we aren't at comic book conventions /events distributing our fanzines). So, we'll let you do the math on that one. ;)

Q: Can I submit more than one illustration?

A: Yes, yes you can.

Q: Can I submit art I commissioned from a professional artist several years ago?

A: We'd rather not. Let's keep it fresh and new.

Q: Is there an age limit to this contest?

A: No, we'll accept entries from newborn babies all the way up until 180 year olds. If you're under eighteen, we'd like your parents' or legal guardians' permission that you may enter, however./

Q: I'm a professional artist. May I enter this contest?

A: Yes, you may.

Q: Does it have to be one (1) character in the illustration?

A: You can draw all 30+ members of the Legion of Super-Heroes for all we care, as long as it all fits on one 8.5" x 5.5" page and looks good (we're NOT doing double-page splashes, so please don't ask.)

Q: Do the characters have to be posing in a 'team shot'?

A: No, you can do whatever you'd like: New Teen Titans fighting Darkseid, Infinity Inc in a ping-pong tournament, Batman and Robin making breakfast in the kitchen... we really have no restrictions.

Q: Can I add some Marvel [or other comic book] characters in the illustration?

A: No, we'd prefer you stick to a theme: DC comics characters who appeared in the comic books during the 1980s (let's say from 1978 to 1992).

Q: Can I add my own creator-made character(s) in the illustration?

A: No. Again, we'd prefer you to stick to a theme. See answer above.

Q: I don't really do illustrations. I'm more of a 'one-page comic strip' person. Can I submit one of those?

A: Words with pictures? Yes, you can.

Q: I actually meant more like a 'MAD Magazine humor article' type-of-thing.

A: Does it fit onto a 8.5" x 5.5" page? Is it high-resolution? Does it look good in black and white? If you answered yes to all of the above, go for it.

Q: I wrote it and my friend drew it. Do we each get a prize if we win?

A: No. If you guys win, we'll send you the prize package and you guys can figure out how you guys want to split it up.

Q: Can I send a short story, written prose or poetry instead?

A: No, it's got to have illustrations. It can have words AND illustrations, but NOT just words.

Q: Can I send in a collage?

A: We appreciate almost all visual artistic forms, so sure. As long as it: fits onto a 8.5" x 5.5" page, is sent as a high-resolution scan, and looks good in black and white.

Q: I decided to illustrate/paint my submission on an oversized canvas. Rather than scan it (which won't work for obvious reasons), can I just take a picture and send that instead?

A: The problem with photos is that there is a lot of glare or -- worse yet -- when you print a photo of a painting in a fanzine it looks like a photo of a painting. If you can take a high-resolution photo of your creation in such a way so that it DOESN'T look like a photo, then yes -- if we chose your work of art -- you'd be eligible to win.

Q: How will the winner be chosen?

A: A winner will be chosen by DC in the 80s editor-in-chief, Justin Francoeur, and DC in the 80s co-editor, Mark Belkin. We will most likely have an additional 'celebrity judge' because sometimes Justin and Mark can't agree and need a tie-breaker. We're not actually sure what we're looking for, we'll just know it when we see it. Try to 'wow' us.

Q: Will there be prizes for runner-ups?

A: That remains to be seen on 1) how many submissions we get and 2) how many submissions 'wow' us.

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This contest will be open until April 3rd, 2021 12:00. No purchase necessary.









Wednesday, January 27, 2021

DC in the 80s interviews editor Dave Manak

We at DC in the 80s LOVE interviewing editors who worked at DC comics during the 1980s. Often, editors know the 'inside scoop' of what was going on behind-the-scenes and can share interesting anecdotes of working with certain comic pros or amusing stories about what was happening in the editorial meetings. Editors are the unsung heroes of the comic book industry -- they were the glue that kept our favorite books published on time and coordinated with the writer(s), artist(s), letterer(s) and everyone else on the creative team (that I'm drawing a blank on) by keeping everything from going off the rails. Next time you meet an editor of one your favorite books, tell him how much you appreciated his work.

Today we are lucky enough to interview Dave Manak.


Dave Manak in DC offices (circa early 1980s)

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Justin: Welcome, Dave. Tell us a bit about your editorial time at DC comics during the eighties.

Dave: I worked on the editorial staff at DC for approximately three years from 1981 through 1983.

I edited DC’s Mystery line: Ghosts, Unexpected, House of Mystery and Green Lantern for about one year. Then I moved over to work in our Special Projects department led by my mentor and friend, Joe Orlando for my last two years on staff. There I worked on projects for various companies like Atari, Mattel, Kenner and The White House (Yes, THAT White House!) to name a few. I’ll talk more about that in time, but first let me tell you how I got to 1981.

Justin: Your career follows an interesting trajectory -- your first work (that I'm aware of) was as an artist for DC's Plop! magazine in the seventies. Plop! was kind of like DC's answer to MAD magazine. (Marvel had CRAZY magazine). I have your first artistic work cited here as 1974's Plop! #7:

Dave: Sometime in 1971, as a young guy living in Southeast PA with no contact with anyone in the comic book industry I sent a sheet of drawings of my best versions of superheroes to Joe Kubert at DC (National Periodical Publications at the time). I sent it to Joe because of my love for his art in SGT ROCK, particularly ENEMY ACE. To my shocked delight I got a letter back asking me if I’d like to visit him in NYC at the DC offices and BOOM! I was on my way to the Big City.

After a bunch of visits showing Joe new samples each time I showed him some humor cartooning I did and he introduced me to Joe Orlando, who was already famous from his time at MAD Magazine, and that was the meeting that would set things in motion. In about a year I moved to NYC and started doing some freelance production work at DC to pay the rent and sold my first single panel cartoon to DC appearing in Plop! # 6, Joe Orlando’s brainchild. Then it wasn’t long before I was penciling and inking stories for Plop!, and I became good friends with Orlando after that. Maybe he saw something of himself when he was just starting out in me. I don’t know... but I do know that for the next almost thirty years that I knew him, we had a BLAST! Oh, and that’s when I met my DC best bud: Andy Helfer. He was Joe Orlando’s assistant (or something --I’m not sure what... ha ha) but we had a lot of fun in those days. Andy went on to become a great writer and editor at DC.

cover of Plop! #24 (1976) by illustrated by Dave Manak

Dave: Joe Orlando was editor of the DC’s Mystery comics line and had mystery inventory scripts that they couldn’t use, so the two of us would sit in Joe Orlando’s office rewriting some of them and turning them into humor stories for Plop! (I think that’s how I learned how to write comics. Besides, I was a huge movies buff and was always writing screenplays in my head.) During that time I met Sergio Aragones who was the premiere artist for Plop! and, of course, a major MAD Magazine contributor. At that time the DC offices were a pretty loose place where freelance artists and writers would wander in and out freely. One could talk in the open artists bullpen area between the editorial offices really as long as you liked catching up on stuff with fellow creators, some seasoned pros and some relatively new, like me. 

Although my style was a bit "Sergio-esque", I wasn’t trying to imitate him -- although he was an influence. I got it mostly because I liked the cartoonist Charles Rodriguez who did single panel gags and work for National Lampoon. My time at Plop! was pretty much a dream come true. I played around with my art style during the seventies mainly because I worked on so many individual pieces and could. Anyway, after a few years Sergio and Joe Orlando urged me to submit some ideas to MAD Magazine. I did and sold a few cover ideas to them and some gags that Don Martin drew. WHAT A THRILL! All of the rejected ideas -- and there were quite a few, let me tell you -- I tramped over to Marvel’s CRAZY Magazine and pitched them to then editor Larry Hama. He liked them and I had an extra gig drawing them myself. Of course, an artist or writer couldn't use their own name if they sold to MAD Magazine and then sold the rejects to a competitor, so, I’m not sure how many fans know that I used the name KOVACS for that work at CRAZY.

Marvel's CRAZY magazine #41 (1978)

Dave: Also, a shout out to Paul Levitz, here. He began as Joe Orlando’s assistant editor around the same time as I showed up. We both learned how to be comic book people from Joe. And Paul, of course, became a major creator and leader that made DC the company that it is today.

I also have to mention the arrival of Jenette Kahn in 1976 as Publisher. She became president in 1981 and brought a new feeling of creativity and sophistication to comics into the eighties and nineties.

Justin: So, the next BIG move after that was becoming editor on 4 ongoing DC titles in 1981: 3 Mystery anthology titles (Ghosts, Secrets of Haunted House, and Unexpected) and 1 regular title (Green Lantern). [One of these things is not like the others -- more on that later.] How did you make the jump to editorial?


Dave: Well, that brings us to 1981. Joe Orlando asked me to have lunch with him and Dick Giordano. I had no idea what for. There they asked me if I’d be interested in becoming an editor as well as Dick’s assistant editor. Dick was then DC’s managing editor, but he was still editing the Batman titles. I’d really never thought about that line of work, but after a few days I got back to them and Manak was an editor!

I had the Mystery line of books and Green Lantern. And since the Mystery books were all-new stories, each issue I got to work with talents the likes of: Keith Giffen, Robert Kanigher, Mark Texeira, Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin, Paul Levitz, Paris Cullins, Steve Ditko, Tony DeZuniga, Jack C Harris, Bob Rozakis, Steve Skeates, Trevor Von Eden, Steven Bissette, Paul Kupperberg, Joey Cavalieri, Greg LaRocque, Ernie Colon, Pat Broderick, Andrew Helfer, Gerry Conway, Mike Zeck, Mark Silvestri... I’d gotten to know most of these people simply by hanging out at the DC offices in the seventies -- it really was a community of freelance writers and artists, so it was easy to work with them. I got along great with everyone and I have to mention Bob Kanigher. At the time I really didn’t know what a volume of work he’d done in comics. He didn’t really talk about comics much to me but, more, as I remember about the scar he had on his cheek from a fencing match or fanciful goings on and escapades in Europe. True? Made up? Probably, but who cares? It’s a precious memory, nonetheless.

One of the things I found very cool was personally doing layout sketches for the Mystery covers and getting great artists like my old pal, Joe Kubert to do them. He loved it! Ernie Colon did some, too.

Justin: Being an editor of a title seems to require a different type of skill set than being a writer or artist on a book. How did you find the transition? What were some key take-aways from your experience? As far as you were concerned, what was your content strategy for the anthology books?

Dave: As a new editor I certainly was in the best of worlds. After all, I shared an office with Dick Giordano. What more could a novice ask for? The way I personally approached editing was pretty basic. Make sure the story had a beginning, middle and end (or cliffhanger) and to make sure it wasn’t DULL. I pretty much learned this from watching Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. As far as I'm concerned, that’s the best storytelling format for any comic book story or series... and it’s exactly what I used when I went on to do a pretty large amount of writing for Marvel’s STAR Comics.

Justin: You edited Green Lantern from issues #145 - 155 (1981 - 1982). I always liked your run of Green Lantern -- we saw a lot of his classic rogues appear (ex: Goldface, Black Hand, etc...), we saw Hal receive more characterization, the Adam Strange back-ups were dropped for Green Lantern Corps back-ups (written by Paul Kupperberg) which ultimately led to the GLC making more appearances in the regular stories, and your run more or less ended with Hal going on more sci-fi adventures (as opposed to simply protecting earth). We liked this run so much that we reviewed it several years ago. I've got to ask: Marv Wolfman was the writer during the majority of your run (issues 145 - 153) -- how much of your Green Lantern run was yours and how much was Marv? Was it a 50/50 split?

Dave: Editing Green Lantern was great!... with writers like Marv Wolfman and Paul Kupperberg, and an artist like Joe Staton, I was the one learning how to do a main-line comic from great talents like them. When a book has great talents working on it who respect the material, it’s not hard to do. I offered suggestions and that was about it.

Green Lantern #154 (1982) - cover by Gil Kane

Justin: One story I seem to recall [writer] Dan Mishkin telling me is that Blue Devil and Amethyst were originally created so that the Mystery anthology titles could have 'recurring characters' to increase readership. I believe the idea was pitched to you, which you liked, but senior management decided Blue Devil and Amethyst should have their own titles. Am I getting the story right?

Dave: Both Dan and Gary are great writers on their own, but back in 1981 they were a writing team and the Mystery books were basically try-out books for new artists and writers. The team presented the story ideas Blue Devil and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. I took them to Joe Orlando saying I thought they would make great new titles. Joe took them to the powers that be, and... Guess what? Those titles were born. Actually, I was in on the initial development: working with Dan and Gary writing, and Paris Cullins (on Blue Devil) and Ernie Colon (on Amethyst) as artists.


Justin: So, as I recall, the 3 Mystery anthology books all concluded in 1982. We know that around this time anthology books were falling out of flavor with comic fans as they wanted lengthier stories and consistent characters. How did this lead into your next transition?

Dave: Being an editor was fun but the Mystery line was soon going to be gone, and it’s not that I couldn’t have continued with the superhero books -- that’s what DC wanted me to do -- but I wanted to make a change.

The Special Projects Department was created to deal with the creative side of licensing; making custom comics for companies with their characters or DC properties. Joe Orlando was put in charge there and I wanted to work with him. So for the next two years that's what I did...

...but first I’d like to apologize to the writers and artists who I don’t mention here -- either my almost-forty-year-old memory doesn’t hold it anymore or I don’t have the info at hand.


Joe Orlando (circa early-to-mid 1980s)

Dave: So, working in Special Projects was an absolute whirlwind! Most of the time we had more than one project going at a time, but had to treat each as if they were the only one. Under Orlando’s leadership we did it. Joe Orlando picked most of the talent, and other times we’d have meetings to decide who would be good for what.

One of the first things we did was put together the Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew preview as a 16-page insert in 1982's New Teen Titans #16. I got to work with Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw on that. I didn’t know them before that, but they were as nice as could be and it was fun.


Dave: Then there was Atari, Mattel, Kenner and the White House and others during my two years.

For Atari and Mattel it was custom comics, for Kenner it was the Super Powers Collection (a DC-owned property) and The White House was the New Teen Titans 3-part mini-series for the government’s drug awareness program.

From what I recall, the Atari comics were pretty much based entirely on the video games with some character reference about the characters in the games and maybe a brief synopsis. I know that Dick Giordano was in charge of the biggie, Atari Force. I handled several, but my stand out memory is that Gil Kane did one of my books. It was the first time we’d met and I was in awe, for sure. I also did the art for one of them -- DIG DUG! Unfortunately, I never saw a printed version.

Then came Mattel. The property was 'Masters of The Universe' and the main character was... 'He-Man'...SCREEEECH! He-Man? Yes. And we soon found out what an iconic character He-Man would become -- with the help of DC’s mini-comics, of course! LOL. These seven comics were written by Gary Cohn and penciled by Mark Texeira. Action figures of The Masters of The Universe were already being sold, but Mattel chose DC to give them a bit of history and place them in our universe. This was also greatly enhanced by the Masters of The Universe 16-page preview insert which appeared in several DC comics in 1982, and was followed by a DC comics limited-series all written by Paul Kupperberg and penciled by George Tuska. What a team!


Masters of The Universe 16-page preview insert that was published in 1982

Dave: One funny thing: companies often send toys to people they work with in gratitude for a job well done. I was the point person for the project on the phone with Mattel at every step. Well, this huge box shows up next to my desk addressed to me. Hmmm? From Mattel. It turned out to be a full-sized Castle Greyskull with some Masters of The Universe action figures! I thanked Mattel for their kindness and since I wasn’t a toy collector I gave it to Joe Orlando, who had young kids just the right age then. I was a big hit with them for sure!

Justin: This is interesting... Mattel was obviously impressed with DC's work on the Masters of The Universe franchise, so why didn't Mattel just continue with DC and turn the Kupperberg mini-series into an ongoing series? It would seem like Mattel just decided to do their 'own thing' after those 7 DC mini-comics, and start producing their own mini-comics 'in-house' -- eventually handing the license over to Marvel's STAR comics in 1986? 

Dave: I don't know why DC didn't continue with a MOTU regular comic. Maybe they wanted to go beyond the initial contract with Mattel and couldn't come to an agreement. In retrospect, that's probably what happened.

Kenner’s Super Powers Collection featured DC action figures with a 'trick movement' built into them -- for example, slightly squeeze the legs together and the arms go up, etc. Joe Orlando did most of the actual design work on the characters, and then it was just a matter of approving the prototypes and so on. I got to meet comic book legend and god, Jack Kirby, when he dropped by Joe’s office. Kirby did some design work on some characters he created for DC’s New Gods comics with Darkseid being the headliner.

House ad for Kenner's new Super Powers Collection action figures. Collect 'em all!

Justin: I wasn't aware you were involved in the Kenners Super Powers Collection! I LOVED that toy line! Were you involved in producing the mini-comics packaged with the Kenner figures, as well? Why was the Kenners Super Powers Collection toy line discontinued? It seemed as if they had a few more waves of figures planned (ex: Blue Devil, Vigilante, Manhunter, Wonder Twins, various Legion of Super-Hero characters, Man-Bat, a few made-up characters) [editor's note: you can read all about the history of the Super Powers Collection on this fantastic fan-site: http://kennersuperpowers.com/]

Dave: As far as the SUPER POWERS COLLECTION goes... Joe Orlando did most of the assigning and reviewing of the finishes because Kenner was such an important client. I think sales just weren't large enough for it to continue.

The New Teen Titans Drug awareness mini-series: these were three New Teen Titans comics done in cooperation with the President and Nancy Reagan’s Drug Awareness Program and were co-sponsored by Keebler, the American Soft Drink Industry and IBM.

Once again, it was a sheer pleasure working with Teen Titans' team [Marv] Wolfman and [George] Perez. George was an absolute joy to work with, also. I got to visit The White House and, on the whole, I’m very proud of the finished project. I guess how much real good it did will never be known, but if it had some impact on it’s readers I’d count that as a success.

The New Teen Titans Drug Awareness special #1 (1983)

Dave: Well, that kind of wraps this up. Next would be my Marvel work and meeting my cartooning best bud, Michael Gallagher, and then back to DC for Looney Tunes Magazine and MAD Magazine again, and then to Sonic the Hedgehog at Archie comics. I know I left some people out during my years at DC -- editors and peers who had an impact on my career and life -- but I hope you know that all of you guys will stay in my hearts! Hmm... maybe I’m the next Doctor.

MAD magazine #342 (1996). Art by Dave Manak (as 'M&e')


Justin: Thank you for sitting with us today, Dave!

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If you have any additional question for Dave Manak, send them our way and maybe we'll be able to get answers for you. No absurd questions, thanks!