Interviews Reviews Guest Stars Fanzine Misc

Saturday, December 4, 2021

No, we haven't been hacked

With everything going on in our lives over the past 2 years, Mark and I kind of put maintenance of the DC in the 80s website on the backburner (our Facebook and Twitter was alive and kicking, however). 

After receiving countless spammy e-mail solicitations from 'e-commerce businesses' looking to help us increase revenue (ha!) by redesigning and redeveloping our website for increased functionality and search engine optimization for only $500 to $800 USD, we've taken it upon ourselves to simply redesign the front page ourselves. Like seriously, it's just more fun to build this thing ourselves.

Anyways, expect changes to the homepage as we tinker around with things. Keep an eye out for new articles. Check us out on Instragram if you want a new way to follow us. Send us feedback and let us know if you like this redesign or if it's absolute rubbish.

We didn't want to leave you empty-handed... so here's a few panels from a 1982 DC/Radio Shack promo comic (featuring Wonder Woman, Superman AND Lex Luthor) demonstrating how amazing computers are:


-Justin

 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Zine the fourth has arrived! The 'Reboot' issue!

2 years later, and we've finally released our fourth zine -- but it was worth the wait:

A front cover by Jeff Lemire! A back cover by Michel Fiffe! An interview with Jeff Lemire! An interview with DC editor Mike Gold! We pestered writers Tony Isabella and Dan Mishkin for information! Articles about the Hawkman/Hawkworld reboot, the Aquaman reboot, Wild Dog and The Question! Our favorite Secret Origins issues! The winning entry from our '8k Twitter followers' contest! Pin-ups by Christian St. Pierre and Raymond Lowell!

We're calling it 'the Reboot issue' even though Mike Gold hates that word. ;)


If you're an American resident, for $5 USD (shipping is extra), we will send you a 24-page black and white 'zine.


If you're a Canadian resident, for $6.50 CAD (shipping is extra), we will send you a 24-page black and white 'zine.

If you're an International resident, e-mail us directly and we'll figure something out.

To order, send us an e-mail at dcinthe80s@gmail.com.

Yes, this is our FOURTH 'zine. You can scope out our first, second and third zines by clicking on the links. We may have a few left in stock...




Thursday, October 28, 2021

Dan Mishkin talks DC's supernatural anthology titles and "I...Vampire"

This is an excerpt from a series of interviews we conducted with writer Dan Mishkin from 2018. Rather than post one really long interview, we decided to break it up into parts. In celebration of Halloween, we decided to post Mishkin's memories on his first work for DC.

For those of you who may not know, Dan Mishkin is the co-creator of Amethyst and Blue Devil (two of DC's stand-out characters from the 1980s). The other half of that creative team is Gary Cohn -- a childhood friend of Mishkin's who also aspired to be a writer and joined forces with Mishkin to create some memorable stories for DC. A lot of Mishkin's early work for DC was written in collaboration with Cohn (both being credited as the writers), and they would continue to collaborate until the mid-80s when career paths would lead them down different roads. They are still good pals as of this day.


Justin: You started working for DC by contributing stories to sci-fi and supernatural anthology titles (Warp, Mystery In Space, Weird War Tales, House of Mystery, Secrets of Haunted House, Unexpected, Ghosts). How did you get these gigs? What was it like "breaking into DC"?



Dan: Getting back to our very earliest work, here’s the huge lesson I learned from our first sale: Sometimes what editors want is not what they say they want, or not always so. Jack [C. Harris]’s rubric for what a Time Warp story was to be (no issues had been published when we sold ours) basically asked for twist endings that involved horrible things happening to the protagonists in outer space or some other sci-fi setting. We totally violated that with a story about an astronaut who crash lands on a barren, wintry planetoid and is taken in by an old coot neither he nor the reader has reason to trust…but who turns out to be Santa Claus, and who takes the astronaut back to Earth on his sleigh. That was one of about a dozen springboards we pitched to Jack, and it’s the only one he bought.


page from Time Warp #3 (1980)


And what seemed to happen after Jack took a small chance on us — small because a three-page story in an anthology title can turn out crappy without bringing down the book’s batting average too much —is that other editors then considered us to be worth their time, their doors opening in ways they hadn’t before. I also made a point of traveling to New York about every six weeks — I grew up there and could stay with my parents, and the overnight train was cheap — so I could be more than a voice on the phone to editors, and I think that made a difference when it came to picking up more assignments in the anthology books.

Justin: By my count, you and Cohn (as a writing duo) had roughly 40 stories published in the anthology titles (this includes your "I...Vampire" material). I seem to recall once reading (or being told by someone) that the creation of Amethyst and Blue Devil were a direct result of you guys working on said anthology titles?



Mishkin: As for Amethyst and Blue Devil, neither one of those existed even as a vague notion until we were writing professionally and were asked to come up with new series. Each of those grew out an invitation to invent a lead feature for one of DC’s "mystery" titles, as "I…Vampire" was for House of Mystery. But for whatever reason, they caught the attention of higher-ups who wanted to original series in brand-new titles. We were lucky to be around during one of those unusual times when the company was looking to broaden its offerings. Though I have to say that I’m still amazed they published Amethyst, even as a limited series. Nothing in what they knew about their audience said that it had any chance of catching fire. Then again, they really didn’t know much about their audience anyway. And Jenette Kahn’s feminism may have played a role.

The Amethyst series was originally solicited by Dave Manak, who was editing some of the anthology titles and whom Gary [Cohn] and I had done work for. As I alluded to earlier, the thought was that it could be the lead feature in one of those titles, as “I…Vampire” was for House of Mystery, and the same was true with Dave’s request for a feature that eventually became Blue Devil. It was only after DC decided in both cases that the characters could support their own brand-new books that Karen came aboard for Amethyst and Alan Gold (with Len Wein being involved intermediately) for Blue Devil.

[Interviewer's note: "I... Vampire" was a series that ran in House of Mystery from 1981 to 1983. It told the story of Andrew Bennett -- a Lord in Queen Elizabeth's court (circa 16th century) who gets bitten by a vampire and in turn becomes a vampire himself -- who hunts down and kills vampires that are members of the Cult of the Blood Red Moon. While Marvel actively used Dracula as a character in their stories, DC didn't have a vampire character -- so Andrew Bennett was it.]




Justin: Speaking of  which, you guys took over the recurring "I...Vampire" saga that ran in House of Mystery. Introduced in House of Mystery #290 (by J.M. DeMatteis), the ongoing story of Andrew Bennett quickly became a fan-favorite. "I... Vampire" was written by DeMatteis until he left, in which Bruce Jones took over. You guys took it over from Jones starting with issue #310. I know that you and Cohn had both become semi-regular contributors to House of Mystery by the time you took over for Jones on "I...Vampire". How did that come about? Did Bruce Jones hand the reigns over to you guys? Or was it an 'editorial' decision?

Dan: Our taking over “I…Vampire” is entirely the result of having a good working relationship with Karen Berger, along with the aforementioned dependability that made us likely candidates to reach out to. We didn’t seek the assignment but were very happy to accept it when Karen made the offer.

Justin: By the way, DeMatteis introduced a supporting character named 'Mishkin' to Andrew Bennett very early in the series. Was that a coincidence... or something more?

Panels from House of Mystery #290 illustrated by Tom Sutton


Dan: As far as I know, it was just a coincidence. Mark [aka: J.M. DeMatteis] and I didn’t know each other, and I can only assume that he’d read Dostoevsky and that when he needed a Russian name, it was either Karamazov, Raskolnikov or Mishkin, and that the last was easiest to type.

And then, of course, Gary and I decided to kill off Dmitri Mishkin — for good story reasons but also, a bit, out of the perverse pleasure of killing a character with my name. In fact, I asked Karen Berger if she could have Mike Kaluta put a tombstone on the cover of that issue, with words along the lines of “D. MISHKIN R.I.P” — which I’m sure Mike would have done gorgeously—but she felt uneasy. Just superstitious enough that she’d rather not tempt the Angel of Death to turn my way.

Justin: Mike Kaluta did some some gorgeous covers for this series, but that one cover of Andrew Bennett crying tears of blood haunted me intensely as a kid. It creeped me out to no end. I had to keep that comic flipped over face-down in my collection. I was a squeamish kid.

cover of House of Mystery #310 (1982) illustrated by Mike Kaluta 


Justin: By issue #310, House of Mystery was one of the last hold-outs of the anthology format (i.e., House of SecretsUnexpected, and Weird Wars had all been cancelled by now.) "I...Vampire" was easily the strongest feature in that title (it became a monthly feature after issue #301), with fans often writing in for an ongoing "I...Vampire" series. Surely you and Cohn would've been the natural choices to turn this into an ongoing. I'm sure this is more of a question for DC editorial, but why did an ongoing "I...Vampire" series never materialize?

Dan: You’re right that the people who made editorial and business decisions would be better placed to answer this question, but given the fact that House of Mystery was canceled a couple of issues after “I…Vampire” ended, I think it’s safe to say that actual sales did not reflect the intense devotion of letter-writing fans (as much as we appreciated that!). I can’t imagine that the folks at DC were prepared to say, “Hey, the book is failing with this feature on the cover of every issue, but maybe it will sell if we start with #1 and remove the small House of Mystery logo.”

Justin: The last chapter in issue #319 concluded with Andrew Bennett dying. Was it your (you and Cohn's) decisions to kill off Andrew Bennett?

Dan: That was Gary and my decision. We knew that the series and the book were both ending and we wanted to have the series conclude with real finality. So we gave Bennett his dramatic swan song and a death that we did our damnedest to insure could not be reversed. Though someone later found a way to do just that.

cover of House of Mystery #319 (1983) -- the last "I... Vampire" issue -- illustrated by Mike Kaluta


Dan Mishkin is one of my favorite writers -- not just because he's game to answer all of my precarious questions about DC comics from the 80s or because he has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything that was going on back then (at this rate, I will probably end up inadvertently ghostwriting his biography) -- but because he's worked on almost all of my favorite DC titles throughout the 80s. Look for more Dan Mishkin interviews in upcoming articles (and in our next zine).

-Justin

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Remembering when TOR published black & white DC paperbacks

A few weeks ago I went to pick up a box of sci-fi paperbacks someone in my city was getting rid of. If the price is right, I usually don't even ask what's in the box -- there's always an assortment of interesting things to keep me entertained. The nice thing about cheap paperback novels is that after you're done reading them, you can pass them along to other readers who, in turn, pass them along to other people when they're done with them. At some point in time, depending on the network of people you're trading with, they'll probably find their way back into your hands. It's all part of the urban ecosystem, I guess. 


While digging through a pile of yellowing Harry Harrison novels, I stumbled upon this:



It's the same size as a regular old paperback novel, but when you check out the interior, it's actually....

 
Yes, that's my thumb.

 ...a black & white reprint of 1979's World of Krypton 3-issue mini-series written by Paul Kupperberg and illustrated by Howard Chaykin and Murphy Anderson





This is a great rush of memories for those of us who were old enough to remember these. No, I'm not talking about the World of Krypton mini-series; I'm referring to the black & white paperback-sized DC reprints published by TOR Books.
 

TOR Books, founded by Tom Doherty, is a publishing company based in New York that was known for publishing science fiction and fantasy books. If you're a Conan the Barbarian fan, you may remember that TOR published a whole bunch of Conan paperback novels from 1982 until about 2003.They also published one Elfquest novel in the mid-80s [that I know of], as well as a whole bunch of novels based on the V franchise in the late 80s. TOR is still active today; still publishing books.

I don't know what led TOR to publish paperback-sized black & white reprints for DC comics, but I do know that they weren't the ONLY ones who had this idea: Marvel had Marvel Illustrated Books (reprinting the adventures of Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc...), Warner Books & Signet Books were reprinting MAD magazine (I had a huge collection of these growing up as a kid), and Dell Books were reprinting CRACKED magazine



TOR Books also wasn't the FIRST publisher to reprint black & white paperback-sized reprints of DC comics, either. In the mid-to-late seventies, Tempo Books (Grosset & Dunlap) also published black & white paperback-sized reprints of DC comic books, but they didn't stop there -- they also published Marvel & DC puzzle books, an Incredible Hulk paperback, a Star Hawks paperback, a Dick Tracy paperback, a Mandrake the Magician paperback, a few Spirit paperbacks, a few Richie Rich paperbacks, and a whole bunch of Heathcliff and Hagar the Horrible paperbacks. Tempo Books published mass-market comic book reprint paperbacks from 1969 to 1985 (with the bulk of it's DC paperbacks released in 1977/78) , so there wouldn't have been much overlap between TOR and Tempo.


As far I can tell, TOR Books only published 6 of these mass-market paperbacks in the early eighties, but they were reprinted over and over again so they were not as scarce as you'd expect them to be. The six titles were:

1) World of Krypton: The Home of Superman. This one was first published in 1982 and reprinted many times afterwards. This is a reprint of 1979's World of Krypton mini-series and, after a quick read through, no panels from the original mini-series have been left out (I haven't done a page-by-page comparison, yet).

2) The World's Greatest Superheroes present Superman. Published in 1982, this paperback reprinted the Vandal Savage Strikes! storyline from The World's Greatest Superheroes newspaper comic strip that ran in 1978. Written by Martin Pasko with art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta, this paperback features Superman, the Flash, Aquaman AND Wonder Woman (no Batman, however). Vandal Savage was a curious choice for a villain, as I imagine any new fans gained via the Superman films wouldn't have been familiar with him.



3) The Superman Story. I believe this was originally published in 1983 [but I may be wrong]. This paperback is a reprint of Superman #500 (1979) written by Martin Pasko and illustrated by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte. [Thank you, Brian O'Neill for pointing this out.] This paperback was reprinted in 1988 to coincide with Superman's 50th anniversary.



4) The Superman Puzzle Book. First published in 1983, I'm going to assume this was all puzzles (mazes, word searches, and etc...). I don't know if I want to consider this a DC paperback per se, because it probably wasn't something you re-read over and over again. You probably just threw it in the trash after all the puzzles had been solved.



I believe at some point in 1983 (most likely as a holiday gift set) the 3 books could be bought as a gift-pack:


With three Superman films (SupermanSuperman II and Superman III) released between 1978 and 1983, Superman was a really hot property for DC, so it should come as no surprise that the four of the seven books were Superman-centric. The Supergirl film was released in 1984, and I'm surprised TOR Books didn't release a Supergirl-themed paperback as well. Missed opportunity?


5) Swamp Thing. First published in 1982, this paperback collects the first three issues of 1972's Swamp Thing written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. While this was a blatant attempt to take advantage of the hype created by the 1982 Swamp Thing film (it says so right on the cover), I don't care -- I would've bought this in a heartbeat. I've never actually seen this before researching this article, and I go to A LOT of garage sales, flea markets and used book stores... so yeah, I guess this one is pretty rare.



6) The New Teen Titans. Published in 1982, this reprints the New Teen Titans preview from DC Comics Presents #26 and the first three issues of New Teen Titans -- all by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. This is another one I would've loved to have gotten as a kid: you've got the first appearance of the New Teen Titans, the first appearance of Deathstroke and the first appearance of the Fearsome Five all in one book. New Teen Titans was one of DC's "IT" books in the 80s and this would've been a nice introductory to DC readers who may have missed the first few issues. Another "IT" book of the 80s? Legion of Super-Heroes. Why didn't they get a reprint like this? No clue. Anyways, this paperback weighed in at a massive 224 pages. All the other books were 160 pages, except for the Superman newspaper strip reprint (which was 128 pages).



7) The Untold Legend of the Batman. Published in 1982, this paperback reprints all three issues of Untold Legend of the Batman mini-series from 1980 by Len Wein, Jim Aparo and John Byrne. This mini-series originally included 3 audiocassettes (one cassette to accompany each issue) that read the issue to you. This was the same mini-series that was a cereal give-away (albeit the issues were in a smaller format) in 1989. This paperback was reprinted a few times, and even more so with DC gearing up for the Batman film being released in 1989. This paperback was my greatest achievement as I convinced my parents it was a novel (why else it would be featured in a Scholastic book ordering brochure?) back in elementary school and they let me order it. My parents had a strict "we'll let you buy one book a month from the Scholastic ordering catalog, but it has to be a BOOK book. No sticker books, comic books (including Garfield) or Nintendo guide books." Thank you, TOR Books, for helping sneak this one by my parents. 



TOR released two other Batman-themed books in 1988: The Riddler's Riddle Book (contained no illustrations, just text) and the Joker's Joke Book (I'm guessing this had text and illustrations). As you can probably guess, I've never seen either of these in person:


These would been published about a year before the 1989 Batman film, so things were ramping up.


So why did TOR Books only publish six DC paperbacks? I'm guessing that DC's Special Blue Ribbon Digests and Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digests kind of made them obsolete. DC Digests cost less, were in full color and faithfully reprinted the original comic page onto a digest-sized page (even if you did need a magnifying glass to read the text sometimes). Meanwhile, the TOR Books were in black & white and used a panel redistribution method to make everything format nicely within the paperback (because size does matter), but it means they fit less content into soooooo many pages.

A page from the comic book version of Untold Legend of The Batman...


...ended up looking like this in the TOR reprint paperback:

Photo source: ebay.com

Finding these in near mint condition is going to be tricky; mass-market paperbacks were meant to be a  cheap form of disposable entertainment -- so they weren't built to last. If you were a collector, you would've bought the hardcover copy of the book.

Mass-market paperbacks were pocket-sized and meant to be stuck in your jacket pocket so you could read them while riding the city bus or subway. A comic book cleverly disguised as a paperback novel. I can't quite explain it, but any time I was flaunting one of these paperbacks in elementary school I felt like a badass for somehow finding a loophole in the system. Anytime I'm at a flea market or used book sale and I find one of these, I tend to pick it up just out of principle.

Keeping this in mind, most copies will have a bit of water damage, yellowing paper, chunks missing out of the cover, creased pages and tears in the interior -- so finding a near mint version of any of these might be a challenge and a little pricey. I've never stumbled upon a near mint copy.


-Justin

FYI: For inquiring minds, TOR Books would go on to give Marvel the same treatment in 1990 with an Amazing Spider-Man black & white reprint paperback and an Incredible Hulk back & white reprint paperback. There may have been more, but these are the only two I know of.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The *other* Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight story -- how we almost NEVER got a Kyle Rayner

Sometimes, we here at DC in the 80s stumble onto a twitter thread SO interesting and informative that we fear if twitter ever crashed and all tweet history was deleted that this info would be lost forever. This is a twitter thread written by Dave Shevlin (founder of Comfort Food Comics) that met the above criteria, who (with his permission, of course) allowed us to give his thread a permanent home until he says otherwise. All words were written by Dave Shevlin. All research was done by Dave Shevlin. If you want to quote any of this, please credit Dave Shevlin. If you'd like to contact Dave, send us an e-mail and we'll forward it to him.

-----

Original posting date: October 28, 2019

Ok, so we're gonna talk about Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight. How we almost never got Kyle Rayner. How Gerard Jones had a very different story in mind. We're gonna talk about how DC made the drastic, correct decision. We're gonna discuss H.E.A.T.

I am gonna preface this by saying: Former Green Lantern writer Gerard Jones was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison for child pornography charges in 2018. There is no debate here. The man is a literal monster. Absolutely disgusting. Cancel culture exists to shun a man like this.

This thread is not to support his work or encourage you to seek it out. Please do not. Rather, its to showcase comics history & show you how we dodged a huge bullet & he was rightfully fired off Green Lantern & we got one of the best runs in comic history with Ron Marz.

So, historical context: Green Lantern as a franchise was struggling in the late 80's. It didn't have its own series, it was running in Action comics Weekly with some odd specials here & there. Hal Jordan wasn't that huge. In 1990 Green Lantern Volume 3 was launched by Jones:

Your mileage may vary on Jones' run & what he did for the GL franchise. The gist of his run is showing how OLD Hal Jordan is. He spends most of the series as an old drifter, wandering the country, with some fresh greyed hair. It is by no means an exciting book with Hal as the lead.

Anyways, this series runs for several years with Jones always battling with his editor Kevin Dooley about its contents. Meanwhile in the Return of Superman story, Hal Jordan's hometown, Coast City is destroyed by Cyborg Superman & Mongul.

Now this is followed up in Green Lantern 46 & 47 by Gerard Jones. Here's the last page of GL #47:


Hal certainly seems ok with everything that happened & he's ready to move on to some other story. Doesn't seem like he's gonna lose it & go crazy over the loss of Coast City, does he?

That's because Ron Marz' Emerald Twilight was originally not planned! Jones had his own version of Emerald Twilight planned. It was even solicited with house ads for it even appearing in books at the time!! Here's the house ad that was to be the cover of GL #48 by Kevin Maguire:

Here are the original previews that were sent out to retailers for Green Lantern issues 48 & 49:

GL 48 by Jones, Cobbs,& Tanghal 

"Superman and the Justice League gather by Green Lantern's side as Hal confronts the horror of the destruction of Coast City. Meanwhile on Oa, the Guardians of the Universe find themselves fighting a lethal battle against the Guardians of the Universe?"

GL 49 by G. Jones, Haynes, & Tanghal 

"Green Lantern is caught up in a battle raging between two equally powerful groups of the Guardians of the Universe. Hal's side loses, and the winners' first act is to take away the power rings' 24-hour time limit, and their yellow impurity Their second act is to appoint a new leader of the Green Lantern Corps --- Sinestro! This issue leads directly into the landmark Green Lantern #50, a major turning point for the series."

So as you can see we almost got a VERY different course of action for Green Lantern in the 90s. Now those are hints of the original proposed plan, but Jones actually went into it all in interviews & a plot synopsis. Here is Jones' original plot for Emerald Twilight in its entirety:

"The destruction of Coast City and his breakup with Carol make Hal realize that he can't find the roots he wants on earth. He's inspired by the memories of the dead, especially his father, to become a better hero; he decides he must affirm himself first and foremost as a Green Lantern, finding his community in the Corps. But when he goes to Oa for the big swearing-in ceremony of all the new GLs, a new group of Guardians appears, claiming to be the true Guardians.

These "New" Guardians claim that the "Old" Guardians are impostors who plan to use the GL Corps to reduce the universe to chaos. The Old group counters that the New ones are impostors who plan to use the GLs to subject the universe to tyranny in the name of "order". Adding credence to the New Guardians' claim--and raising the stakes--are the Zamarons, convinced that they are their husbands. The Zams are about to give birth to the ultimate Cosmic Children, whose power will be such that whoever controls them can control the cosmos. The fate of the universe--chaos or tyranny--hinges on whichever set of Guardians can win over the GL Corps and gain control of the Children.

Hal--who knows the Guardians as no other GLs do, having seen the Old Timer at his most human and vulnerable, and having gone through his conflict with them and his "act of faith" in GL 35--knows in his gut that the New Guardians are the impostors. But the weight of evidence is against him and he can't convince the other GLs (the "Twelve Angry Men" dynamic).Hal has a choice: break with the GL Corps, now his only hope for community and belonging; or collude with something he feels will reduce the universe to tyranny. Hal chooses the former.

He enters the battery to increase his power, fights the Corps and takes the Old Guardians into hiding as he seeks a way to convince his fellow GLs or beat the New Guardians. The stakes for Hal are high: if he's RIGHT about the New Guardians, but they WIN, then the universe is doomed. If he's WRONG in his gut-feeling and HE wins, then HE'S doomed the universe. If he's WRONG and he LOSES, then the universe is okay but Hal is ostracized from the only group that means anything to him. The pressure is on him not only to win, but to be damn sure he's right.

The New Guardians announce their new leader of the GL Corps: Sinestro, renowned for his devotion to order before he broke with the GL Corps. He whips the Corps into a paramilitary group and starts a program of "good" but ruthless acts: like destroying the Khund homeworld. Hal sends his only ally, Star Sapphire, to appeal to her fellow Zamarons. She learns some things about the way the New Guardians convinced them of their legitimacy that suggest to Hal that the power behind the New Guardians is ENTROPY.

Hal contacts the confused but sympathetic Arisia, trying to argue his point with other GLs through her. But Sinestro has them all wowed or cowed...and when Kilowog throws in with Sinestro and his tough new approach, Hal feels his struggle to win over the Corps is becoming hopeless. Hal returns to the Coast City monument, to commune with the memory of his father, whose grave was destroyed along with the city. But the Hunter GLs-revived by Sinestro to police the Corps' internal affairs--catch him there.

He escapes for the moment, but they've destroyed his ring. But the inspiration of Hal's dad makes him want to find a way to keep fighting, and he discovers that he has power within him. His trip into the battery enabled him to internalize his power, but he couldn't realize that as long as he felt he needed his ring, and the Corps. Hal fights back, knowing he may have to fight alone to his death, and defeats the Hunters.

Sinestro reacts to this by getting even tougher with the Corps and speeding up his acts of "purification," and some GLs begin to wonder if Hal was right. The Zamarons, meanwhile, are about to give birth, which would give the New Guardians the power they need to take control of the universe no matter what Hal does. The clock is ticking faster and faster. Star Sapphire, acting under Hal's instructions, learns enough about the New Guardians through the Zamarons to start forcing Entropy to show his hand.

Hal gathers DC earth-heroes to join him against the Corps. When Sinestro tries to send the whole Corps against Hal and his allies, Arisia rediscovers her nerve and fights back against him. Other disaffected GLs join her--but not enough to stop the rest. Arisia's splinter group flees into space, is nearly caught and destroyed by Sinestro's group...but are saved at the last moment by Hal.

Hal now leads his rag-tag band of heroes and rebel GLs against Sinestro on Oa. But Entropy, through the New Guardians, throws him a curve: they reveal to Hal that his father didn't die by accident; his death was arranged by the Old Guardians.... who saw the potential for a great GL in Hal but foresaw that he would need a trauma to make him the fearless man he could be.

At the moment before the final conflict, Hal is shaken to the core: can he fight to defend the beings who killed his father? Hal realizes that his private grief and rage means nothing against the fate of the universe. He fights for the old Guardians despite what they did. The babies are about to be born. The New Guardians capture Sapphire and are about to kill her. The battle begins.

Hal goes head to head with Kilowog, the most painful battle of either of their lives. In the heat of conflict, though, Sinestro begins to reveal his true, wretched self. Hal tricks him into showing his true colors. Kilowog realizes he's been suckered. Enraged, he joins Hal's side. Sinestro's support collapses. The New Guardians dissolve, revealing themselves as mere manifestations of Entropy, and Entropy throws himself personally into the fray. His goal all along has been to reduce the universe to lifeless entropy by robbing it of its life, its ability to change. Too much order (Sinestro) is essentially equal to too much chaos (Entropy). The Old Guardians represent the right way, the way of Life. Now he's about to seize the Children as they're born.

The Old Guardians show up--thanks to Hal's power--and tip the battle. They snatch the babies from Entropy at the last moment. The GLs turn on him. He's destroyed. All seems well. Deceived GLs are forgiven. The Guardians send the Corps off to do its thing while they tend to the Children who will become the greatest powers in the universe.

But all isn't well with Hal. He fought for the Guardians, because it was right, but he can't go on serving the cosmic manipulators who killed his father. They say they don't do things like that anymore, but it's too late. Hal has his own internal power now, and he's learned that he fights best alone. He won't be manipulated again. He goes off to become the Protector!!"


... AND THATS THE END OF THE PROPOSAL! There are a lot of similarities in the proposed & realized Emerald Twilight: Sinestro, Hal fighting the GL's, Hal taking on a new identity clearing the way for a new fresh Lantern to take over the book.

Jones had this to say about it all in a Fanzing interview about his proposed plans:

"Even before Paul, Mike and others said so, (GL Editor) Kevin Dooley and I were talking about using issue 50 to turn everything upside down, bring in a new Green Lantern, give Hal an indefinite break, and get back to basic, exciting stories. 

Unfortunately, Denny O'Neil, who was Kevin's boss, and Paul Levitz and Mike Carlin, didn't feel it was big enough to turn around readers' perceptions of what by then had been a lousy comic for about a year. Particularly if the writer stayed the same. 

As Denny said to me later, sometimes the market has to see that a complete creative shift is occurring, including the creative team. Which makes total sense, although at the time I was very angry and frustrated. This whole series was my frustration, the series I really wanted to make great but that for four years had never felt like mine, and here I saw a chance to start over and make it good at last, and I just couldn't get there. 

What I feel worst about in retrospect is that Kevin was apparently going to bat for me again and again with his bosses, but because he wasn't free to tell me what was going on behind the scenes, and because I was mad at him about other petty crap, I blamed him. I criticized him to his bosses, wrote a nasty fax, really puerile ways to blow off my frustration. I apologized later, and I think everyone understood that I was just a clueless freelancer, 3000 miles away. But it was an ugly finish. I quit so they didn't have to fire me. 

Then they had an emergency plotting session, Paul, Mike, Denny, Archie [Goodwin], and Kevin, and they handed that plot to Ron Marz, who was coming up at the time, had worked with [Jim] Starlin, had a cosmic resume going. 

First, I hasten to say that "The Protector" was a working title! We were going to do better than that! But yeah, there was going to be a new, younger GL, which I'd originally preferred to doing a Hal who was too burdened by the ball and chain of continuity. Hal would have popped in and out, maybe gotten his own miniseries, and then maybe or maybe not have become a GL again. I had various thoughts about the down-the-road story. But issue 51 would have been the introduction of a new GL, a completely new character, who was still in the vaguest development when it all ended."

SO! What happened next?? DC, in a real pickle here has Jones leave the title, but a huge supposed "Break the Bat"/"Death of Superman" Green Lantern Emerald Twilight story has been solicited. In an emergency situation they turn to Ron Marz, who has this to say:

"I got a call late on a Friday night offering me the book," says Marz of 1993. "I'd actually been down in New York for the day at the Marvel offices. I came home, my wife and I went out for a quick dinner, and then I guess around 9 o'clock the phone rang and it was Kevin Dooley offering me the job. Mike Carlin, Archie Goodwin and Denny O'Neil were in the room, as well as Eddie Berganza, who was Kevin's assistant at the time. I believe Paul Levitz might well have been there too."

"Kevin said he wanted me to take over 'GL' because the book needed a fresh direction I was excited, because I'd always thought Hal was a pretty cool character, and I love that costume. And then the other shoe dropped. Kevin explained what was planned, essentially removing Hal from the book and replacing him with a GL that I would make up. Pretty serious stuff. The real kicker, and I swear to God this is true, is I was wearing a Hal T-shirt when I got the call. It was one of those pocket T-shirts from the Warner Bros. Stores. I still have it."

So Ron Marz takes over the books with a plot & we got what was published. Hal Jordan, utterly broken by the destruction of Coast City jarringly tries to remake it in his image with his ring. Stopped by the Guardians & gone mad with grief, he destroys the Corps & becomes Parallax:

The response to this was shock. Some people loved the new direction & Parallax. Others thought it the most disrespectful thing ever done, spawning one of the most toxic, awful fanbases ever: H.E.A.T. - Hal's Emerald Advancement Team. On newsgroups, Prodigy, GeoCities sites, AOL rooms, CompuServe & all of the other 1994 internet chat rooms of the time, people enraged over this direction came together. They harassed DC, sending death threats & countless awful messages to the writers & editors. These fans together made H.E.A.T. whose mission was: As Green Lantern fans, it is our goal to encourage and advocate the return and exoneration of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, the restoration of the Green Lantern legends, and the revival of the honorable Green Lantern Corps.

This is one of the first recorded toxic fanbase groups. They did not die down, they did not quit. In 1997 they took out a full page ad in Wizard Magazine. These people were unhealthily obsessed:

They are infamous for spending more than 5-10 years trying to harass DC & anyone who would listen into reversing this story & putting Hal back on top as a character. They are a clear cut case in what not to do as a comic fan.

In 1997, Will Allred of Quantum Zone interviewed Jack Grimes from H.E.A.T. detailing his efforts to advance Hal. Here's a few interactions from the interview:

---

Allred: Now that we know I'm a fanboy, could you give us a little background on how this project got started?

Grimes: Well, I had had the idea for a Hal/Green Lantern Corps advertisement swirling around in my head since the Green Lantern Corps page's "Green Lantern Corps Petition" really started taking off, racking up something like 50 signatures a month. I just didn't have the initiative (nor the time) to investigate. That is, until late August, when friend and fellow Green Lantern fan Harry Philipo publicly suggested taking out an ad to the "regulars" on AOL's DC Online GL message board. When almost a dozen people immediately pledged at least $20, I figured we might actually have a shot at it, and I e-mailed them with my interest in organizing the ad. We did some investigating and found the ad rates for a few industry magazines. Despite the vastly greater cost in Wizard, we decided to make the biggest impact possible and go with the industry's most widely distributed magazine. Kevin Huxford opened communication lines with Wizard, which I then followed. Joe Sturgeon and Harry lent their computer graphics talents in constructing the ad itself, which I chose the image and wrote copy for, while I drummed up support on the Internet from the most publicly adamant fans.

Allred: You've got the ad. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Grimes: Obviously, we want to see Hal Jordan in a prominent, heroic position again in the DC Universe, and the Green Lantern concept enriched once more with the mythology of the Corps. But at the core of it, it's to send a united message to DC, and all comic companies. A message that says long-time fans are tired of taking a back seat to hot trends and disposable incomes. And a message to fans of Hal and the Corps letting them know that they are not alone.

Allred: Do you think it will work and bring Hal and the Corps back?

Grimes: I don't see why not. We certainly aren't calling for the end of the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern. There's no way we'd wish "Emerald Twilight" on any comic fan, no matter the character. What we would like to see is in everyone's best interest: a bigger, brighter, more successful GREEN LANTERN.

Allred: How do you think those at DC will react?

Grimes: The optimist in me says, "Immediately hire Kurt Busiek." The pessimist in me echoes one comic professional I contacted for contributions (I contacted several, and most sent their best wishes of support, but declined to donate due to conflict of interest), who said that DC might treat the ad as a joke. But I really don't know how DC will respond...if past experience is any indicator, they'll probably shrug it off as the "cries of the loud minority," but this is a unique situation. I truly hope and expect them to take us seriously and at least consider where we are coming from.

Allred: Anything else to add?

Grimes: I'd just like to make it clear to all Kyle Rayner fans that we are not calling for replacement. We're calling for expansion and restoration. And, I'd like to once again thank all those that helped make this ad possible!

---

Now, personally, I love Emerald Twilight. Do I think its a jarring, sudden story? Yes, very much so. But I always point to Superman 83 as a integral piece of the puzzle a lot of people may have missed which comes between GL 47 & 48 and shows Hal on the cusp of cruel madness.

In response to fan backlash, Marz had this to say: (source: Emerald Archive: Ron Marz answers every question regarding 'Green Lantern')

"Look, people are going to believe what they want to believe. But if there are actually people out there thinking it was somehow my life's goal to 'destroy' Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern mythos ... please, seek help. I was offered a job. The job had certain parameters. I took the offer and worked within those parameters, and did the best job I could." 

"The truth is, if I hadn't written Emerald Twilight, someone else would have, and the story would have been substantially the same. That's by no means an effort to pass the 'blame.' I did write those stories, and if you don't like them, feel free to blame me because, yes, my name is in the credits box." 

"I still think 'ET' was a gutsy move by DC at the time. To effect permanent change upon one of your top characters is brave. I liked Hal as a character. I still do. But he'd been badly handled for a number of years prior to my tenure. I can remember picking up the first few issues of what was then the new GL series, and coming away just not caring because Hal seemed like a wuss wandering the country searching for … whatever. This was a fearless test pilot?" 

"So the thinking at the time was that something drastic was needed, something that would attract a lot of attention back to what had become a moribund franchise. That much worked. When I agreed to take the book, issues #48, #49 and #50 were all due." 

"The book was late, the planned issues had been pulled, and things had to get moving right now. So I wrote my first three issues at the same time. That's why there were three different artists on them. I remember writing part of issue #48 between sets at a Peter Gabriel concert. I found a quiet place where I could steal a few minutes to write." 

"The deadlines were that tight. I would have loved to write 'ET' over six issues. I think that's about the length that would have been necessary to really make Hal's descent believable and tragic. So what we ended up doing was a bit rushed because of circumstances, and I regret that. But if I'd had six issues, the events would have been generally the same. I just would have had more room for the character stuff. Sometimes you just have to play the cards you're dealt." 

"I had a few pages of notes from editorial, dictating the broad strokes of what needed to happen: Hal goes nuts, wipes out the Corps, kills Sinestro and blows up the Central Battery and the Guardians. The details were up to me."

"I decided to have Hal kill Kilowog on camera, because I felt we needed to feel the loss of a more known character to make this thing have some weight. I decided that Ganthet would be the one Guardian to survive, since he'd had some previous exposure." 

"I've never given much thought to what I would have done differently, because that wasn't a possibility at the time. As I said, though, more pages to tell the story would have been great. I had the most freedom to develop the new Green Lantern. DC just let me make up Kyle from scratch. The name, the look, the background, everything. I'm really thankful for as much leash as I had." 

"I guess I saw Hal as a classic character who had turned into a dull character that not many readers cared about. Very often it's not the character itself, it's the portrayal. And once readers become bored with a portrayal, it's very hard to get them to come back. 'ET' certainly jump-started interest in GL, so from that viewpoint, it was a success."

"As to whether it was necessary, apparently sales were sliding enough that something drastic was needed. Having read what was originally written and drawn for issues #48-#50, I can say that those issues would not have stoked interest in the series, because those issues were more of the same. That's not a qualitative judgment. I'm just saying that the material wasn't exciting enough to attract new readers."

So there we have it. All the behind the scenes drama surrounding Emerald Twilight & the huge change to Hal Jordan as a character by DC Comics.

Dave Shevlin

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The views and opinions expressed by Dave Shevlin are those of the author and do not reflect the official beliefs or opinions of DC in the 80's, its Editors, or other contributors. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

As mentioned, Dave Shevlin is the founder of Comfort Food Comics, which has it's own podcast (go ahead and give them a listen) and is passionate about comic binding. Check out his custom bound editions of the 1989 Mister Miracle ongoing series and Marv Wolfman-era Superman stories.

Monday, August 30, 2021

DC Comics Super Heroes Trace n' Color Drawing Set

DC in the 80s is the real deal; we're in the trenches with you guys. We're out there visiting flea markets and consignment shops looking for treasure in that seaweed, we're on our knees digging through $1 back issue bins, we're answering those sketchy craigslist ads about someone selling their collection of bronze age comics in 'nice condition', we're arguing with comic book vendors about why the newsstand version of a comic is $20 more expensive than the direct version, and we're accumulating junk precious memorabilia that gets our spouses mad at us for taking up too much closet space. Today, as I take a break from working on our upcoming fanzine, we take a look at something I picked up during the cold winter months of last year:


I think this was from a Facebook Marketplace ad that I spotted. After a few messages back and forth with the seller, the price seemed fair and I went to pick it up. It's always dicey picking up 30+ year old electronics because, hey, there's a pretty good chance something burned out and it's not working anymore. However, I figured the sheer novelty value of the packaging was worth it alone. Also, I needed a light table (I like to draw. I'm not good at it, but I enjoy it.),... so these were all the reasons I used to justify driving through a Canadian blizzard to pick up this item before someone else snatched it up.

IdeasThatWork Inc., as far as what the internet tells me, was a short-lived New York-based company that operated between 1986 and 1992. They produced and released another DC comics-themed Trace N' Color Drawing Set around the same time:

source: ebay

The packaging on both of these products were very similar to the DC Heroes action figures produced by Toy Biz in 1989/1990 (which is what initially caught my attention)...

source: ebay

...so I'm led to believe that IdeasThatWork Inc. might have been connected to Toy Biz in some way?

Alright, so, examining the box some more:



Apparently, you get a few coloring pencils and several design sheets to work with. This box has been taped shut, so your guess is as good as mine if all the items are included.


Well, curiosity got the better of me and I'm going to take the plunge -- this is now going to be an 'unboxing' article. I carefully removed the tape and opened 'er up. What do you get?

Hmmm... exactly as described on the package, minus the coloring pencils? I guess someone nicked the coloring pencils. Oh well. I'm surprised I got this as is. The light table looks smaller than I was expecting.

I examined the light table (opened it up and check where the batteries go), and it turns out the coloring pencils were inside. So I guess everything is intact. How rare! 


Okay, so the answer to the question you're all burning to ask... what Superman art is included in this Trace N' Color?

 



I'm not an expert, but I'm thinking this might be Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art, probably from the DC Style Guide. Note the copyright date on the images? 1982. Of course the art isn't signed, so unless I had something to compare to, I really can't be 100% correct.

This light table required 3 massive D batteries, and once I installed them, the light table just didn't want to work for me. (For anyone who isn't aware, a light table is exactly what it sounds like -- it's a bright lit-up surface that allows you to put a piece of art down on it, and you can put tracing paper over it to copy the design. Tattoo artists and artists who are using a photograph as a reference tend to use these.) 


It's only once I realized that the metal strip on the right wasn't touching the end of the D battery on the right that the connection wasn't complete hence no way to light up the lightbulb. Easy fix.


Great it works! The paper is pretty thin -- thinner than your average 8x10 computer paper, but a little thicker than tracing paper. So, when used with the light table, this is the effect you get:


Well, hey, it works! It's a bit smaller than your average light table -- I'd say it's 'kid size' and those three massive D batteries means it's expensive to run (like do you know how much a 4-pack of D batteries cost?). I take the batteries out when I'm not using it, just in case the thing decided to overheat and catch on fire -- because hey, you never know.

To someone reading this article who was born after the year 2000, their reaction would probably be "it's a light table, so what? Why all the fuss?" but you've got to realize that in the late 80s/early 90s these were a pretty exciting gift to receive. You were on your way to becoming an artist! Why not learn from the great JLGL by tracing? Another company called Toymax was also producing Trace N' Color Drawing Sets based on popular properties (i.e. Barbie, The Simpsons) using the exact same model of light table and... lo and behold... it has been revealed that the founder of Toymax, Steve Lebensfeld, also co-founded Toy Biz



A few years later, in the early 90s, Trace Plates would become the big thing produced by Hasbro:




Trace Plates were a totally different thing altogether (but still looked just as interesting) and actually included plastic plates you could trace over:


I never actually owned any Trace Plates (nor knew anyone who did), but maybe I'll get lucky someday and find one in the wild. 

Did you own a Trace N' Color Drawing Set or a Trace Plate? We would love to hear your memories/experiences. Feel free to leave one it the comments below. 


-Justin