31st Aug2023

Comics Interview: Dissected – Issue #7

by Ian Wells

Welcome to the latest instalment of a brand-new feature here on Nerdly, where one of our comic gurus, Ian Wells, delves into comics history and dissects Comics Interview, the long-running journal of interviews and criticism from David Anthony Kraft.

A Yak With DAK

David presents us with more of the same in his Upfront editorial. Every issue reads the same, a rundown of what is in store. All information we can get from the cover. From the information we get on the cover, you would be forgiven for thinking this interview isn’t going to offer much. The two biggest interviews revolve around DAK’s friends in the industry. But as you unpack the contents page there is actually a lot to sink your teeth into. I would prefer if DAK used this space to give more real inside information on the industry. With the many hats he has worn in the industry, writer, publisher, and journalist he can offer a real unique view. He doesn’t strike me as the type to cut loose for no reason so I am not expecting a Wizard-era BS editorial but something more personal, more industry-orientated would be great in my opinion. The secondary editorial-like feature “Out of Context” hasn’t returned since its debut in #4 which is a real disappointing. It had the potential to be a really good regular feature. Speaking of new features this issue offers up the first in a promised series of interviews with overseas publishers. It was one of the highlights of the issue and I really enjoyed unpacking it.

First Look: D’arc Tangent

DAK talks to the creative team behind D’arc Tangent and I have to admit a lot about the interview made the story sound interesting. There are some images accompanying the interview that look like character cards and they definitely help make the comic seem more appealing. So I did some digging and only one issue came out, it’s available on eBay from upwards of £10. The interview does mention a second issue, but it doesn’t exist. Apparently, the first issue sold more than TMNT #1 would sell two years later. So why didn’t D’arc Tangent catch on with readers? Creator Phil Foglio says in the interview “Ronin and Camelot 3000 would be impossible without the alternate marketplace.” So was D’arc Tangent ahead of its time or just the wrong genre at the wrong time? As you would expect a large part of the interview is spent explaining the comic. The fact Foglio started sketching for it 7 years previous tells me it is a real passion project, which makes it even more disappointing that it didn’t hit in a big way. You get a real feel for the self-publishing vibe of the era from this interview as the whole creative team pitches in with some answers. A lot of the creative choices that were made were made simply as a way to cut costs. There are a lot of conversations with Wendy and Richard Pini who they refer to as trailblazers. M Lucie Chin had never lettered a comic before but spent two solid weeks watching over Tom Orzechowski’s shoulder. Her pencils also proved very useful in keeping a visual continuity for the series. Reading the interview you get a real sense of the shared experience and camaraderie they are having in putting this comic together. Freff sums it up with “The philosophy that is different in the alternatives is that we aren’t producing a disposable item.”

The New Omega Men

After less than a year, the artist on Omega Men is changing. I’m sure a lot of comics in this time changed creative teams, so it does feel a little repetitive to revisit Omega Men again so soon! The interviews are presented as two separate ones in the magazine but I am analysing them together here. Omega Men is Smith’s first pro pencil gig and DeCarlo later states Smith’s work on the title has reinvigorated him. He had originally planned to leave the title when Slifer and Giffen left, so now he is only taking a 2 issue break. Smith attended the Kubert School, Bob Kanigher, Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin, along with Joe Kubert himself provided quite an impressive faculty. He also goes on to name-check some fellow students of the time with Tom Mandrake and Tim Truman who has just debuted Grimjack as the two standouts. On the subject of name checks, DeCarlo mentions Karen Berger in the context of why he likes working for DC. I wasn’t aware how long she had worked at DC before the launch of Vertigo in 1993, so this was some nice trivia for me. Smith shares some inspiration he learnt from Gil Kane. He read somewhere Kane used bodybuilding magazines as anatomy references. Smith basically took up the philosophy that if someone as experienced as Kane can still learn then so can I. The subject of violence in Omega Men is a subject that has been much discussed in the pages of Comics Interview. It is slightly amusing/interesting that both men have differing opinions on the subject. DeCarlo feels the reaction to it was exaggerated, but says that is a by-product of Omega Men trying to be different across the board. On the other hand, Smith feels the criticism was entirely legitimate. While they both say the levels of violence are not to their own personal tastes, Smith goes further in saying he doesn’t enjoy depicting it. He states in the future Omega Men will be moving away from those early levels of violence. But I do feel he gets a little personal when he says “If Roger (Slifer) wants to write more hard-hitting, more realistic material… He needs to find another medium to write it in.” I for one hope this is the last we have heard about violence in Omega Men and the series as a whole in the pages of CI for a long time.

(F)Abels with Jack

According to DAK this is Abel’s first-ever printed interview, so a real scope for CI to land an industry veteran. He wastes no time jumping into the meat of his career. He likes inking Herb Trimpe as he follows the Kirby school of pencils. He calls them easy jobs to ink because they both do what he describes as professional jobs. Funnily enough, though he isn’t a fan of Kirby’s style despite finding it easy to ink, though he can’t argue with how popular it is. Most of the interview reads like a whos, who in the industry that he either knows or has worked with. He is a graduate of the Burne Hogarth Cartoonist and Illustrators School and counts the likes of Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Mike Esposito and Roy Krenkel among his peers. His earliest comic work was for Crestwood. My research tells me Crestwood were publishing pulp fiction before switching to comics. They were the home of Fighting American and Young Romance and ceased publishing comics in the mid-60s. Then the last section does bring some gold. Asking creators what they think of the current state of the industry is a stock question for CI. This has to rank among one of the best responses, probably something related to Abel’s age and time in the industry. Firstly what he says is something that still echoes today and that is that the industry is more of a youthful group. The creators now were the fans ten to fifteen years ago he explains. I can think of more than a few writers today who are criticized for writing “glorified fan fiction.” He goes on to say he is fed up with superhero comics. Thankfully this isn’t a problem today. Yes, superhero comics dominate the limelight, especially because of the movies but there are so many good original comics available today across a wide range of genres. He blames the disappearance of the genres squarely on the shoulders of Werthham’s comics witch hunt. “He did more harm than a dozen pencillers or inkers I can think of. I don’t know why he did it… All he managed to do was interrupt our livelihood.”

Legendary Letters

DAK opens the interview with a little passage that reads like an old pulp story about a comic creator. It is the perfect fit for Rosen who is a 40-year-old school veteran. To get a scope of how long Rosen has been lettering, he has been lettering since before there were credits for letterers! He was lettering pages for Blue Beetle when the attack on Pearl Harbour happened and he then took up 3 years of active service. This is a very short interview, but the old-school nature of it really appeals to me. Apparently, Rosen is known for his small lettering, something he said he developed on his Marvel work because he said there was too much copy. Since then however, it has led to him being sought out for it. To perfectly support this point the interview is accompanied by a panel X-Men #194 from the king of exposition Chris Claremont. Rosen reserves a lot of praise for his time at Marvel. Saying before they came to the fore no one was in comics for a pro career. “By instituting credits, they helped make you feel prouder of your work.”

The Brits Are Coming

Right off the bat, any well-versed Wolverine fan will recognise the names Landau, Luckman and Lake as the inter-dimensional law firm that first appeared in Wolverine #5. That issue was written by Chris Claremont and he took the surnames of the three founded members of the comic shop Forbidden Planet. (Nick Landau, Mike Luckman Mike Lake). The interview is conducted by UK fans Steve Whitaker and Frank Plowright who would both go on to have careers in comics. Whitaker most famously coloured V for Vendetta. Whilst Plowright was a key figure in UK fandom, writing articles for Marvel UK and Inside Comics, and being part of the organization for early conventions. As promised in the Upfront this is the first interview with overseas publishers and seeing as this is pre-the height of the British Invasion it should be fun to unpack. We have seen the first 3 issues of Eagle’s Judge Dredd comics advertised in the pages of Comics Interview in the previous two issues. Eagle is an imprint of IPC and is distributed by Titan. My understanding is that the Eagle issues are colour reprints of the original 2000AD stories. This was not 2000AD’s first attempt to crack America between #30 – #110 there had been very sporadic Stateside distribution, but this did garner a degree of very dedicated fans, mainly fellow creators. But it wasn’t overly successful, due in part to the clash in cultures between weekly and monthly reading and sales. Sales of collected editions faired much better. An English collection titled ‘The Streets of Mega City’ did sell well in America. Metal Hurlant was at the forefront of the collected sales putting out French versions. Working in Eagle’s favour this time round for cracking America is the fact Dredd artists Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon. Bolland is currently working on Camelot 3000 and McMahon is what… calls an artists artist. A fact backed up that when Frank Miller attended a UK convention he hand-selected to go to dinner with him and only him. God, I bet that would have been a great conversation to eavesdrop on! There are some amazing Bolland pencils alongside the interview to reinforce him as a sales point. The conversation turns to what went into adapting the original comics to the American format. From a story point of view, the original Dredd comics didn’t have a continuity as people would recognise it today, so a lot of the early stuff is left out. This means American audiences got the infamous ‘Cursed Earth’ story arc as early as #5 lucky devils! When it came to filling a different-sized page they found it better to add space rather than artwork. All the colouring was done by John Burns Jr. and again they had to find ways around the amount of black that came from the original artwork. Landau and Lake bring things to an end by teasing other upcoming Eagle reprints of 2000AD works. Nemesis The Warlock is slated for Spring 1984. I can’t tell you how many people on Twitter I saw talking about this series. A Strontium Dog mini is also planned and the interview opens with an ad for Robo Hunter with the speech bubble “From the creators of Judge Dredd!” This is a good, informative new addition to CI. This interview has set the bar high for future overseas publishers and I can’t wait for the next one.

Ad Space

Wow, the ads in this issue are a real window into the era. 1986 is widely recognised as the year that comics went dark but looking at some of the ads in this issue you can begin to trace a path that says we are very much already on the path. Jon Sable, American Flagg, Grimjack and Manhunter all have eye-catching ads present. DC have heavy representation with a tease of the upcoming Len Wein and Dave Gibbons Green Lantern and a full-page ad for the New Talent Showcase comic. The star of the show though without a doubt is the Love & Rockets advert complete with a mail-away form for the first four issues either individually or as a set. $3.50 for single issues or $11.80 for all four! The ad is the perfect showcase for Jamie Hernandez’s beautiful line style. It is one simple image of Maggie with some descriptive exposition. Simple but effective!

NEXT: Nexus! Worlds Finest! Collecting!


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