FANATIC QUIZ OF THE WEEK
Name both the publishing company and the person who served as publisher for this blast from the past title. Sure, you could search the internet and get the answer, but how many of you have the answer trapped in the recesses of your minds?
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BEST TURKEY DAY CARTOON
FANATIC READER QUESTION & ANSWER
Question from JASON:
“Dave, I have a question about the Prime video game that was released for the Sega CD. Was the mini comic that was advertised as being included with this game actually included? I’ve bought several “factory sealed” copies of this over the years (the Prime/Microcosm double pack, I’ve never actually seen or heard of the Prime game being sold as a standalone game) and none have ever included the mini comic. I’m a big Ultraverse fan and have managed to collect all but 6 books, this mini comic being one of them.”
Listening to President Elect Barack Obama talk about his desire to change the way politics work in this country, I began thinking about my first encounter with comic writer/artist Walter Simonson.
Obama says (and I believe him) that he wants to change to the past political strategies of division and fear mongering with a civil discussion, a sense of civic duty and a lot of common sense. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing a bit.) How this relates to Walter Simonson will be revealed, but first a little background.
By fall of 1983, I was working for Fantagraphics Books, serving as the managing editor of a black-and-white fan magazine called Amazing Heroes. It was my second job after graduating from UW-La Crosse in December 1982. I had moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut to take the job. As some of you may remember, Fantagraphics Books is the home of The Comics Journal.
Multiple covers around the same printed comic pages. They are a little piece of hell that comic readers and collectors either tolerate or celebrate depending on the how’s and why’s of your comic buying habit. There are a number of trains of thought about the benefits or lack thereof.
They do allow, under the best of circumstances, for publishers, creators and retailers to put a few extra badly needed dollars in their pockets.
Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Accept them as a tolerable but unavoidable evil?
First, a quick caveat before I start assigning blame. As the publisher at Malibu Comics, I absolutely employed this marketing gimmick a number of times to “encourage” sales on behalf of the company and the creators who would also benefit from additional sales. Guilty as charged.
If I have my history correct (and please feel free to correct me if you feel it is necessary), the first time this “technique” was employed in comics was 1989 with the release of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1. The decision to put the multiple covers on this book almost assuredly came during some kind of meeting between Bob Wayne and Bruce Bristow at DC Comics. But I don’t blame them.
If you look at it under a slightly skewed kaleidoscope (like I do), Frank Miller is to blame. Yeah, that’s right, you read that correctly, I blame Frank Miller … well sort of. How is that possible? He didn’t write it or draw it. He didn’t even do the cover art. Let me explain.
The circumstances were these. Legends of the Dark Knight was a Batman concept book. The idea was to get top-notch creative teams to create four-issue story arcs on a new continuing series that wasn’t tied tightly to regular Batman continuity. This would free creators to tell a wider variety of stories and also lend themselves to replicate the success of Frank Miller’s run on Batman #404-407, (better known as Batman: Year One) which became a super successful trade paperback in 1988.
Inevitably, if you’ve ever had a job at a comics company, you’ve had an experience where someone asked you what you did for a living. Before the Simpson’s made Comic Book Guy famous, before comic book movies were known as box office blockbusters, before Entertainment Weekly even existed (let alone ran reviews of graphic novels), most people only associated comics with either Richie Rich or the Adam West-Batman television show.
Back in those days, many professionals fell back on, “I work in publishing” or “I work at a magazine publisher” and hoped the questions ended there. I remember very clearly telling my future father-in-law (this would have been sometime in 1981) that I planned to pursue a career publishing comic books. He tried to put up a brave front, but the blood drained from his face. Clearly his mind had fixated on the abject poverty that his daughter would have in her future if she married the “comics” guy.
Even today, if you can proudly tell family, new friends and strangers that you work in the comic book industry, you probably get the same response, “Well, that must be fun … “
The unfortunate truth is that on a day-to-day basis, having a non-creative or semi-creative job in the comics business is like most other office jobs: struggling to make office equipment work properly, negotiating with difficult customers, haggling with finicky suppliers, desperately trying to make unrealistic deadlines set by your boss and dealing with the peculiar office and personal habits of your co-workers. Fun very seldom entered into it.
When it is your job, you tend to take very seriously the issues surrounding your career and the industry in which you work. Sometimes it is easy to lose perspective, especially when what you do is viewed by the outside world at best frivolously and at worst with open contempt.
It was suggested to me that writing a blog would be a good idea. So here I am.
It occurs to me while I’m sitting here writing this in the middle of the night that I’m an absolute novice at this. There is no plans to make this a personal blog, although I suspect that tons of personal junk will find its way into this blog.
The goal here is to talk about comics. Well, not really the books themselves or the characters. And not really news or recent developments, but about the stories behind the making of the comics during my years in the business, from Fantagraphics Books (editing Amazing Heroes) to Sunrise Distribution, to Malibu Comics, to Marvel Comics, to DoggWorks, to Humanoids Publishing. Sort of a combination of nostalgia and the story-behind-the-story.
And just to whet your whistle … here is the color artwork from the Malibu Christmas card after the launch of the Ultraverse in June 1993. I can name all the books these characters appeared in, but I can’t name all the characters.
Wanna take a shot at it, feel free.
NEXT: Isn’t calling them “funny books” disrespectful ???