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                                                The Star-Reach Bibliography


                Try and name the most important comic book of the 1970s.  Surely, it would be the New X-Men.  The title had very good, entertaining stories, with the high point being the Dark Phoenix story arc.  Yet what effect did it really have on the comic industry as a whole?  It certainly made the X-men book a hot item and helped spawn a houseful of X-Men spin-offs.  Still, in the long run, I don’t think it created any long lasting trends.  Rather, it continued and strengthened the superhero genre, which had been in full swing since the early 1960s.  It essentially maintained the status quo.


                Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract With God’ demonstrated that graphic novels {or albums, as the term graphic novel hadn’t been coined when the book was published} could both be done, be done well and, most importantly to comic publishers, sell enough to make a decent profit.  But, simply by its nature, it is not a traditional comic book. 


                Kirby’s ‘Fourth World’ comics?  Beautifully drawn and plotted although somewhat strangely scripted, they were the first clear attempt at a maxi or limited series, but they were never finished.  At best, they’re a noble, fascinating failure.


                After that the pickings get slim.  Swamp Thing?  No.  No matter how good Len Wein & Berni Wrightson’s run on the comic was, that title became much more important when Alan Moore started writing it in 1983.  Elfquest?  Might have a case there except that most of the original run appeared in the 1980s.  Frank Miller’s Daredevil?  Again, a possibility, but again the most ground breaking issues came out in the 1980s.


                Nope, for my money the most important comic book of the 1970s was the independent {or ground level, as it was called at the time} Star*Reach.  Everything,  everything, that comics are today can be seen in embryo fashion in that book.


                First it was an independent comic, long before anyone seriously mentioned or had even really conceived of an indy market that could challenge the major publishers.  At its beginning, Star*Reach sold though the few comic shops around, as well as head shops, or via subscriptions and mail order.  I myself bought all the issues through the ads in Jim Steranko’s Mediascene.  Mike Friedrich, publisher & editor, pointed the way to indy success and indy failure by showing the industry a new way to sell comics, particularly comics that were neither mainstream {at least, at the time} nor underground.  He demonstrated a method of sales and publication that also gave the artists & writers a chunk of the action to boot.  It would be wrong to say he was the first to go in that direction but he was the first to truly succeed, even if only for a limited time.


                Second, he published those comics on a regular schedule.  This is something I believe was an enormous factor in his success.  Starting with the fourth issue, Star*Reach was published pretty much every three months like clockwork until its demise.  No underground, no fanzine, no prozine similar to Star*Reach, such as Hot Stuf’ or Andromeda, published on a schedule.  They often said they did but it just wasn’t true.  Only the big boys—Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Dell, Warren, Charlton, etc.—did that.  By sticking to a schedule, Friedrich made it clear in the minds of his readers and contributors that he intended to be around for a while.  You knew that every three months you were going to get your 48 pages of cool, quality comics from Star*Reach.


                Third, they really were cool quality comics.  Unlike much of the highly praised work done in the 1970s, the stories from Star*Reach and its sister magazines, Quack & Imagine, hardly date at all.  Looking at many of the mainstream stories, even the great stories from that decade, I find myself wincing at the long-winded dialogue and the--well--often juvenile plots and characterizations.  Yet in Star*Reach, except for some underground-style hippy stories that mostly appeared in the early issues {and even those aren’t bad stories—just dated}, most Star*Reach stories could easily be published today with no loss of quality or respect. 


                Fourth, the type of stories themselves.  Star*Reach published mostly science fiction and fantasy stories, at a time when the conventional wisdom was that those genres didn’t sell.  Plus, they were intelligent science fiction stories.  If you read Tolkien or Heinlein or Bester or LeGuin, these stories fit right in.  Most science fiction in comics at that time were still melded with the superhero comics and were pretty much bush league kid stuff.  Fantasy has only one outlet—the adaptations of the sword & sorcery tales by Robert E. Howard {Marvel} or Fritz Leiber {DC} or stories that copied the style and look of those tales.  Star*Reach published modern day, or urban {as it’s called today}, fantasy, as well as the more traditional forms.


                Fifth, exposure for both artists and readers.  Michael Gilbert, John Workman, Lee Marrs, Robert Gould, Dave Sim, Ken Steacy, Dean Motter, Gene Day & Paul Kirchner got their first major exposure here.  Many of today’s powerhouse writers and artists first showed their real abilities here.  Howard Chaykin’s Cody Starbuck and Gideon Faust characters both demonstrated what Chaykin was really capable of, long before the mainstream allowed him the same creative freedom.  Frank Brunner did some of his last and best work for comics here.  Mike Vosburg showed that he was a decent scripter and a fine all around artist.  Sim wrote {his art was still on a learning curve} some great stories for artist Fabio Gasbarri and illustrated at least one strong one himself.  As for the readers, besides getting consistent, quality stories and artwork, one was exposed to stories and art that wasn’t in the Marvel/DC mode from folks like Lee Marrs or Don Marshall, as well as art that didn’t fit at the time but soon would, such as Gene Day’s material.


                Sixth, Friedrich broke ground for any number of modern day comic foundations.  Craig Russell first published his opera adaptations here.  Chaykin sowed the ground for American Flagg with Cody Starbuck.  Friedrich published the first major color comics by an indy publisher as well as displaying the first exposure for many readers {although pros had been getting glimpses of it} of manga.  One of the first true graphic novels, ‘The Sacred And The Profane’ was published in serial form here.  Folks can argue all day about Gil Kane’s ‘His Name Is Savage’ or Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract With God’ but face it—Kane’s book was such a dubious success that it was ten years before any publisher took a similar risk on such a book.  Jack Katz had started the epic ‘The First Kingdom’ but it was still years away from completion.  It takes nothing away from Eisner’s achievement, either artistically or commercially, with ‘A Contract With God’ to note that his book is actually four interlinked short stories rather than a novel.  ‘The Sacred And The Profane’ was not only serialized months before ‘A Contract With God’ was published, but it is a true novel in every sense of the word and a damn fine novel to boot.  It wasn’t collected until 1987, by which time the writer, Dean Motter, had largely rewritten his script and the artist, Ken Steacy, had completely redone the artwork so the original version, which I actually prefer, has never been collected.  Both versions are good, adult oriented science fiction, however, and well worth your time.


                And lastly, just for being there.  Between the new talent boom of the late 1960s-early 1970s that brought Barry Windsor-Smith, Berni Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, Bruce Jones, Frank Brunner, Mike Ploog, Jeff Jones, P. Craig Russell and many others into the field and the boom that the early 1980s independent publishers brought about, there really wasn’t much a maturing comic reader could point to that could justify his or her continuing interest in comics.  By 1975 many of the artists mentioned above had left or were in the process of leaving comics.  The undergrounds were disappearing.  The major companies were either going belly-up or stagnating.  Star*Reach, Imagine, Quack, and, yes, even Pudge, Girl Blimp, plugged the gap and kept the possibility of mature comics, intended for adults, alive.


                So to Mike Friedrich and all the writers and artists who contributed to Star*Reach, a great big thank you.






                                                                The Star*Reach Checklist



    1. cover: Howard Chaykin/back cover: Jim Starlin (Apr. 1974)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich/Lee Marrs] 2/3p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Observations [Mike Friedrich/Neal Adams] 1/3p   [frontis]

                3) …The Birth Of Death [Jim Starlin] 8p

                4) Death Building [Jim Starlin/Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom] 7p

                5) Fish Myths [Steve Skeates] 2p

                6) Suburban Fish [Steve Skeates] 2p

                7) A Tale Of Sword & Sorcery [Ed Hicks/Walt Simonson] 12p

                8) Cody Starbuck [Howard Chaykin] 16p

                9) The Origin Of God! [Jim Starlin] 1p  


Notes: $.75 for 48 pages.  Publisher & editor: Mike Friedrich.  Starlin’s cover was originally intended for the front cover and when the issue was reprinted in Nov. 1975 the covers were reversed.  I much prefer Starlin’s cover.  I mean, who doesn’t like hot, naked, green alien babes?  The order of the stories were also rearranged in subsequent printings.  The reprintings are dated Nov. 1975; Apr. 1977 & Mar. 1978.  ‘Observations’ is in comic strip format and the art looks like Adams whipped it out in about three minutes.  Both it and the editorial were dropped after the first printing and replaced {in 1977} with a titlepage drawing by Becky Wilson.  This first issue was originally planned as a standard 32 page comic with just the Starlin & Chaykin material appearing but Friedrich expanded the book shortly before publication.  The Hicks/Simonson’s story was actually done when Simonson was in college {Hicks was a college buddy} and intended for a college newspaper.  Because of the different requirements for tabloid & comic book page sizes, Simonson added the mini-strip of the falling man at the bottom of each page, the only part of the story actually done for the Star*Reach presentation.  Skeates, a long-time comic writer, had previously published similar “fish tales’ in the fanzine Phase in 1971.  The best story here would be Starlin’s ‘…The Birth Of Death’ while Starlin, Chaykin & Simonson share best art honors.  Even Skeates’ quirky art is fun to look at.  An impressive first issue.


    2. cover: Neal Adams/back cover: Lee Marrs (Apr. 1975)

                1) Creativity Unchained [Mike Friedrich/Lee Marrs] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Stephanie Starr: In The Light Of Future Days… [Mike Friedrich/Dick Giordano] 20p

                3) Earthprobe: All A World Of Dreamers [Mal Warwick/Lee Marrs] 11p

                4) The Return Of The Fish [Steve Skeates] 2p

                5) I’ve Got The Power! [Jim Starlin/Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom] 3p

                6) The Visitor… [Jim Starlin/Jim Starlin & al Milgrom] 3p

                7) Key Club [John Workman] 8p

                8) Reincarnalation [Mike Vosburg] 1p


Notes: $1.25 for 48 pages.  Adams’ cover is quite striking.  Stephanie Starr was originally intended for a DC title and was altered {with much nudity added} for its appearance here.  This issue was reprinted, with Friedrich’s editorial replaced by the titlepage art of Becky Wilson, in Oct. 1976 & Dec. 1977.  Since my copy is one of the later reprintings, I suspect but cannot confirm that the stories were rearranged, as they were in #1, for these reprintings.  John Workman makes his professional comics debut here and also provides the best story & art with his delightful ‘Key Club’.  Other good story work appeared from Jim Starlin, Mike Vosburg, and the Friedrich/Giordano team.  If one doesn’t consider Steve Skeates’ fish stories to be a serial {and I don’t}, than the hippy SF comedy ‘Earthprobe’ was Star*Reach’s first ongoing storyline.


    3. cover: Frank Brunner (Oct. 1975)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Dragonus: The Wizard’s Venom [Frank Brunner] 10p

                3) I Hunger And I Wait… [Mark A. Worden/Mark Cohen] 5p   [poem]

                4) Earthprobe: On The Shoals Of Space [Mal Warwick/Mal Walwick & Lee Marrs] 12p

                5) And Sleep The Long Night In Peace! [Mal Warwick/Bob Smith & John Workman] 7p

                6) Linda Lovecraft: High Priestess Of Sexual Fantasy [Mike Vosburg] 9p

                7) Wooden Ships On The Water [Mike Friedrich/Steve Leialoha] 5p   from the song by David

Crosby, Steven Stills & Paul Kantner


Notes: Brunner’s story is a sequel to ‘Dragonus’, which appeared in Phase #1 (Sept. 1971) and was reprinted in Marvel’s Monsters Unleashed B&W magazine in Nov. 1973.  Vosburg’s ‘Linda Lovecraft’ series is a forerunner to his recent ‘Lori Lovecraft’ series.  It was clearly inspired by the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, with a tip of the hat to the porn “actress” Linda Lovelace.  ‘I Hunger And I Wait’ is a poem in comic form while ‘Wooden Ships On The Water’ has a story woven around the song lyrics from the Crosby, Stills & Nash song.  Brunner’s wraparound cover, featuring Dragonus, is quite striking and the best story & art for this issue clearly belong to his sword & sorcery effort but fine work also appears from Leialoha, Vosburg, Friedrich, Worden & Cohen.  On the Earthprobe story, Mal Warwick provided layouts with Lee Marrs providing the finished art.  Reprintings of this title, with Friedrich’s editorial replaced by Becky Wilson’s titlepage art, appeared in July 1977 & June 1978.


    4. cover: Howard Chaykin (Mar. 1976)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Starbuck [Howard Chaykin] 11p

                3) Linda Lovecraft: The White Slavers Of Scrofula! [Mary Skrenes/Mike Vosburg] 10p

                4) Marginal Incident [Steve Leialoha] 8p

                5) Sherlock Duck: The Adventure Of The Animated Government [Bob Smith] 5p

                6) Earthprobe: Hidden Worlds, Hidden Dreams [Mal Warwick & Lee Marrs/Lee Marrs] 11p

                7) Clik! [John Workman] 4p


Notes: My copy of this issue is a reprint but the titlepage that replaces Friedrich’s original editorial is a misprint of Star*Reach #10’s titlepage so I’ve no information at this time on reprint dates.  The Sherlock Duck story appears to have a missing page as the page numbers go from 1-4 to page 6 but Mike Friedrich {see his interview below} tells me that that was a deliberate joke.  ‘Sherlock Duck’ would also appear to be a preview of sorts to Star*Reach’s upcoming Quack! comic.  Chaykin’s ‘Starbuck’ features a much older looking Cody Starbuck than in his first appearance in #1.  ‘Clik!’ was a last minute replacement for another Workman illustrated story, ‘Comicbook Writer’, that was to have been scripted by Gerry Conway.  When Conway became the new editor of the Marvel line he couldn’t finish his story and Workman’s solo effort, ‘Clik!’ was substituted.  With this issue Star*Reach began a fairly regular quarterly schedule.  Best artwork and story here belong to Steve Leialoha’s gentle ‘Marginal Incident’ while other interesting art & stories appear from Chaykin, Vosburg, Workman & Marrs.  Mary Skrenes becomes the new scripter on Mike Vosburg’s Linda Lovecraft series.  The Earthprobe entry was noticeably more serious in its final appearance. 


    5. cover: Howard Chaykin (July 1976)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Gideon Faust, Warlock At Large [Len Wein/Howard Chaykin] 12p

                3) The Gods Of Mount Olympus In Ancient Mythology: The Beginning Of all Things [Johnny

Achziger/Joe Staton] 16p

                4) A Nice Place To Live, But… [Frank Brunner] 1p

                5) Mandy, The Girl With The Most Comics In America [John Workman] 1p

                6) Waters Of Requital [Lee Marrs] 8p

                7) Linda Lovecraft: Midnight In The Medina [Mary Skrenes/Mike Vosburg] 10p


Notes: Chaykin delivers a great cover for the debut of the interesting Gideon Faust.  Two more Gideon Faust stories appeared {in color} in Heavy Metal in 1979 & 1981.  ‘The Gods Of Mount Olympus’ is technically reprinted from Johnny Achziger’s self-published tabloid-sized fanzine of the same title.  However, it is somewhat rewritten and largely redrawn for its appearance here.  To accommodate the larger size of the artwork, the story is printed sideways.  Regardless of its origins, the story & art {particularly the art} are superb; the best in an already strong issue.  Lee Marrs’ work takes a noticeable upward swing.  With this issue Star*Reach really began to come into its own.  Reprinted in Apr. 1977 & June 1978 with Friedrich’s original editorial replaced by Becky Wilson’s titlepage art.


    6. cover: Jeff Jones (Oct. 1976)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Elric Of Melnibone: The Prisoner Of Pan Tang [Eric Kimball/Robert Gould] 20p   from the

character created by Michael Moorcock

                3) Childsong [Gary Petras/Gene Day & Steve Leialoha] 3p

                4) The Gods Of Mount Olympus In Ancient Mythology: Zeus And Prometheus [Johnny

Achziger/Joe Staton] 15p

                5) Out Of Space, Out Of Time [Gary Lyda] 8p


Notes: Jones cover is a superb rendering of Elric, with Berni Wrightson serving as the model.  It is repeated sans copy on the back cover. The Kimball/Gould Elric story was sent in out of the blue and Friedrich had to obtain Elric creator Michael Moorcock’s permission to allow its appearance.  This set up the decade long adaptations of the various Elric novels, all under Friedrich’s supervision, at Star*Reach, Heavy Metal, Marvel/Epic & First.  Kimball & Gould were college buddies.  The story credits notes the story is based on an idea by Steven Grant.  While this striking story tended to overshadow the remaining contents, there’s not a weak story here.  Very strong issue.  There were reprintings of this issue but I don’t have the info on them since this was the first Star*Reach issue I bought as it was published.


    7. cover: Barry Windsor-Smith (Jan. 1977)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) I’m God! [Dave Sim/Fabio Gasbarri] 8p

                3) The Bushi [Sitoshi Hirota/Masaichi Mukaide] 8p

                4) The Gods Of Mount Olympus In Ancient Mythology: Apollo and Artemis [Johnny

Achziger/Joe Staton] 9p

                5) Headtrips [Lee Marrs] 10p

                6) My Fears [Jeff Bonivert] 4p

                7) Skywalker [Mike Vosburg & Steve Englehart/Mike Vosburg] 11p


Notes: Windsor-Smith’s cover is an early version of his Apollo and Artemis print.  Sim’s story is very well done and it, combined with his story ‘The Shadow Of The Axe’ {art by Russ Heath & printed in Creepy #79 (May 1976)}, convinced me that he was someone to watch for long before Cerebus appeared.  ‘The Bushi’ is the first manga story/artwork to appear in the U.S., making this issue a major collector’s item.  Lee Marrs really comes into her own as a writer/artist with her fine story, ‘Headtrips’.    Jeff Bonivert makes his professional debut here.  Best story is Sim’s effort, best art belongs to Joe Staton.  This issue was also reprinted.  In fact, all of the Star*Reach issues through #12 or so were probably reprinted at least once.


    8. cover: P. Craig Russell (Apr. 1977)    [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Parsifal: His Journey [Patrick C. Mason/P. Craig Russell] 10p   from the opera by Richard


                3) Interface [Ken Steacy] 19p

                4) “All We Are Saying Is…” [Mal Warwick & Mike Friedrich/Gene Day] 6p

                5) There’s Banging Up In Bangor [Gene Day] 3p   [poem]

                6) The Gods Of Mount Olympus In Ancient Mythology: Aphrodite [Johnny Achziger/John

Workman] 9p

                7) Crazy Lady!? [John Workman] 1p


Notes: Russell’s cover is made up of colored panels from the interior story.  This was Russell’s first opera adaptation.  Ken Steacy & Gene Day make their American debuts although both had appeared in the Canadian fanzine Orb.  In fact, Day had appeared extensively in various Canadian fanzines.  ‘The Gods Of Mount Olympus’, one of my favorite serials, changes its artist for its last appearance.  Best artwork was John Workman’s on ‘Gods Of Mount Olympus’ while the best story honor goes to the opera adaptation.


    9. cover: Ken Steacy (June 1977)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Sacred And The Profane: Figure Of Menace [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 15p

                3) Homestone [Yves Regis Francois/Raye Horne & Danny Bulanadi] 11p

                4) Seriah & Damon [Mickey Schwaberow] 8p

                5) Divine Wind [Gene Day] 6p

                6) Worlds Within, Worlds Without… [Michael Gilbert] 8p


Notes: ‘The Sacred And The Profane’ was originally intended for the lead feature in the first issue of Andromeda but when that indy comic was delayed Friedrich picked up the feature.  This was probably the strongest story to run in Star*Reach and provided the best story & art for this issue.  It was also arguably the first true graphic novel to be completed in the 1970s.  ‘Seriah & Damon’ is composed of 8 full page stained glass window designs.  ‘Divine Wind’ is another very good story.


  10. cover: Frank Brunner (Sept. 1977)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Parsifal, part 2 [Patrick C. Mason/P. Craig Russell] 10p   from the opera by Richard Wagner

                3) Linda Lovecraft: Nymphonecromania [Mike Vosburg] 14p

                4) Mariah [Mike Friedrich/Lee Marrs] 8p

                5) The Sacred And The Profane: Pattern Of Wounds [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 15p

                6) Aquarian [Steve Leialoha] 1p


Notes: Parsifal, who is cover featured, would be continued and concluded in the Parsifal color one-shot in 1978.  A very strong issue without a weak spot anywhere.  Everything here is of high quality.  Reprinted in June 1978 with new titlepage art by Fabio Gasbarri replacing Freidrich’s editorial.


  11. cover: Ken Steacy (Dec. 1977)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Sacred And The Profane: Plague Fugues [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 190

                3) Stark’s Quest: The Sensor [Lee Marrs] 14p

                4) Samurai [Gene Day] 7p

                5) Tempus Fugit: Out One Ear & In The Other [Gary Lyda] 8p


Notes: Two new serials begin this issue from Lee Marrs & Gary Lyda.  Both are quite good although Marrs’ is much more accessible.  Neither, unfortunately, have ever been collected. 


  12. cover: Frank Brunner (Mar. 1978)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Doors Of His Face, The Lamps Of His Mouth [Roger Zelazny/Gray Morrow] 13p   [text


                3) Replay [Michael Gilbert] 3p   reprinted from New Platz Comics: Amazing Adult Fantasies #2


                4) The Old/New/Final Testament [Mike Nasser] 8p   [color]

                5) The Sacred And The Profane: Vessels Of The Past [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 16p


Notes: Now $1.50.  Brunner’s cover is repeated sans copy on the back cover.  In his editorial Friedrich announces a new comic anthology, Imagine, and two color comic specials—Parsifal & Cody Starbuck.  Zelazny’s story is a publishing tie-in with the Byron Priess’ publication The Illustrated Roger Zelazny.  The first appearance of interior color arrives, looking very muddy and washed out.  The expenses of doing, and correcting, color would eventually cause the demise of the company.  Gilbert’s story is a reprint from his own fanzine.


  13. cover: Steve Leialoha (Aug. 1978)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Sacred And The Profane: Final Deliverance [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 16p

                3) The Quicksilver Serpent [Steve Leialoha] 8p   [color]

                4) Tempus Fugit: Second Venture [Gary Lyda] 8p

                5) Tempus Fugit: Genesis Revisited [Gary Lyda] 8p


Notes: In an attempt to remain on schedule, both #13 {two months late} and #14 {one month early} are published during the same month.  Friedrich apologizes for this issue’s lateness and blames it on a major contributor who ‘finked’ out, which probably explains why two chapters of Gary Lyda’s serial appeared.  The new serial, ‘The Quicksilver Serpent’ is never completed.  Best story this issue, and the best serial that Star*Reach ever published, is the conclusion of ‘The Sacred And The Profane’, a stunning achievement on the creators’ part.


  14. cover: Ken Steacy (Aug. 1978)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Stark’s Quest: Touching [Lee Marrs] 16p

                3) Counterpoint Communion [Dean Motter/Ken Steacy] 8p   [color]

                4) Tempus Fugit: Genesis Revisited, part 2 [Gary Lyda] 16p


Notes: Published the same month as #13.  ‘Counterpoint Communion’ is a sequel or coda {also never collected} of ‘The Sacred And The Profane’.  Marrs’ ‘Stark’s Quest’ gets better and better.


  15. cover: Steve Leialoha (Dec. 1978)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Mission [Lee Marrs/Masaichi Mukaide] 9p

                3) Warriors! [Gene Day] 7p

                4) The Quicksilver Serpent, part 2 [Steve Leialoha] 8p   [color]

                5) Tempus Fugit: Tempus Fugitives [Gary Lyda] 16p


Notes: $1.75.  This was the last comic-sized, 48 page issue.  It also featured the last appearance of ‘The Quicksilver Serpent’, which was cover featured.  ‘Tempus Fugit’ concludes.


  16. cover: Paul Rivoche & Ken Steacy (Apr. 1979)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Stark’s Quest [Lee Marrs] 16p

                3) Murphy’s Law [Ken Steacy & Jeffrey Morgan/Ken Steacy & Don Marshall] 16p


Notes: The magazine-sized format begins, with interior content reduced to 32 pages.  Friedrich’s money woes are becoming quite apparent.  Interior color was dropped and completed color stories were re-sold or moved to either Heavy Metal or its upcoming Marvel rival, Epic Illustrated.  Both of the lengthy stories this issue are quite good.


  17. cover: Jeff Bonivert (July 1979)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Raven [Edgar Allan Poe/Jeff Bonivert] 7p   [poem]

                3) Inter Flight [Stephen Konz] 5p

                4) Chilly [George Szostek] 6p   reprinted from Brainstorm Fantasy Comix #? (197?)

                5) GZ-15 [Stepehn Konz] 14p


Notes: Easily the worst comic Star*Reach ever published.  If not for Jeff Bonivert’s superb art on his presentation of Poe’s poem, this issue would be a complete writeoff.  ‘Inter Flight’ is a slight effort and both ‘Chilly’ and ‘GZ-15’ are wordless strips that cheat the reader since nothing interesting happens in either one.  ‘Chilly’ is also printed so dark that it is hard to make out what, if anything, is going on.  Unlike most Star*Reach comics, there is no art on the back cover. 


  18. cover: Lee Marrs (Oct. 1979)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Stark’s Quest: Decision [Lee Marrs] 16p

                3) The Soldier Who Guards The Gate Of The City [Masaichi Makaide] 2p

                4) Crashing [Steven Grant/Masaichi Mukaide] 12p


Notes: Final issue.  The sturdy ‘Stark’s Quest’ is concluded.  This was a much better issue than the limp previous one. 




Pudge, Girl Blimp


    1. cover: Lee Marrs (Jan. 1976)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Lee Marrs] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Further Fattening Adventures Of Pudge, Girl Blimp [Lee Marrs] 6p

                3) The Case Of The Veneral Virgin [Lee Marrs] 4p

                4) Mei-Lin Luftwaffle [Lee Marrs] 10p

                5) Who Was Dat Self I Was You With? [Lee Marrs] 3p

                6) The Group [Lee Marrs] 2p

                7) Cyberfenetics [Lee Marrs] 3p

                8) The Big Fat Rip-Off [Lee Marrs] 4p


Notes: $1.50 For 32 pages.  Magazine-size issue.  Reprinted from the Last Gasp edition (Jan. 1974).  Reprinted yet again in June 1978.  Pudge was much more of an underground comic than the other Star*Reach publications.  It told the story of a 17 year fat girl who moved to San Francisco during the height of the counter-cultural revolution of the early 1970s.  Somewhat dated, but quite amusing.  A major theme running through all three issues is Pudge’s frantic attempts to lose her virginity. 


    2. cover: Lee Marrs (? 1975)   [wraparound cover]

                1) She Was Still A…Virgin [Lee Marrs] 1p   [frontis]

                2) Further The Fattening Adventures, Pudge, Girl Blimp [Lee Marrs] 6p

                3) Git Uh Job, Chapter One: Brother, Can You Spare A Rebate? [Lee Marrs] 2p

                4) Meanwhile…Out There Mars [Lee Marrs] 2p

                5) Git Uh Job, Chapter Two: The Screen Queen [Lee Marrs] 10p

                6) What Ever Happened To [Lee Marrs] 2p

                7) Git Uh Job, Chapter Three: Got Them Part-Time Temporary Deduction Blues [Lee Marrs] 4p

                8) Mei-Lin Luftwaffe [Lee Marrs] 6p

                9) TV Twinkies: I Think I’ll Dump Him… [Lee Marrs] 1p

                10) Git Uh Job, Chapter Four: The Pay’s So Low, This Must Be The Underground [Lee Marrs] 5p

                11) That’s No Pimple, That’s Your 2nd Charka [Lee Marrs] 2p

                12) The Group Dynamic [Lee Marrs] 2p

                13) Am I Gay Or Only Cheerful? [Lee Marrs] 2p

                14) Fiscal Interuptus [Lee Marrs] 4p


Notes: $1.00 for 48 pages.  Comic-sized issue.  Richard Nixon appears on the front cover.  Since an ad for Star*Reach #2 is on the inside back cover, one would probably be safe in stating that this issue appeared in the latter half of 1975. 


    3. cover: Lee Marrs (? 1977)   [wraparound cover]

                1) She Was Still A…Virgin [Lee Marrs] 1p   [frontis]

                2) This Can’t Be Right…It Feels Too Good [Lee Marrs] 7p

                3) Midnight At The Oasis [Lee Marrs] 3p

                4) The New Street: Campaign Capers [Lee Marrs] 4p

                5) A Visit To Homebase (Some Of My Best Friends…) [Lee Marrs] 1p

                6) Laid At Last [Lee Marrs] 4p

                7) The Morning After [Lee Marrs] 2p

                8) Movin’ On: Group Transformation [Lee Marrs] 1p

                9) Funny Thing Happened On The Way To (During) [Lee Marrs] 4p

                10) On The Campaign Trail [Lee Marrs] 3p

                11) The Patter Of Lil’ Feet…Of Clay [Lee Marrs] 3p

                12) Before And After [Lee Marrs] 2p

                13) Mei-Lin Luftwaffle: A New World [Lee Marrs] 3p

                14) Bye Bye Martians [Lee Marrs] 1p

                15) Can I Interest You In A Climax? [Lee Marrs] 4p

                16) Loose Ends [Lee Marrs] 1p

                17) The Close Call [Lee Marrs] 4p

                18) After All, Tomorrow Is Another… [Lee Marrs] 1p


Notes: $.125 for 48 pages.  Final magazine-sized issue.  Captain Kangaroo & Woody Allen appear on the back cover.   Pudge would not reappear until 2005, in Dark Horse’s anthology Sexy Chix.





1. cover: Frank Brunner/back cover: Alan Kupperberg (July 1976)

            1) Editorial [Frank Brunner & Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

            2) Duckaneer [Frank Brunner/Frank Brunner & Steve Leialoha] 11p

            3) The Wraith [Michael Gilbert] 5p

            4) You-All Gibbon [Scott Shaw!] 7p

            5) E. Z. Wolf: Smokey Mountain High [Ted Richards] 1p

            6) E. Z. Wolf [Ted Richards] 1p

            7) On The Skids [Howard Chaykin/Alan Kupperberg] 10p

            8) Duckula [Scott Shaw!] 1p

            9) Kosmo Cat: The Case Of The Purloined Periodicals [Mark Evanier/Scott Shaw! & Dave

Stevens] 12p


Notes: $1.25 for 48 pages.  Publisher & editor: Mike Friedrich.  A photo of Jan Brunner {Frank’s wife} was included on the editorial page.  ‘Duckaneer’ was Brunner’s response to not being allowed to plot {or write} Howard The Duck.  Gilbert’s ‘The Wraith’ debuts.  I’ve found no earlier evidence of Dave Stevens’ name appearing in comics {although I believe that he worked as an uncredited assistant with Russ Manning on Tarzan prior to this} so, for now, I’m posting this as Stevens’ professional debut.  At least one reprinting occurred in Oct. 1976.  Scott Shaw’s ‘You-All Gibbon’ was a takeoff on the leading health nut of the time, Euell Gibbons.  Shaw also had a policy to put an exclamation point on the end of his name.  The best story here was easily Brunner’s ‘Duckaneer’ although I also liked the work by Michael Gilbert & Ted Richards.  This seems a rather odd title to find Howard Chaykin in.


    2. cover: Steve Leialoha/back cover: Scott Shaw! (Jan. 1977) 

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich & Sergio Aragones/Sergio Aragones] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Newton, The Rabbit Wonder! [Steve Leialoha & Sergio Aragones] 10p

                3) The Wraith: The Cure [Michael Gilbert] 7p

                4) A Fish Shtick: Be True To Your School [Steve Skeates] 3p

                5) On The Skids!: A Day At The Rat-Race [Mary Skrenes, Steve Gerber, Alan Weiss & Alan

Kupperberg/Alan Kupperberg] 10p

                6) How To Recognize An Oregon Bobcat [Dot Bucher] 1p

                7) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat [Dot Bucher] 1p

                8) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat [Dot Bucher] 1p

                9) You-All Gibbon: The Incredible, Edible Invasion Of Earth! [Scott Shaw!] 10p

                10) A Job Well Done [Ken Macklin] 5p


Notes: Duckula, who appeared on the back cover, correctly noted that there were no ducks in this issue of Quack!  Best story here was the Leialoha/Aragones tale of ‘Newton, The Rabbit Wonder’ while Michael Gilbert supplied the best artwork.  Steve Skeates’ fish stories returned. 


    3. cover: Dave Sim & Steve Leialoha/back cover: Steve Leialoha (Apr. 1977)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Beavers [Dave Sim] 4p

                3) The Wraith: Duck Death [Michael Gilbert] 12p

                4) E. Z. Wolf As Wolfjack: The Case Of The Missing Quack [Ted Richards/Ted Richards, Larry

Gonick & J. Michael Leonard] 10p

                5) You-All Gibbon: Pig-Foot, The Awful Boar! [Scott Shaw!] 6p

                6) Deserter [Ken Macklin] 8p

                7) Newton, The Rabbit Wonder Meets The Barbarian Bunny [Steve Leialoha/Steve Leialoha &

Alex Nino] 8p


Notes: The Newton, the Rabbit Wonder story is a spoof of Michael Moorcock’s Elric.  The Beavers are cover-featured.  Best story here is Gilbert’s Wraith effort but good work also appears from Ken Macklin, Steve Leialoha, Alex Nino & Ted Richards.


    4. cover: Steve Leialoha/back cover: Michael Gilbert (July 1977)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich/Steve Leialoha] 1p   [frontis, text article]

                2) Rick Rabbit: Home On The Range, Rabbit! [Steve Leialoha] 10p

                3) The Beavers [Dave Sim] 11p

                4) On The Skids!: Into The Breach! [Alan Kupperberg] 7p

                5) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat: Bounce On The Wild Side! [Dot Bucher] 6p

                6) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat [Dot Bucher] 1p

                7) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat [Dot Bucher] 1p

                8) The Wraith’s Pal, Inspector Mulchberry [Michael Gilbert] 1p

                9) The Wraith: The Fall Of The House Of Silver [Michael Gilbert] 11p


Notes: In a rather terse note, Friedrich confirms that this issue’s installment of ‘On The Skids’ is the last, even though the last page advertises the next installment.  Leialoha’s Rick Rabbit is not the same rabbit character as the earlier Newton, although , as rabbits, they look quite a lot alike.  The best story & art is again Gilbert’s Wraith story with good work also appearing from Dot Bucher & Steve Leialoha.


    5. cover: Michael Gilbert/back cover: Ken Macklin (Sept. 1977)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich/Michael Gilbert] 1p   [frontis, text article]

                2) The Wraith: The Reality Wraith [Michael Gilbert] 16p

                3) Tales Of The Oregon Bobcat: At Last, Long Love! [Dot Bucher] 6p

                4) The Beavers [Dave Sim] 11p

                5) Planet Of The Ducks [Ken Macklin] 10p

                6) A Bird In The Hand! [Gene Day] 4p

                7) …And Now For Something Completely Different… [Steve Leialoha] 1p


Notes: Friedrich promises a format change as he feels that Quack hasn’t found an identity.  It was to begin with #7 but the comic is cancelled with #6.  Leialoha’s one pager is an explanation for the absence of the Rick Rabbit installment, told by Newton, The Rabbit Wonder.  Best story & art again go to Michael Gilbert’s ingenious installment of The Wraith with strong work also appearing from Ken Macklin & Dot Bucher.


    6. cover: Ted Richards/back cover: Steve Leialoha (Dec. 1977)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [frontis, text article]

                2) The Quark, Son Of Quack [Ted Richards/Ted Richards, J. Michael Leonard & Larry Gonick]


                3) Rick Rabbit: Into The Motherlode [Steve Leialoha] 10p

                4) You-All Gibbon [Mike Friedrich/Scott Shaw!] 1p   [text article]

                5) Duckaneer [Frank Brunner/Frank Brunner & Steve Leialoha] 11p   reprinted from Quack #1

(July 1976)

                6) The Fleet Foot Foogle! [Lee Mars] 8p

                7) The Wraith: Fear [Michael Gilbert] 5p

                8) The Wraith: A Christmas Carol [Michael Gilbert/Michael Gilbert, Ted Richards, Ken Macklin,

Scott Shaw!, Frank Brunner, Steve Leialoha, Lee Marrs, Al Gordon & Mary McAllister]



Notes: Although Friedrich promises the 7th issue in six months with a new format consisting of longer strips by Michael Gilbert, Ted Richards & Steve Leialoha, this is the final issue.  Leialoha’s Rick Rabbit storyline is concluded in Eclipse #2 in 1981.  ‘The Duckaneer’ reprint is required when Scott Shaw!’s installment of ‘You-All Gibbon’ is not completed.  Friedrich’s note regarding this is quite interesting reading.  The last page of The Wraith’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ is in the form of a Christmas card with characters & art from current & previous Quack contributors.  Although it wasn’t intended as such, that page is a rather nice way to say goodbye to the reader. 





    1. cover: Marshall Rogers (Apr. 1978)  

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [frontis, text article]

                2) Flightmare [Neal Adams/Frank Cirocco] 8p

                3) Anticipation [Dave Sim/Fabio Gasbarri] 5p

                4) Making It [Lee Marrs] 1p

                5) Disputed Sacrifice [Marshall Rogers] 8p   [color]

                6) The Nimrod Fusion [Steven Grant/Rich Larson] 9p

                7) The Garbage Men [Gene Day/Fabio Gasbarri] 7p


Notes: This second attempt to use interior color wasn’t printed any better than the first, over in Star*Reach.  The original cover was never completed and Rogers’ cover, a last minute reprinting of an interior panel, was dropped when the issue was quickly reprinted.  Frank Cirocco did the cover for the second printing and  that cover was repeated on the back cover sans copy.  The Cirocco cover is the cover most often seen.  Friedrich’s intention with this second anthology was to hold Star*Reach for science fiction & fantasy and use Imagine for a general all purpose comic where western, detective & superhero strips could appear.  This never actually happened and Imagine became just an alternative issue of Star*Reach.  Pretty good issues, though.  Best story here is Dave Sim’s glimpse into the mind of a spree killer.  Best art is probably Fabio Gasbarri’s {Where did he go?  His art was quite good.} work on both ‘Anticipation’ and ‘The Garbage Men’.  Good work also appeared from Adams, Cirocco, Rogers & Larson. 


    2. cover: P. Craig Russell (June 1978)   [repeated sans copy on the back cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [frontis, text article]

                2) Black Crow [Lee Marrs/Mike Vosburg] 12p

                3) Speed! [Gene Day] 4p

                4) The Avatar And The Chimera [P. Craig Russell] 8p   [color]

                5) Days Of Future Past [Gene Day] 6p

                6) Drug Fiends Of The Martian Moon [Trina Robbins/Trina Robbins & Steve Leialoha] 7p

                7) Encounter At The Crazy Cat Saloon [Michael Gilbert] 3p


Notes: The lead character in ‘Black Crow’ is a thinly disguised riff on singer Joni Mitchell.  Best art & story honors go to Craig Russell’s beautiful color installment of ‘The Avatar And The Chimera, but everybody here has a strong entry.


    3. cover: P. Craig Russell/back cover: Steve Leialoha (Aug. 1978)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Spider Thread [Masaich Mukaide] 4p   from the story by Atutagama

                3) Songs To Aging Children Come… [Mike Vosbury & Paul Levitz/Mike Vosburg] 10p

                4) Ersatz [Lee Marrs] 2p

                5) The Avatar And The Chimera, part 2 [P. Craig Russell] 8p  

                6) Nebula: Gavin’s Ring [Mickey Schwaberow] 11p

                7) Fear Of Death! [Dorothy Bucher/Dorothy Bucher & Michael Gilbert] 2p

                8) Vignette: A Soft And Gentle Rain [Michael Gilbert] 3p


Notes: The new serial, ‘Nebula’, is never completed.  ‘Ersatz’ is a gentle spoof of famed French cartoonist Moebius, by Lee Marrs.  Best artwork here again goes to Craig Russell, but the best story is Michael Gilbert’s gentle, odd little vignette.  There’s also good work from everybody else in this issue.  This was Imagine’s best issue overall.


    4. cover: Steve Ditko/back cover: John Allison (Nov. 1978)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) A Dream Of Milk And Honey [Michael Gilbert] 16p

                3) The Summoning [Paul Levitz/Steve Ditko] 8p   [color]

                4) The Awakening Of Tamaki [Lee Marrs/Masaichi Mukaide] 12p

                5) Coxmix [Dave Sim] 4p


Notes: $1,.75.  This was the last comic-sized issue.  Good work from Dave Sim & Steve Ditko, while Michael Gilbert delivers a heart-breaking story, possibly the best work he’s done to date.  A very strong issue.


    5. cover: Michael Gilbert (Apr. 1979)

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) A Sprig Of Thaxin [Paul Kirchner] 16p

                3) A Dream Of Milk And Honey, part 2 [Michael Gilbert]

                4) Ravens [Eric Kimball/Robert Gould] 1p   [on back cover]


Notes: Magazine-sized format with comic content reduced to 32 pages for the same $1.75.  Gilbert’s ‘A Dream Of Milk And Honey’ concludes.  This is such a good story that it’s a crime and a shame that it’s never been reprinted.


    6. cover: Stephen Konz (July 1979)   

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) The Song Of Asmodeus [Dean Motter & Ken Steacy] 11p

                3) Salvation [Masaichi Mukaide] 2p

                4) The Dewcatcher [Stephen Konz] 6p

                5) Nebula: Bones & Spheres [Mickey Schwaberow] 8p

                6) Nebula: Beware Of Ashenwaste, My Son [Mickey Schwaberow] 5p

                7) Siegfried [P. Craig Russell] 1p   [color, on back cover]


Notes: Final issue.  Konz’s cover is quite blah.  The ‘Siegfried’ page is the original final page of the story that Russell published in Epic Illustrated #2 (Summer 1980).  That color story was originally intended for Imagine.  Best story & art here belongs to Dean Motter’s & Ken Steacy’s ‘The Song Of Asmodeus’.  ‘Nebula’, in its final appearance, was quirky and interesting.  Too bad it was never finished. 





    1. cover: P. Craig Russell (May 1978)   [repeated sans copy on the back cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Parsifal: His Journey [Patrick C. Mason/P. Craig Russell] 10p   [color]   reprinted from

Star*Reach #8 (Apr. 1977)

                3) Parsifal: His Temptations [Patrick C. Mason/P. Craig Russell] 10p   [color]   reprinted from

Star*Reach #10 (Sept. 1977)

                4) Parsifal: His Victory [Patrick C. Mason/P. Craig Russell] 11p   [color]   entire story from the

opera by Richard Wagner

                5) Addendum [Patrick C. Mason & P. Craig Russell/P. Craig Russell] 1p   [color, text article]


Notes: $2.00 for 32 pages.  Friedrich was very disappointed with the color reproduction in this first all-color comic.  The color was corrected in later reprintings.  Regardless, this is a beautiful book and an impressive start to Russell’s now 27 year effort in adapting opera to comics.




Cody Starbuck

    1. cover: Howard Chaykin (July 1978)   [wraparound cover]

                1) Editorial [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article, frontis]

                2) Cody Starbuck [Howard Chaykin] 32p   [color]

                3) Cody Starbuck Portfolio Ad [Howard Chaykin] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: $2.00 for 32 pages.   This was much more graphically and sexually violent than previous Star*Reach titles or earlier Cody Starbuck stories.  Starbuck’s tales were continued in the 1981 in the pages of Heavy Metal.





Alter Ego

    11. cover: Marie Severin & Bill Everett/back cover: Moebius (June 1978)

                1) Welcome to Alter Ego [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article]

                2) The Altered Ego: A Final Bow [Roy Thomas] 1p   [text article]

                3) Gir/Moebius: An Interview With Jean Giraud [Mal Burns, Moebius & Mike Friedrich/Moebius]

7p   [text article]

                4) Everett On Everett: An Interview By Roy Thomas [Roy Thomas & Bill Everett/Bill Everett]

22p   [text article

                5) Bill Everett: The Ancient Sub-Mariner [Roy Thomas] 1p   [text article]


Notes: $.? for 32 pages.  Editors: Roy Thomas & Mike Friedrich.  The covers’ colors were hand separated by Michael Gilbert, who today does a regular column for the revived fanzine.  Final issue of volume one.




Star*Reach’s Greatest Hits

1. cover: Frank Brunner (Sept. 1979)

            1) Foreword [Mike Friedrich] 1p   [text article]

            2) Elric Of Melnibone [Frank Brunner] 20p   [color]   from the story by Michael Moorcock

            3) Elric: The Prisoner Of Pan Tang [Eric Kimball/Robert Gould] 20p   reprinted from Star*Reach

#6 (Oct. 1976)

                4) Dragonus: The Wizard’s Venom [Frank Brunner] 10p   reprinted from Star*Reach #3 (Oct.


                5) Cody Starbuck [Howard Chaykin] 16p   reprinted from Star*Reach #1 (Apr. 1974)

                6) I’m God! [Dave Sim/Fabio Gasbarri] 8p   reprinted from Star*Reach #7 (Jan. 1977)

                7) Waters Of Requital [Lee Marrs] 8p   reprinted from Star*Reach #5 (July 1976)

                8) Worlds Within, Worlds Without [Michael Gilbert] 8p   reprinted from Star*Reach #9 (June


                9) Reincarnalation [Mike Vosburg] 1p   reprinted from Star*Reach #2 (Apr. 1975)

                10) My Fears [Jeff Bonivert] 4p   reprinted from Star*Reach #7 (Jan. 1977)

                11) Skywalker [Mike Vosburg & Steve Englehart/Mike Vosburg] 11p   reprinted from Star*Reach

#7 (Jan. 1977)


Notes: $? for pages.  Brunner’s painted Elric story also appeared at the same time in Heavy Metal (Sept. & Nov. 1979).  Chapter headings are listed as Swashbucklers/Alien Contact/Inner Space with page borders by Lee Marrs.  A good collection of early Star*Reach material.




Within Our Reach

    1. cover: Paul Chadwick/alternate cover: Norm Breyfogle (Nov. 1991)   [a flip book form]

                1) The Gift Of The Magi [P. Craig Russell] 12p   from the story by O. Henry

                2) So This is Christmas [Lovern Kindzierski/Tim Sale] 6p

                3) Van Gogh: the Man Suicided By Society [Antonin Artaud/Rafael Kayanan] 5p

                4) Home For Christmas [Shair/Eric Shanower] 4p

                5) Concrete: American Christmas [Paul Chadwick/Paul Chadwick & Jed Hotchkiss] 8p

                6) Star*Reach: The Business Of Comics Art, The Art Of Comics Business [Mike Friedrich] 2p  

[text article]

                Alternate side

1) Spider-Man: A Wolf At The Door [David Ross, Roy Thomas & Dann Thomas/Jeff Butler &

Gary Kato] 8p

                2) The Happy Prince [Oscar Wilde] 6p   [text story]

                3) Brother Elf: A Gift Of Peace [Ron Fortier/Gary Kato] 8p

                4) Sherlock Holmes: The Season Of Forgiveness [Martin Powell/Patrick Oliffe] 8p

                5) Santa’s Ashram [Norm Breyfogle] 7p

                6) Creator Biographies [various] 2p   [text article]


Notes: $? for 48 pages.  This was published in color and in flipbook format.  All proceeds were intended for the AIDS charity AmFAR or for the environmental group, Sempervirens.  This is the last publication to date from Star*Reach.  The Spider-Man side of the book is noticeably inferior in story & art to the Concrete side.  Best story is Craig Russell’s adaptation of O. Henry’s ‘The Gift Of The Magi’ but good work also appears from Shair, Eric Shanower, Paul Chadwick & Norm Breyfogle.  This was nicely done and a welcome postscript for the old comic. 


Extras: Although Star*Reach essentially folded in 1979, some stories continued to appear—notably the two Gideon Faust stories & the Cody Starbuck serial mentioned above.  Both appeared in Heavy Metal.  Three Lee Marrs stories appeared in various issues of Heavy Metal or Epic Illustrated.  The Siegfried story by P. Craig Russell appeared in Epic Illustrated, as did the reworked serialization of ‘The Sacred And The Profane’.  Eclipse Comics published ‘Sacred & Profane’s’ graphic novel version in 1987.  Eclipse also published 6 issues of Star*Reach Classics in 1984.  That title reprinted some of the better stories from Star*Reach, Imagine & Quack in color as well as reprinting Craig Russell’s ‘Parsifal’ one-shot as the final issue.  Several mini-series of Michael Moorcock’s Elric appeared as well, from Epic & First, through the early 1990s.  The first Elric series had artwork by two Star*Reach alumni, P. Craig Russell & Michael Gilbert.




                                               A 2005 Interview With Mike Friedrich!


RA: We’re here with Mike Friedrich, Star*Reach publisher & editor, talent agent and Silver Age writer for DC & Marvel.  Can you tell us a little about your early days in the comics field?


MF: Sure, I became a comic fan in high school and started writing letters to the various editors.  Got a bunch of them published, mostly in DC comics.  This would have been in the mid-1960s.  A great many of them appeared in the comics that Julius Schwartz edited—Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Batman.  When I turned 18, just before I graduated from high school, I was able to sell DC some comic scripts.  I spent my college years working in New York writing scripts in the summer and out here in California the rest of the year while going to school.  I continued writing for DC, and later, Marvel until the mid-1970s.


In 1972 I began to think about the small press.  There were a lot of underground and small press comics being published here in the Bay area and that kind of inspired me to think about publishing artist’s work that I knew from Marvel and DC.  That eventually led in 1974 to the first issue of Star*Reach.  I was the publisher, editor, marketing director, swept the floor, etc., of that until 1979.  In 1980 I had to fold that tent and I went to Marvel Comics and launched their direct sales department.  Out of that came setting up Diamond Comic Distributors.  That’s one of the things I did.  After a couple of years of that, I returned to California and for 20-something years I ran a management company for artists.  Primarily comics but in television as well.  That’s the broad stroke overview. 


I became a comic pro largely through making a connection to Julie Schwartz.  Writing him letters and, eventually, he started writing back.  I was growing up rapidly during this time, maturing as a comic reader—going from “I like these comics.  I don’t like these other comics.” to “I like or don’t like these comics because of this reason or that reason.”  Then the third step of “You know, it would be better if you did this…or that.” and finally “You know, I could do it better.”  {laughs}  That’s kind of what led me to start to write. 


RA: Did you find DC, in particularly Julie Schwartz, receptive to that approach? 


MF: Well, yes, he very much was.  There were a lot of historical factors going on during this period that I was completely unaware of at the time.  DC had been the king of the hill for a long time.  But by the mid-1960s they were not very sure that they were going to have much of a future.  Marvel had come along and was doing much better with much fewer titles.  There was a sense within DC itself that they had become stale.  They got worried that the kinds of stories they were telling weren’t as current and interesting.  There was this whole counter-culture, with baby boomer kids growing up.  Times were changing and the older editors at DC really felt lost.  They particularly did not feel that the current people they had, who had been working for them for fifteen or twenty years, were up to the challenge that Marvel presented or for the new audience that was out there.  They didn’t know where to go next. 


Comics was never an attractive field to work in as a career.  Now all of a sudden there were these comic fans who, HEY!, wanted to become comic people.  They wanted to be writers.  They wanted to be artists.  I was lucky enough to be in the first wave of that.  I landed on the beach early {laughs} and was able to get a little bit of a foothold there at a much earlier age than people after me were able to do.  It was probably the last time an 18 year old writer was hired by DC or Marvel. 


RA: Well, Jim Shooter may have had you beat in age.  I think he was around 15 or 16 when he sold his first script for the Legion Of Superheroes.


MF:  Yeah, he was.  That’s my point.  A couple of years later than this and a teenaged writer wasn’t able to get in.  There was only a narrow window of time that I was fortunate to slip through, along with Gerry Conway, Cary Bates, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.


RA: I do recall an interview in which Neal Adams mentioned that, in 1967, he was the first new artist that DC had hired in probably 10 or 15 years, since about 1954. 


MF: Well, that was certainly true, meaning the first new artist.  Jim Shooter and Cary Bates were writing for DC before Neal was drawing for them.  DC had not brought in a new artist in a long, long time. 


Of course, in the 1950s, the whole field had shrunk dramatically.  So when there was any sort of revival, at either DC or Marvel, who they hired first were people that they used to work with before the collapse.  They would bring people back into the field.


Pretty soon, Marvel was facing the same problem as DC.  By the early 1970s, Marvel had no old people to bring back anymore, so the doors began to open to new people.  They needed fresh blood as well and began to draw on the fan talent as it evolved. 


RA: I noticed, and it was rather curious at the time, that while Marvel had been very much the trend sitter during the 1960s, the new artists and writers seemed to have an easier time finding a home at DC than at Marvel.  Marvel seemed very resistant to the idea of new blood. 


MF: Right.  A company has a certain way of doing things, especially if they enjoy a certain amount of success.  If it worked, why mess with a formula that was succeeding?  Through the 1960s, Stan Lee basically brought back people that he’d worked with during the Atlas days and even earlier, back to the 1940s.  Almost every artist that we think of as a Marvel artist during the 1960s and well into the 1970s, had personal and professional dealings with Stan going way, way back.  I wrote Iron Man in the early 1970s for about four years and George Tuska drew it.  George was probably at the end of his career but he started with Stan during World War II!  That was just the kind of guy that Marvel hired.  It literally took an entire generation of people retiring in the field before Marvel moved to get new people in. 


RA: Part of the need for new artists could also be due to that massive expansion of their titles from 1972-1975.  But at that point, they were also picking up a lot of artists from DC, like Bob Brown and Jim Mooney.


MF: Yeah, well by then, DC had brought the talent in.  DC was not able to control their collapse until well into the 1970s, so the pay rates for DC stayed kind of static, and Marvel, certainly by the mid-1970s, came to be the better place to work in terms of making money and having fun.  It wasn’t until Jenette Kahn came in and turned things around that DC got to be more interesting again.  Even then, it took five or six years to take root. 


RA: One thing I’ve noticed about your stories, for both DC & Marvel, was that they tended to be concerned with contemporary social issues more than most other writers of the time.  In previous DC stories, the stories all seem to be in a world based on Smallville.  Centered on small town life.  Even Gotham didn’t appear to be particularly urban.  Like Archie Comics’ Riverdale, they were stuck in a time period where nothing seem to reflect what was actually going on in the real world.  I think yours were the first stories--well, perhaps some late 1960s Stan Lee stuff--to blatantly put characters into situations that were actually talked about in the news.  Even though a lot of those “relevant’ stories could be, and often were, pretty heavy handed, from everybody involved.


MF: It’s very embarrassing to look back at that stuff.  {laughs}  DC just didn’t know how to deal with what Marvel was doing in the 1960s.  Stan was acting like he was this hip guy.  He came across with the notion that young readers counted, that they were important to him, and to Marvel.  His literary voice resonated with an older reader that what DC was reaching.  Stan was hitting the junior high school age while DC was hitting grammar school kids.  Kids who read DC had older brothers who were reading Marvel, and their friends down the street were reading Marvel.  If you were older you read Marvel and, for that simple reason, DC began to look uncool.  Stan acted like this was some big college sensation, which was a complete fabrication.  But it made the high school kids feel like they were sophisticated. 


DC had no idea how to make that approach work.  Their earliest stuff, which had been done in the 1940s, all those people who had produced that were gone.  The people who created those characters and those stories weren’t around and there were a bunch of resident writers and artists, who had taken over from the original creators, who were just told to keep on doing what they’d done before.  So when DC brought in the new people, and like I said, I was one of the earliest ones, we were encouraged to write contemporary stories, to be hip—whatever that actually meant to us. 


Well, in high school and college, I was not a hip person {laughs}.  I was aware of what was around me, of the things I was having to deal with in my regular life.  So those were the issues that were out there.  The Vietnam War, which was quite unpopular—we were all worried that we were going to get involved in it personally.  The whole Civil Rights movement had exploded.  The environmental movement was developing.  Women’s Rights were coming to the fore.  It was a very turbulent cultural time.  It was hard not to reflect that in my work. 


I was not very well trained as a writer.  I was completely self-taught.  I did not really have strong craft at that age, so I read that stuff now and I cringe because it’s just so clunky.   But there was a bit of life to it. 


RA: I should probably note that when I was helping the late Al Hewetson, the one-time editor of the

Skywald line, with his Illustrated History Of The Skywald Horror-Mood, he didn’t have credits for the

early issues of either Nightmare or Psycho because he wasn’t the editor there at the time.  The first two or

three issues didn’t have any credits at all, except in the masthead on the title page.  A lot of the writers

mentioned I don’t think even existed.  Anyway, he wanted to know if I could figure out who had written

the two or three original stories in those early issues and yours was fairly easy to figure out because your

stories tended to deal with some kind of social issue involved whereas Marv Wolfman, for example, had

zero social commentary in his work.  I think you wrote a story called ‘The Pollution Monsters’, that Don

Heck illustrated.


MF: Yeah, that was me.  I barely remember working for Skywald.  I only wrote one story for them.

It was a bizarre experience working for those fellows.  I knew Sol Brodsky, who was the Sky half

of Skywald, but I did not know Izzy Waldman, who was the wald half of Skywald.  Waldman had

been a fringe distributor for quite a while, some ten, fifteen, twenty years. 


RA: I think he did crossword puzzles and that sort of stuff.


MF: Yeah, that kind of stuff.  Weird little things.  I’m sort of inclined to call him a street hustler, but

I really don’t know what he did, actually.  The magazine distribution field had completely

consolidated by the 1980s when I started paying attention to it.  But back then, I remember that

summer pretty well, I think it was 1970, where I was not really making much money.  Barely hanging

on with a couple of things with DC.  It was just before things completely turned around and I gained

two regular books with DC, primarily Justice League.  But that particular summer I was really

struggling.  Roy Thomas called me up and said “Sol Brodsky has left Marvel and he was asking for

names of people who might be available for scripts.”  Roy was totally happy to give them the names

of DC writers. {laughs}  So Roy connected me to Sol and I went over there.  Sol in turn connected me

to the editor, who was the son of Izzy Waldman.  All I remember is that he was this young guy, about

22, wearing a suit topped off with a head of curly red hair, which looked really bizarre to a t-shirt

and jeans guy like myself.  He had absolutely no idea of what a comic book was and he was the

editor!  {laughs}  We were getting the strangest story requests and they weren’t paying very well.  I

turned in the smog monster story and I was very embarrassed by it.  I didn’t think it was very good. 

Now that I’m talking about it, I think I talked to them about a second story but I don’t think I ever

did it.  I actually remember being so embarrassed I didn’t want to come in to pick up my check.

Fortunately, a couple of weeks later, I got assigned the Justice League book as an ongoing

assignment, so I didn’t have to worry about Skywald anymore. 


RA: You mentioned in a previous interview that one of the reasons you left DC and went over to Marvel

was that at Marvel, at the time, the writer was basically acting as his own editor.  There was less hassle and

you could make more money writing more scripts with the time freed up from having to deal with story



MF: That had a lot to do with it.  As things evolved at DC and I became more aware of the kind of

work I was doing and how to do it, the stuff that I liked to do was heavily influenced by the way that

Marvel Comics told their stories.  I was writing my stories more and more like that but I was getting

flak for it at DC.  They were telling me I was writing too much like Marvel.  So, at some point, I just

figured “Well, wait a minute.  Why should I get bashed for doing something that I like to do?  Why

not go where they want me to do that?”  Then at Marvel, I really was more in control of the stories.  I

was not really an editor but was pretty close to being my own editor.  I dealt more directly with the

artist.  I never really dealt with the artist at DC.  At Marvel that I felt I was creating a story that was

more a true combination of story and art.  It was tied together more.  I felt that the way Marvel

worked created that synergy, that fusion that, at the time, DC just didn’t have.


RA: I remember meeting Stan Lee, just once, in 1975.  He was doing a lecture series at college campuses. I

remember asking him a question about Steve Englehart’s Captain America book , mostly about how Steve

had tied in the Watergate mess into the storyline and that Steve had actually had Richard Nixon commit

suicide in the book.  It was absolutely clear from his answer that Stan had no idea what was going on in a

book that he was the publisher of, and I think technically, the editor or editor-in-chief of.  I remember being

mildly appalled at the time and wondered if I had gotten Englehart fired off the book because he didn’t last

on it very much longer.


MF: That’s right.  Well, you’d have to ask Steve about the timing.  My sense is that Steve did not get

forced off the book for that storyline.  Certainly Roy Thomas, or whoever was the editor-in-fact

{Stan was the editor-in-chief}, was reading the material.  At the time, 1973-1974, whenever it was

that Englehart was doing that, Stan was really not editing the stuff at all.  For all intents and

purposes, Roy came on and was doing the bulk of the editing from about 1969 on.  He slowly moved

up the ladder, not that there was much of a ladder to move up, and took on more and more

responsibilities.  By the end of the 1960s, Roy was pretty much the one coordinating the writing.  Roy

got the actual editor title when Stan moved on to Hollywood in 1971 or 1972.  I had maybe two

conversations with Stan during the five or six years that I worked at Marvel.  He never looked at

anything I wrote.  Or talked to me about it.  We, the writers, were always dealing with Roy. 


RA: That’s sounds about right.  And Roy did an excellent job.


MF: Yeah, but Roy left somewhere towards the end of that period and that’s where I was trapped. 

At some point, Roy quit and there was a succession of editors that finally stabilized with Jim Shooter. 

Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein & Archie Goodwin were among them.  Unfortunately I

didn’t have the same relationship with them that I had with Roy. 


RA: To move on, with Star*Reach, one of the things I said in my introduction…


MF: That was very nice of you, by the way.  I really appreciate it.


RA: Well, I felt the book and its influence had been long overlooked.  At least at the time I wrote it. 

You’ve had write ups in both Comic Book Artist and an upcoming one in Alter Ego since then.  I certainly

hope there’s more attention paid to the book by historians and collectors.


Star*Reach was one of the first ‘alternative’ comic that I bought.  Although that word wasn’t used at the

time.  “Ground-Level” was what you were using, a play on words from the underground comics.  You

weren’t really underground, nor were you mainstream.  “Independent” wasn’t a term used at that time

either.  I’d ordered a copy of Jim Steranko’s Mediascene or Comixscene {he changed the name of the

tabloid on a regular basis} and he had a bunch of ads in the back, selling the fanzines and whatnot of the

era.  I was 19 or so.  I ordered the first four or five issues of Star*Reach, mostly because Frank Brunner,

whom I’d liked on Dr. Strange, was doing the covers for some of them.  What I really liked about

Star*Reach, right off the bat, was that not only were they more mature in content than the average comic of

the time, but that the quality of writing was more mature as well.  Comics of the 1970s had characters who

talked forever!!!  Just jabbered constantly.  Even the books considered to be the great ones of the period,

Tomb Of Dracula, etc, were very long-winded.


Part of that was the influence of Stan Lee, because that’s his style.  His Spider-Man wisecracked though

every one of his fights.  It’s not that the writers who followed him were bad.  There were some good writers

working on those books.  It was just, I suppose, the style of the time.  It worked for Stan, so it should work

for everything!  But the characters in Star*Reach talked like people talked. 


MF: Well, the short story form, and that’s what Star*Reach was—comic short stories, forces you to

bring things down to what you can do in a very limited amount of pages.  Marvel had no real

restrictions on how long the story was.  They were basically unending stories.  People could do year-

and-a-half stories and it didn’t matter if you had characters just talking for three pages. 


RA: I don’t mind talking head pages, as long as they’re talking about something interesting.  I do dislike

characters making long speeches during scenes where they would logically be out of breath, not doing a



MF: When you’ve only got eight pages to tell your story, you just can’t spend two pages talking. 

You’ve got to move the story along.  I think that’s what made a lot of the difference.  Of course, we

were very consciously going after an older reader.  We assumed the readers were adult. 


RA: Personally, I thank you for that.  At the time I was trying to become a more discerning reader, picking

harder, more thoughtful material and your stories fit right into that.  The mainstream comics just weren’t

doing it for me anymore.  I wasn’t a big fan of the undergrounds at the time, although I’ve come to

appreciate them more as time goes on.  But I should note that they also avoided that verbose, long-winded

dialogue that marred the mainstream books.  They tended to tell the story and tell it very quickly.  I also

discovered that I really enjoyed anthology comics.  It’s a case of “If you don’t like this particular story,

there’s a new one only a page or so away!”


MF: See, there were other alternative comics before mine.  Berni Wrightson, Bruce Jones, all of them

did that type of work.  Not as polished as the mainstream books but the content was very different

from what DC or Marvel or even the undergrounds were doing.  That’s what fueled interest in

Star*Reach.  The artists wanted to do fantasy and science fiction.  The publishers didn’t.  They

wanted to do superheroes.  Where could someone like Berni Wrightson go?  Berni didn’t want to

do the Flash or Spider-Man. 


RA: His style is like Will Eisner’s.  His strong suit isn’t drawing convincing superheroes.  When he or

Eisner did superhero comics, the characters would all look like they were wearing actual clothes.


MF: {laughs} That’s right!  So that was part of the interest.  Just being able to put out stuff that

nobody else was putting out.  I started thinking about Star*Reach in 1972 and the secret behind its

origin was that the story that never got published was a Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor-Smith

adaptation of a Robert E. Howard character called Bran Mak Morn. 


RA:  Was that ‘Worms Of The Earth’?  I remember that Barry did about nine pages of that adaptation and

then Tim Conrad finished the story.


MF: Yeah, that’s it.  Barry did a few pages and then gave up on it.  After a while Roy gave up on it

too.  I think Roy wanted to declare a little bit of independence from Marvel.  He was having one of

his periodic ongoing disagreements with management and, at one point, the idea of doing this

Robert E. Howard story—which Marvel didn’t have the rights to—sounded good to him.  Marvel

was only doing Conan and Kull at that point.  They weren’t doing the minor Howard characters. 

Roy talked to Barry about doing this story for me and I got very excited.  I found the money and

said I can pay you X amount, then it never got drawn.  For whatever reasons, only a few pages got

drawn.  In the meantime, Marvel began doing the Conan B&W magazine; first Savage Tales and,

later, Savage Sword.  I think Roy realized that this was something that Marvel would do now and he

could get in trouble if it were published elsewhere, so he got Tim Conrad to finish the story and it

ended up in Savage Sword some years later.


At some point I gave up waiting for ‘Worms Of The Earth’ and started talking to Jim Starlin and

Howard Chaykin.  They were really close friends at the time.  I don’t remember who I talked to first. 

It probably would have been Starlin, because he and I had been roommates for a while. I was still

working for Marvel at this point and was continuing to have a working relationship with him.  He’d

get into a bind scripting and he’d call me up and I’d quickly write something he’d gotten way behind

on.  Out of that conversation I probably would have told him about the thing that Roy and Barry

were doing.  Jim and Howard got interested in doing this stuff and wound up in the first issue.


Howard had done a lot of work for DC, maybe not so much for Marvel.  He and I had pitched a

project to Marvel, an adaptation of Beowulf, that Roy really liked but Stan Lee didn’t think he

could sell so they didn’t go forward with it.  Chaykin would probably have been working in Neal

Adams’ studio at that point, but I’m not sure of that. 


RA: I’ve talked to Walt Simonson about his story {check out the Marvel B&W Horror page for that

interview!} and found out that his story in that first issue had  been done when he was in college. The

writer, Ed Hicks, was actually a college buddy of his.  You had Chaykin’s ‘Cody Starbuck’ which was

a rehashed, although better written, version of his DC strip Ironwolf as well as two or three stories by

Starlin and several humor strips by Steve Skeates.  I wasn’t really familiar with Skeates at the time

although he’d had a long career as a scripter for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and for Warren. 


MF: True, but he’d never drawn anything. 


RA: And his style didn’t look like anybody else’s either.  Certainly not in the commercial comic sense,



MF: The way it was originally set up was that Star*Reach #1 was going to be a 32 page comic with 16

pages by Starlin and 16 pages by Chaykin.  They did their stories and then I changed my mind at the

last minute and decided to make it a 48 page comic.  I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning behind

that except that I, as a collector, had really liked the comics from the late 1940s through the early

1950s that had been 48 pages.  I really thought that the 32 page comic was really too small for an

anthology series.  There just wasn’t enough room.  I don’t remember who I talked to, it could have

been either Chaykin or Starlin, that I’d decided to do another 16 pages.  Did they know anyone

who’s got a story?  Well, somebody said “I know this guy, Walt Simonson.”  Simonson was just

 starting out and was a very interesting artist.  They got back to me and said he’s got a 12 page story. 

I was still four pages short and that’s where Steve Skeates came in. 


RA: Skeates had done some of those same types of fish stories for a fanzine called Phase in 1971.  It was a

64 page fanzine that sold for an ungodly amount of money in 1971.  I think it was priced at $5.95, which

was a tremendous amount of money for a comic.  Newsstand comics were still 15 cents.  Which may be a

good reason that there wasn’t an issue #2.


MF: I don’t remember that part at all.  Skeates was a writer, of course.  He wrote Aquaman for DC

during the time that I was working there. 


RA: It was a full year before the next issue came out.


MF: Yep.


RA: The first one reads a lot like the fanzines of the day, except that it’s longer than most at 48 pages. 

The second one was a little different in that you included newer artists.  Ones I’d never seen before, who

were quite talented.  John Workman, in particular, had a notable debut.


MF: That may have been his first published work.  I’m not sure.  He had a lot of little stuff appearing

right around that time.  Neal Adams did the cover for a story that Dick Giordano and I worked on. 


RA: How did your financial plan work for selling the book work?  At the time, there were a few comic

shops on both coasts, but not that many.


MF: I didn’t really have one.  For the first couple of years I was just going from one issue to the next.

I did realize that the comic stores were emerging, particularly here in the Bay area, where they first

appeared in some sort of quantity.  I knew Bud Plant pretty well.  At the time, he was a co-owner of a

couple of stores, as well as a mail order distribution service.  Bud knew Phil Seuling, back in New

York, who was a major champion of comic shops.  Bud & Phil were good buddies. 


The first weekend I sold Star*Reach #1, was at a one-day comic show in Berkeley.  I was living down

in Hayward, which is about twenty miles from there.  I came up, brought the comics, and sold them

to Bud Plant and some to Last Gasp—the underground publisher and distributor. 


The book was such an instant success that day that the both of them came back for big reorders. 

Like on Monday.  The show was on Saturday and on Monday they were both back calling me for a

lot more comics.  I covered my printing costs within the first week.  Then a week or so later Phil

Seuling got in touch with me, wanting copies.  He’d gotten my number from Bud.  Basically, people

 got in touch with me.  I didn’t know who was out there.  I didn’t really have a plan.  Later on I

advertised in the Comic’s Buyers Guide, but I don’t remember that I did for that first issue.  I think

it was all word of mouth.  It wasn’t until the second or third issue that I started putting ads out. 

Mostly people came to me and said “Hey, this is great!” 


It took me a while to realize that I needed to sell only to distributors.  I didn’t really want to deal

directly with store owners.  That was a key strategic decision that I’ve never regretted because that

helped build up the modern day business that’s enabled comics to survive at all.  By strengthening

the distributors.


I really was just going from issue to issue.  I couldn’t get the people who’d done the first issue to do

another for a while.  Starlin, Chaykin and Simonson were all in high demand by the end of 1974.  I

couldn’t match DC or Marvel’s rates.  I didn’t have the money to buy two or three issues of material

in advance.  I had a hard time making a long term commitment to people when Marvel could offer

you a book a month.  At my best, when I was hitting my peak, I was only putting a book out eight

issues a year.  That’s if you consider Imagine an alternate issue of the Star*Reach book.  I couldn’t

offer the stability that a creator could get from Marvel or DC. 


RA: I’ve always felt you really settled into what the book was going to be with #4 or #5.  The first couple

three issues seemed to be tryout issues of sorts.


MF: Right.  Right.  By #4 I think we hit our stride.  By #6-8, I hit the epitome of what I was looking

for.  The wonderful Elric story that Moorcock allowed us to do.  Robert Gould, who drew that story,

is still doing Elric covers and bookcovers.   He’s a great artist. 


RA: What happened to Eric Kimball, who wrote that Elric story? 


MF: No idea.  Gould & Kimball were buddies.  The Elric story just showed up in the mail one day.  A total surprise.  I tried to get additional work from them and all I got was a brief one-page story.  They weren’t able to do more.  That story, though, was the biggest and most pleasant surprise I got the full time I was publishing. 


RA: It was a beautifully done story.  It fit in well with the emerging themes of Star*Reach and had gorgeous artwork.


MF:  The cover came later.  That was interesting too.  I don’t remember now how I got Jeff Jones to do that cover.  It’s Berni Wrightson, painted as an albino, who’s the model, which was funny.  Then we had Barry Smith as the next cover artist. 


RA: Star*Reach, Imagine, Quack all had impressive covers for the most part.


MF: Frank Brunner and I were neighbors for a time in Oakland.  He did some good covers for me.


RA: I remember not really caring for Lee Marrs’ work in particular but then she did a story called ‘Waters Of Requital’, which was quite a step forward in her work.  A very good story.  I was quite impressed with that one. 


MF: That’s the story where she turned the corner in terms of maturity.  She did the graphic novel ‘Stark’s Quest’ for me and we also published a number of her stories in Epic Illustrated and Heavy Metal.  Those were intended for Star*Reach, created for Star*Reach, but I was not able to publish them.  My representing those stories and the stories by Ken Steacy and Craig Russell were what helped start my representation business, along with Mark Evanier and Steve Gerber.  Lee’s solo book, ‘Pudge, Girl Blimp’ is what lead me to her material.  I ended up publishing two issues of that magazine and reprinting the first issue as well. 


RA: One question I wanted to ask was about the rabbit character by Steve Leialoha.  In the early stories he’s called Newton, the Rabbit Wonder and in the later, western stories he’s called Rick Rabbit.  Were they the same character or two different rabbit characters? 


MF: Well, if you really look at those stories, with the exception of the extended western story, every story was completely different from the one before it.  Regardless of the name the rabbit went under.  I asked him at the time and he just sort of shrugged.  I expect his answer today would be the same.  My favorite one of those would have been the western one.  That one was really fun. 


RA: What prompted Quack?  Was it just that Frank Brunner was interested in doing a version of Howard the Duck that Brunner himself could own?


MF: Well, that’s what started it, the whole Howard the Duck thing.  Howard was a big success right out of the gate and Frank was interested in doing this one story, so that launched Quack.  I just assumed that there would be a huge interest in this type of story, so I created an ongoing title but Howard The Duck and stories like that turned out to be a relative flash in the pan.  It lasted only about a year.  There was some good material in Quack though.  Some of Dave Sim’s early work.  This was all his pre-Cerebus material.  I think he’d written me a science fiction story first.  That’s what led me to connect with him at first.  I’d met him as a fanzine publisher initially.  He interviewed me about Star*Reach and than talked about the stuff that he was interested in doing.  So he did the ‘I’m God!’ story which I really liked a lot.  It’s one of my favorites.  I think it’s very funny. 


RA:  I think Sim had done a lot of fanzine work up in Canada but his only two credits in the U.S. before his appearances in Star*Reach and Quack was a story that appeared in one of the last issues of either Psycho or Nightmare and a great story called ‘The Shadow Of The Axe’ that Russ Heath illustrated.  It appeared in 1976 in Creepy.  Later he did a fanzine story, a parody, about a negative encounter he’d had with Jim Warren.  Sim copied the layouts and panels of Berni Wrightson’s story ‘The Reaper Of Love’.  Only where Berni had the child killing his parents, Sim’s version had him killing Jim Warren & Bill DuBay!


The next story I saw the Sim byline on was ‘I’m God!’ and I remember thinking he was a very impressive writer and decided to make him one of those comic artist that I’d follow around to where ever they went. 


MF: Nobody’s going to beat his 300 issue epic length run on Cerebus.  For me, he did ‘The Beavers, which tried to be a comedy, for Quack and he wrote a number of other stories for us.  He also wrote and drew one serious story for us, ‘Anticipation’ which was really good. 


Dave was the fellow who turned me onto Gene Day, because they were good buddies.  I think his appearances in Star*Reach were his first appearances in the States, although he too had done work in Canada.  About a year and a half after Gene’s work began appearing in Star*Reach he was working for Marvel.  Mark Gruenwald, from Marvel, called me up and asked for contact info.  He was a tremendous artist. 


Michael Gilbert did work for Star*Reach.  It took a while for him to hit his stride.  The first story of his that really had an impact on me was ‘A Dream Of Milk And Honey’.  I thought that was really great. 


RA: It’s a shame that story’s never been reprinted.  It’s a great story, one I’d like to see back in print.  Your last publication, to date, was the trade collection, Within Our Reach.  It was a flip book.  I remember that I liked the side that reminded me of Star*Reach quite a lot but the other, superhero side with Spider-Man and what have you, was quite a bit less interesting.


MF: That’s how I felt at the time too.  The side with the Concrete story & Craig Russell’s material was the better of the two and I’d put the good stuff together for exactly that reason.  The independent material was very good and the material dealing with established characters was so-so at best.  I felt very much the same way you did. 


RA: I recall what I believe were editorial differences between yourself and Scott Shaw!, who was doing a serial in Quack, that provoked a rather angry statement by you in one of your editorials. 


MF: Well, he’d never turn anything in.  It wasn’t editorial differences.  Scott just never turned anything in.  I just lost my cool in print.  You’ve really got to push my button at the wrong time for me to do something public like that.  He pushed it.  But it’s all right.  I got over it a long time ago.  Scott’s a great talent.


RA: I think that was the first time that someone provided in a comic, in print, the reason why a particular artist or writer was not appearing.  It’s different today with the internet and instant responses but back then, usually a creator would just stop appearing and the reason was either undisclosed or not revealed until years later.


MF: Well, he just wasn’t doing the work and I’d had it. 


RA: Steve Leialoha did a lot of work for you.  What can you tell us about him?


MF: Steve was working at Marvel, inking Starlin’s Warlock and what not, before he worked for Star*Reach.  Starlin, Brunner and I met Leialoha simultaneously at a little mini-con down in San Jose where he was showing his portfolio.  Immediately Brunner & Starlin said “We’ve got to get you to work on our stuff!”  They got him hired at Marvel.  I couldn’t offer him the rates he got there but he was interested in keeping his own thing going as well so he would work for me as time permitted on the other stuff.  He was a pretty fast artist. 


RA: On the Warren checklist, on my website, I noted that Leialoha made his first appearance in comics, as did a lot of future pros, on one of Warren’s fan pages with fan art.  After his artwork appeared there he sent in a letter about the experience and included a little ad stating that he was willing to work for anybody on anything.  I don’t know if he got any work off of it but it took a lot of balls to do that and it was funny to boot!  {laughs}


MF: {laughs} I really like that artwork by that new fellow, me!  {laughs}


RA: Mike Vosburg did a character for you by the name of Linda Lovecraft, whose name he changed slightly to Lori Lovecraft when he revived the character in the early 1990s.  Anyway, the co-writer on the stories that ran in Star*Reach was a Mary Skrenes.  I remember reading somewhere that she may have written stories under the name of Virgil North, because at the time there were no female comic writers, except possibly in the romance comics.  The Virgil North byline pops up on a number of stories that were illustrated by Berni Wrightson, Jeff Jones, Alan Weiss, etc.  Do you know anything about that?


MF:  She was from Las Vegas.  I lost track of her a long time ago.  I know she wrote for a while under a penname but I don’t know what it was. 


RA:  Well, I know Virgil North was a penname for a woman who wanted to write comics for DC but they wouldn’t hire women as writers at the time. 


MF:  It’s been too long a time but I suspect you’re on the right track.  She’s from the right time period and she eventually did write stories under her own name.  See, if she, or Virgil North, wrote stories for Alan Weiss, then that would work, because Alan was from Las Vegas too.  I think he and Mary had gone to high school together or something like that.  They had been friends for a while.  I think he’s the one who introduced her in New York.  I’m pretty sure you’ve got it just about nailed down. 


RA: The story ‘Sherlock Duck’, from #4 of Star*Reach, appeared to have a page missing in it.  How did that happen?


MF:  Bob Smith was the artist on that.  He was a good friend of John Workman.  It was a joke.  It was intended as a joke, leaving out the entire climax.  I had completely forgotten about that.  I guess it didn’t work for you.  Oh well, I won’t do that again {laughs}


RA: What can you tell us about Len Wein’s & Howard Chaykin’s ‘Gideon Faust’ series?


MF: Well, there were three stories.  Only one of them actually appeared in Star*Reach.  The other two came out in color in Heavy Metal after Star*Reach ended.  They are almost the same story, told three different times.  {laughs}  The first one was the best. 


The issue that first Faust story appeared in also featured the first appearance of ‘The Gods Of Mount Olympus’.  That material was originally self-published by the writer.  He put out this very large tabloid or newspaper-sized edition of these stories.  The first three or four of them anyway.  But he was having distribution trouble and so I offered to reprint them in comic size.  They were actually reprints, printed sideways, when they appeared in Star*Reach.  Eventually the artist, Joe Staton, completely redrew one of them for the comics.  I printed four of them if I remember and John Workman was the artist for the last one. 


RA: I was tremendously impressed by those stories.  The artwork was stunning and the stories were the original Greek myths delivered straight, without any superhero overtrappings.  I don’t remember the writer doing anything else in comics, which was a shame, because those stories were certainly memorable.


MF: I noticed from your commentaries that you missed some of the first editions.  Each one of those issues had an editorial in each initial publication.  Each one of those editorials were always topical material which is why I dropped them in favor of title pages when I reprinted the issues. 


RA: Yeah, I tried to include reprint information when I knew about it.  Sometimes that wasn’t possible.  My copy of #4, for example, has the titlepage for #10 in it.


MF: Oh, really?  Wow.  That’s a mistake I don’t remember catching.  I must have been printing #10 and the reprint of #4 at the same time and the plates got mixed up.  I had a small printer, in the middle of Central Valley, who was just barely hanging on.  I couldn’t afford to go to anybody else.  There were not a whole lot of printers at the time who were willing to print independent comics.  I was constantly having to deal with these kinds of production problems.  I had one book where the way the stories broke…it was folded backwards.  So that, with 48 pages, he had page 25 appear as page one!  It was just a coincidence that it worked and the stories appeared without a split or break.  That was very strange.  I had to make a decision then: do I accept this and get the book out, because I was always late.  Do I get the book out or do I make them print them over again?  I think what I did on that one was that I went ahead and released them with the contents in the wrong order the first time around and then I corrected the pages later when I reprinted the book. 


RA: Do you remember the issue that happened to?


MF: It was a late issue.  #8, #9 or #10.  Somewhere in there.  I’d have to go through the actual issues to find that.  I always tried to list which printing of a particular issue was on the inside cover.  But, of course, if you don’t have the very last printing you wouldn’t necessarily know how many printings there were.  Of the first three issues I think they were all reprinted at least three times.  For #6 through maybe #8 there were at least one reprinting.  I don’t think anything after that got past first printings. 


RA: You did do some reprintings on later issues because when you did your first color stories—it may have been a Marshall Rogers story—


MF: Oh!  That’s one of the things I wanted to clear up for you.  The biggest mistake I ever made was to release the Cody Starbuck and Parsifal color comics.  You have the originals but I don’t think you ever saw what I would call the reprints.  Those books were a complete printing disaster.  The printer used the wrong paper and the wrong press.  I was financially strapped at this point and I made the wrong decision.  I released those things.  They were terrible!  I got the printer to go back and print them the way they were supposed to be printed but by then the damage had been done.  Everyone’s first impression, like yours, was of this muddy looking mess. 


RA: Actually I may have the reprinted version of Cody Starbuck.  The paper on it is white.  My copy of Parsifal looks ok except the paper is noticeably more yellow and the color is muddy looking. 


MF: The Marshall Rogers story you mentioned never got reprinted.  If you compare Star*Reach #13, the reproduction of the color in #13 with the quality of the reproduction on the Rogers’s story, which appeared in Imagine #1, the differences are striking. 


RA: I’ve got a copy of Imagine #1 with a Frank Cirocco cover, yet I’ve seen ads with a Marshall Rogers cover also.  I’ve assumed that the Rogers cover was the first printing and my copy is a reprint issue with Cirocco’s back cover reused as the “new” cover. 


MF: Oh, well, then you’re right.  The Cirocco one is a reprint cover for the corrected color.  Star*Reach #12 was Mike Nasser’s story.  He goes by a different name now.  That’s the one that never got reprinted.  I was getting confused.  Both of them were wordless strips.  The Marshall Rogers one did get reprinted, so you have the correct version.  Then Steve Leialoha’s ‘Quicksilver Serpent’ began in color.  It was supposed to be a series but only one or two episodes appeared.  


RA: Star*Reach published the first manga to appear in America.  How did that come about?


MF: I’ve never met the artist I published, although we did present a fair amount of his work.  Oddly enough, he’s not a comic book artist in Japan.  He was basically a fan artist over there.  He could not make his living as an artist in Japan because his work was considered too American!  If you look at it now, it was probably the first combination of manga and American comics.  His work didn’t quite fit anywhere.  But, yeah, there’s a book, MANGA, MANGA, which certifies that the first appearance of manga in the United States was in Star*Reach.  I had no idea that that was true.


RA: I’ve no knowledge of that book.  I just was checking credits and couldn’t find any earlier Japanese artist or work appearing in the US.  Sanho Kim did an enormous amount of work for Charlton and Warren, but his work isn’t technically manga, since he is a Korean. 


MF: Yes, I came across MANGA, MANGA in 1982 and until then I had no idea that those stories in 1977 were considered the first ones in the states.  I thought Barefoot Gen, the nuclear holocaust book series, was the first manga to appear stateside.


RA:  Really?  When I was researching I thought I had Barefoot Gen as appearing in 1979 or 1980. 


MF: Well, perhaps Star*Reach was the first then.  Did you see the new Barefoot Gen editions?  I just picked some up at the San Diego Comic-Con a couple of weeks ago.  They’ve been reprinted and totally re-translated.  They’re much more readable than the original translated editions, which could be rather difficult to follow.


RA: I’ll have to look those up.  Now, Jeff Bonivert also had his debut in Star*Reach…


MF: Jeff is credited as being the slowest cartoonist on the planet.  He’s probably drawn less than a dozen stories in his career and I published two of them. 


RA: He’s been doing adaptations for the Graphic Classics line of books.  Poe and Lovecraft and the like.  His art style looks a bit different.  Not so elaborate as in the 1970s but still pretty cool. 


MF: Yeah, I saw one of those books he did a couple of years ago that was pretty good. 


RA: He has an interesting approach to art.  I was quite impressed with his Star*Reach work.  He’d also done two or three stories for Michael Gilbert’s fanzine around that time as well. 


MF: Jeff probably came my way because of his association with Michael.  I reprinted a story or two from Michael’s fanzine as well.


I also published the first of Craig Russell’s opera adaptations.  That’s the stuff that has lasted the longest, both for Craig and for Star*Reach.  They’re still in print today. 


RA: You wouldn’t have thought at the time that adapting opera would be a wise move.


MF: It was a bizarre idea!  How do you adapt something that’s aural into a visual form?  It makes no sense.  And not just aural, but sung aural!  It makes no sense and yet the material is so powerful that it works.  He’s been doing those adaptations since 1977 and it’s all still in print.  A lot of stuff has fallen away but that stuff has lasted. 


RA: Kudos to you, just for being the first to recognize the quality and publish it.


MF: Well, I was working on the assumption that professional artists knew best what they wanted to do.  I would go to these people and say “You can do whatever you want to do.”  That’s what Craig wanted to do.  It didn’t make any sense to me but if that’s what he wanted to do, than do it!  Sure enough, it turned out to be the right thing for him to do.


RA: He was just coming off ‘Killraven’ at the time, where his artwork had gone from promising to mature in a relatively short period of time.  You worked with him on early on, on Antman.


MF: Right, I wrote the first story he penciled that was his first solo work.  He’d done some earlier work as an assistant for Dan Adkins—layouts, inking, finished pencils but Antman was his first solo job.  It’s interesting, though, that even his early opera work holds up very nicely today.  Even though he’s gotten much better over the years, he’s really there with that first adaptation. 


Ken Steacy appeared in those issues also.  I became aware of him from Orb, a Canadian fanzine.  I was very impressed with Orb and the artists who worked for it.  That’s where I came across Dean Motter.  Actually, I contacted Ken and he and Dean replied as a team.  That’s how I met Dean. 


RA: Yeah, I’d never heard of Dean until the first installment of ‘The Sacred And The Profane’ appeared in #9.  That version, the first one, is actually the version that I prefer.  {see notes for #9 for more on the two different versions}


MF: I don’t think the revised, second version holds up as well.  I like the relaxed storytelling better but I didn’t think the artwork was as solid as the first version. 


RA: Odd, I had the opposite reaction.  I liked the artwork in the second version just fine but I thought the writing on the first version to be superior to the second.  Dean had done some changes in the storyline that I thought blurred the point of the novel.  I thought it lost a bit of focus.  Still a great story, either way.  I’d like to see a reprinting of the second color version, an interview with the creators about the two different versions, then a reprinting of the first, B&W, version as one volume.  That would be ideal.


Was it the first modern graphic novel?  I’m aware of Gil Kane’s His Name Is Savage, from 1970 and Will Eisner’s A Contract With God, which came out about six months after ‘Sacred And The Profane’ concluded.  Then Al Hewetson & Jesus Suso Rigo had done a horror serial, ‘The Saga Of The Victims’ that Hewetson described as a graphic novel. In fact, Hewetson’s remarks in 1974 had the first use of the term “graphic novel” that I’ve seen in print.


MF: Well, the one that I’m most aware of was Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom.  It wasn’t finished at that point but Katz intended that comic to be considered as an extended epic novel.  He may have cut it short a bit.  He was talking about it at the time as a graphic novel.  Will Eisner would have heard the term graphic novel from Jack Katz.  Katz was the one who pushed that term, “graphic novel”,  into acceptance.  He was telling everybody that graphic novels were the future; that “I’m the future.  I’m doing graphic novels.  You should do graphic novels.”  He was telling everybody they should be doing graphic novels.  He was right.  He was thirty years ahead of his time but he was right. 


RA: You were also willing to experiment with some odd art approaches.  I remember that stained glass story you published.


MF: Mickey Schwaberow was a fanzine artist from here in the area that I had known quite a bit earlier.  He had this idea…I don’t think it works very well, but it was an interesting idea…to tell the story in a series of full page stained glass illustrations.  He also did a fantasy serial for us that never got finished.  It was sort of a combination of me going out of business and him not having a lot of time to work on it.  By that time, my economics were beginning to deteriorate.  I wasn’t able to offer much to anybody.  It was getting harder and harder at that point to get people to contribute.


It was actually the publishing of the bad color books and segments that killed the company.  I so got myself in the hole doing that.


RA: If it had been three years later, you’d have had a major success.


MF: You don’t know the half of it.  I had, in writing, a license to create an original Batman graphic novel—the first Batman graphic novel—to be done by Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers.  I had written permission from DC, signed by Paul Levitz.  I’d only done a couple of stories in color at that point but I just didn’t have the resources to pay the artist to do it in color.  And the creators refused to allow it to be done in B&W.  I’d wanted it to be done originally like Sabre had been done in B&W by Eclipse.  My inspiration was to do a Sabre-like graphic novel with Batman.  They upped the ante.  Said it needed to be in color and I just couldn’t afford to do that anymore.  So the project died.


In retrospect, I would have beaten the Marvel Graphic Novel line by two years.  I’d have beaten most graphic novels by a couple of years.  I went to Marvel and helped, from the marketing side, Jim Shooter to launch their successful graphic novel line.  I gave him the marketing support internally to create that program.  I just gave the support behind the scenes.  I knew that the market was ready for it.  If I had the money to do the Batman book, though, the history of comics might be quite different. 


RA: Towards the end you switched your format.  Going to magazine size and reducing pages in each issue to 32.  The size wasn’t too troublesome but the quality of the strips themselves seemed to suffer.


MF: I was not a happy camper towards the end.  I had got into a negative cycle and couldn’t figure my way out of it.  It happened very quickly.  In May 1977, Star Wars came out and everything with the word “Star” in the title began to sell like crazy.  So, in the summer of 1977, I just sold everything.  That’s when I decided to launch Imagine.  What I didn’t know was that Star Wars surge was going to attract a whole slew of publishers into the field with similar titles and themes.  So six months later the increased amount of competition caused a significant cutback in initial orders and my reprint policy just fell off the shelf.  Stuff that had been selling constantly just stopped going.  I went through my best period and my worst period as a publisher within a year.  It was very, very fast. 


In retrospect, what I should have done was simply increase the frequency of Star*Reach and not launched Imagine.  They really were the same magazine anyway.  But I was making it up as I went along so…  {laughs}


There was one thing I wanted to ask you.  You mentioned in your bibliography that I may have published Dave Stevens’s first story.  I don’t really remember that. 


RA:  He’s in an issue of Quack!  I think it’s an ink job.  That’s one of the first appearances of his that I’ve found, at least under his own name, in comics.  He worked as an assistant with Russ Manning, I believe.  Maybe on Tarzan.  He did a comic story intended for Japan, called ‘Aurora’, which first appeared in this country in Bruce Jones’ Alien Worlds comic in the early 1980s.   But the Quack credit is just the earliest mention of his name that I could come up with.  It’s possible he has an earlier credit but I don’t know of any.


MF: Really!?  He worked with Scott Shaw on that issue of Quack!  I was aware that he was around for a while but maybe that’s the Russ Manning connection.  I knew Gene Day and John Workman had gotten their debuts with me but it hadn’t really registered about Dave Stevens. 


RA: Well, it’s possible that he has earlier credits and I just haven’t found them yet.  But for now I’m going to let my speculation stand. 


Well, I know you have to go so any last words on the subject?


MF: This has been fun.  You’ve brought back a lot of pleasant memories.  Thanks for talking with me.





                                                A 2005 Interview With Lee Marrs!



RA: Welcome!  To start off, can you give us a little of your background?


LM: I come from Alabama, where everyone is a storyteller.  I was always an artist.  Started drawing before I was in kindergarten.  My mom had been an artist, although more as a hobby, for most of  her life, so she really encouraged me.  She gave me the biggest box of crayons!  So I always figured that I would be an artist and a writer.  In school, I settled on being a political cartoonist because I discovered that doing that would allow you to make fun of everything and get awards instead of being suspended.  So I was the school newspaper cartoonist in every school I attended. 


I was also a fan of comic books, of course.  I copied all the different drawings of the books I liked.  I loved Uncle Scrooge.  Later, I realized that Carl Barks was the writer/artist of my favorite stories.  I really enjoyed Little Lulu an awful lot.  Especially the twisted fairy tales that she told to the little boy next door.  Later On, when the Rocky & Bullwinkle show started showing their ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ I was like, “Oh, they stole that idea from Little Lulu!”  Pogo was a favorite as well—both written well and drawn to perfection.  Walt Kelly was a political cartoonist supreme!


On the adventure side, I liked Batman—for the stories—I couldn’t stand the art.  We’re talking about the 1950s Batman.  The artwork seemed really grotesque.  Later on, when I studied German Expressionism, I went “A-Ha!”  I liked Red Ryder.  That was another favorite due to the atmosphere of the gritty west it had. 


I actually followed Joe Kubert’s artwork from book to book, no matter the subject matter.  I loved his drawings so I got all these war comics.  Stuff that completely horrified my mother.  She was very concerned about my future as a “young lady”.  I also loved Steve Canyon, drawn by Milton Caniff.  His strips seemed like 1940s movies, with dynamic use of shadows and textures.  Charles Adams did some really creepy cartoons that just knocked me out.  Also Hal Foster, who wrote & drew Prince Valiant.  Later on, when I got a chance to do work for Hal Foster, that was a dream come true.


RA: I can imagine!  It must have been a great job.


LM: It was.  Although doing all the textures on rocks and every single link in a chain mail shirt was not really my life’s dream but, hey, it was alright.  My heart would sink when the story seemed like there would be battle sequences—aarrgh!  Miles of chain mail.


RA: When did you get involved in drawing actual comics yourself?


LM: Well, I’d always been a fan of MAD magazine—Mort Drucker, in particular—and draw cartoons in that vein even when I was in junior high, to entertain my friends.  In high school, I did some comic page work, but it was mostly single panel stuff.  I didn’t go anywhere near New York as a kid, so the idea that there were actual live people who made these things for a living didn’t quite compute in my head.  It wasn’t like I ever dreamed about doing comic books. 


But when I was in college in Washington, D.C., I met the daughter of Tex Blaisdell.  She became my best friend.  I used to visit her in New York, in the late 1960s, and I met her dad.  I was the first girl that he’d met that could really draw!  These were the old days when grown men could say this and not be arrested or fired or something!  {laughs} 


Anyway, he was doing backgrounds for a lot of different comic strips.  He could draw with his left hand and his right hand and he was doing a ton of artwork.  I would go up and visit his daughter Barbara and ink for him.  Do shadows and blacks and so on.  What really got me going professionally was my speed.  I was really, really fast.  So it got to the point where he was asking me to come up for long weekends when he would have a super deadline. 


Have you read ‘Cavalier And Klay’?


RA: Yes, I have.


LM: Well, Michael Chabon’s description of that kind of blitzkrieg weekend, where all these different artists go over to somebody’s apartment or house and they all gang up on getting a project done—that kind of stuff was still happening in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  At least partly because the artists, at least the folks that I knew, were getting pretty long in the tooth and had slowed down.  So they would all do favors for each other.  I did a number of “lost weekends” with tons of pizza boxes and tons of beer in smoke filled apartments where people had drawing boards on their laps. 


To tell the truth, helping out on these rushed deadlines convinced me that drawing comics was the worst possible profession.  Both the comic strip universe—the working universe—and the comic book universe were terrible.  You didn’t own anything.  You got paid shit AND you got paid by volume.  So if you were very good, they didn’t pay you more—they’d increase your volume!  This would actually give LESS time to do good work.  Ridiculous.  You got no respect. 


Plus, they didn’t hire any “girls”!  So you could work under the table as somebody’s assistant or something but there just wasn’t any place there for me.  Why break your back to get nowhere?  And, in the late 1960s, there were many things that paid better and actually wanted women working for them so it didn’t occur to me that comics were work that I would end up doing for a good 15 years of my life. 


RA: I wonder how the lady who did Brenda Starr got started?


LM: That’s Dale Messick!  Actually I got to know her when she moved out here to a retirement community.  Her daughter lives out here in California.  She came out and started hanging out with the Wimmen’s Comix ladies.  Just so long as we would meet her in a bar!  {laughs}  She was a real character!  She got into comics the same way that I did.  She had a name that could be considered male or female and so do I.  She sent her work in by mail and that at least got her stuff looked at, rather than dismissed out of hand.  I did the same thing.  I mailed samples in to jobs that were advertised in the men’s only sections of the newspapers in the Washington, D.C. area.  That way, at least, I would get an interview.


RA: The early female science fiction & fantasy writers got started exactly the same way.  Either they had names that could be either male or female, like Leigh Brackett, or they used their initials, like C. L. Moore, to disguise the fact that they were female, both to readers and editors. 


LM: Exactly!  Whatever worked to get you in the door. 


RA: So what led to your underground strip, Pudge, Girl Blimp?


LM: I moved out to California.  I was working as a television graphic artist and came out here.  The television studios were having cutbacks and, within a month of moving out here, I was laid off along with a couple of other people who had just been hired.  I was doing a variety of art jobs and ran into a couple of guys who wanted to start an alternative features service for college newspapers and community newspapers.  So one of the things we did, in addition to my doing cartoons and illustrations, was that we started running cartoon strips and comic pages in the papers. 


That got me aware of underground comics, which I had never heard of  on the east coast.  I saw people doing their very own stories, developing their very own characters and keeping the rights to them.  The idea that there was no money in these kinds of strips was not clear yet.  {laughs}  So I had all kinds of different ideas and had gotten to know—through Alternative Feature Services—a number of the underground comic people, including Gilbert Sheldon, who did the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. 


I brought him a lot of the work I had done and asked what do you suggest?  His advice was to come up with a character, or a set of characters, about whom you could do lots and lots of stories.  That was the way to really get into this field.  Not to do a bunch of different stories with different characters in different genres but to develop a character and keep going with that. 


I came up with a storyline featuring a central character: a teenybopper intellectual who was an outsider—very MAD magazine existentialist.  But once I started working on it , penciling that character, she became someone else.  She became the Pudge, Girl Blimp character.  I started with someone else and the character changed herself and just came alive with her own personality.


I thought to myself that I had all these friends, just starting out with life experiences that had not seen the light of day in print, books, short stories, anywhere.  So the idea of taking all their stories and having them happen to one character seemed like a possibility for endless stories—years of stories. 


So I finished up one story and went to Ron Turner, the publisher at Last Gasp—Eco Funnies.  He was interested in publishing the book.  Well, not actually publishing the book, but he said “Look, there’s a bunch of women getting together to put out an anthology book.  Why don’t you meet with them.”  Now I already knew Trina Robbins, because we had hired her to do a Panthea series for the Alternative Feature Service.  She was going to be one of the people in the book. 


I got in with the Wimmen’s Comix folks, as a founding mommy.   But it was obvious that the Pudge story didn’t really fit in with the editorial direction of Wimmen’s Comix #1.  So then I heard from Ron that if the women’s comic anthology did well then we would see about Pudge.  Wimmen’s Comix #1 actually sold very well so I worked up the first book, the first issue of The Rurther Fattening Adventures Of Pudge, Girl Blimp. 


RA: Well, I guess I should note here that I actually just read the complete series a couple of weeks ago and I thought they were quite charming and, in a rather odd way, quite down-to-earth.  I enjoyed them a lot.  They’re time capsules now of the 1970s but an interesting look at that time.  Plus, they’re still quite funny.


LM: Thanks very much.  Good to hear that.  It’s interesting to me that, of all the decades of comics I’ve done, Pudge seems to have struck the biggest chord.  I’ve got miles of letters from all kinds of people.  Most of the people reading comics at the time were pre-teen boys.  They loved her as being like them!  Everybody thinks that the party, you know, is happening in some other person’s apartment.  “The action is wherever I’m not.” So teenage boys identified with her non-hip status, with not really understanding what was going on.  Fatness was only a symbol. 


Pudge was one of the most straightforward books around.  Nobody edited it.  It was one of the most direct things I’ve ever done and it really seems to have struck a cord with people.  The most rewarding aspect of doing the series has been the genuine resonance it struck in so many people’s hearts.


But I had created a character whose main characteristic was naiveté.  So it turned out that she really didn’t have endless numbers of stories.  It would be false, I think, to have continued without her gaining some experience and wisdom.  After a time, she would have just seemed stupid to just continually have that kind of attitude.  I ended the strip after three issues.  She actually has appeared in other forms in lots of other places as a comic strip, as a character in a comic strip or in women’s TV newsletters and in various fundraisers for various causes, doing some short stories with her.   But the idea of continuing her as an ongoing book, in my mind, was limited.  There just wasn’t enough of a storyline to sustain that. 


RA: Much of the underlying themes, even in stories where it wasn’t explicitly talked about, was Pudge’s continual quest to lose her virginity.  And in the last issue she lost it.  It seemed a natural place to end the ongoing series.


LM: Yes, exactly!  There weren’t six seasons of stories there.  And I’ve always hated things that carried on after their expiration date.  I stopped seeing Rocky movies after Rocky II! {laughs}  He’s making another one of those.  I suppose this time he comes out in a wheelchair. 


RA: Stallone is 60 years old.  How long could he box?


LM: He’s more likely to fall over on somebody to win the match!  {laughs}


RA: In 1975 you started doing the science fiction hippy series, ‘Earthprobe’, with Mal Warwick in Star*Reach…


LM: Yeah, Mal was writing them and I was drawing them.  We really didn’t work well together.  I was living with him at the time.  He was a good science fiction writer.  It seemed like a good idea but he and I had such different ideas about what made a good story that the awkwardness of that series was quite clear.  It came out in the quality of the work.  We didn’t do any more stories together.


RA: Well, I noticed that you scripted the last episode from Mal’s plot.  Usually, you can figure out that there is something going on backstage when the writer starts doing the art or the artist starts writing the book.


LM: Yeah, when that happens there’s something going on.  Well, I had always written and drawn my own stories.  Particularly when I was doing a lot of work for DC and drawing a lot of other people’s stories—that was with the understanding with Joe Orlando that I could change those stories.


Anyway, I did the first Pudge issue, and Marvel was starting up Crazy magazine, which I worked on.  Crazy was their version of MAD.  There were also a few other things popping up.  Tex Blaisdell had introduced me to Joe Orlando, who really wanted to start up a humor line for DC as well.  Joe had worked at MAD and been very happy there so he really wanted to do humor at DC. 


As you probably know, there’s not a lot of people who can do funny stories in comics.  Being able to amuse in comics is not as easy or as widespread a talent, as doing adventure stories.  Joe was a soft hearted person and once he started PLOP!, which was his version of MAD, he kept buying these stories from these old buddies of his who were over-the-hill and couldn’t do funny anymore OR were actually adventure story writers. 


I instantly became one of his fix-it people.  I didn’t live in New York so he would send me these stories and let me sort of rewrite them.  Not that I got paid for fixing them up!  I was only paid as the artist but this way I could do what I wanted and make them more amusing.  Working on the humor books got me into straight comics—from underground to humor to adventure books.  In fact, I was doing underground comix and mainstream comics at pretty much the same time. 


RA: Who was Coram Norbis?  He was listed as the writer of quite a lot of the work in PLOP!  Especially on Wally Wood’s work.


LM: I was just trying to think of that!  If I looked at the stories I could probably figure out who it was.  It was probably some name brand person who was doing the stories as a sideline.  I don’t think it was anybody out of Wood’s studio.  It was somebody who was entirely a writer.  {I’ve since discovered that David V. Reed wrote at least some of the Coram Norbis stories} I kept diaries of that period.  I probably could go back and see who it was.  It’s just been too long a time to remember.


RA: The things you illustrated for Crazy must have been written by you, because no writer is recorded.


LM: Yes, I actually wrote & drew my own material for Crazy.  The Crazy Lady series.  I illustrated some of Steve Gerber’s text stories for Crazy as well.  When I first started doing work for Crazy, Marv Wolfman was the editor but then Steve Gerber took it over and was doing these long, rambling things.  He needed illustrations on them so I did some of those things as well.  


What was so funny about the stuff I did for Marvel was Stan Lee’s reaction.  His sense of humor was of a previous generation’s—and he really didn’t get a lot of the stuff that was going into Crazy magazine.  He just didn’t!  But people seemed to like my series.  Letters would come in that were largely positive so he figured that it must be OK. 


On occasion, I would come into New York and be in the office and Stan would pop his head in.  He’d grab up some story or artwork I’d be delivering and he’d go “Now, explain to me why this is funny, exactly.”  {laughs}  And there’s no way to explain funny!  Very awkward moments, those.  You either get it or you don’t!  It is or it isn’t! 


I wrote most of my own material and I’d started doing that in the undergrounds.  Many editors in the mainstream saw me as someone who both wrote and drew her own material.  At a certain point…I could write adventure things but nobody liked my drawing style for adventure stories, except for Mike Friedrich.  So for a while I was writing adventure stories but writing and drawing humor things for mainstream companies


Then I started doing science fiction stuff for Mike.  It’s important to remember that no company was doing science fiction at the time in mainstream comics.  I mean, they did some sci-fi stuff in a superhero style or Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan fantasy style but not straight science fiction.


RA: I mentioned something like that in my Star*Reach introduction.  I quite liked your story ‘Waters Of Requital’ and your serial ‘Stark’s Quest’, both of which were science fiction stories that you did for Star*Reach.


LM: Well, thank you.  ‘Stark’s Quest’ was one of my favorites, really.  Mike Friedrich’s publishing venture folded right when he was planning to gather some of the work that had appeared in Star*Reach and put it out again in a more elaborate form.  Like some of the other science fiction magazines that were popping up.  He hadn’t started his agency yet so quite a few things sort of fell between the cracks.  Some of the work I did that was to have appeared in Star*Reach ended up in Heavy Metal and then later, I sold some of my stuff to Epic Illustrated, to Archie Goodwin, who also liked my graphic style.


I actually re-did the first chapter of ‘Stark’s Quest’ in color, later on, but Mike didn’t find a place for it. 


RA: That’s a shame because I always thought it would have made a pretty good collection.


LM: I thought so too.  As an agent, Mike was a really straight forward creative person, in the sense of doing deals, making contracts, that kind of stuff, but he was not ever a traditionally aggressive agent.  At least, not in the sense of running around trying to find where some project could go.  If an opportunity appeared, he would recognize it and go for it but he was not the type of person to pound pavements looking for an opening.  Graphic novels, as such, didn’t exist in book companies’ universes.  So it would have taken some enormous persuading.


I actually think ‘Stark’s Quest’ would make a good movie.  There’s certainly enough action in the plot.  So…hmm…who do I know who knows Uma Thurman? 


RA: Well, you know, I did get a call from a CMI representative a couple of weeks ago, looking to get in touch with Jim Warren. 


LM: Really?  Small world!


RA:  Yeah, I don’t know Jim Warren at all.  Apparently CMI was doing an internet search and my checklist came up.  I passed the request along to somebody who does know him, which was the best I could do.  Wish I did know him.  I’ve been trying to get an interview with him for two years.


LM: I just saw Jim Warren at the San Diego Con last summer.  He looks like he’s in pretty good shape.  Those publishing moguls seem to fall into two different categories.  There’s the Stan Lee “I invented the comic panel” kind of thing.  They want to spend a lot of time talking about the past, making sure their legends live!  And there are other sorts of people who live in the present and they want to put all their energies into what they’re doing now.  Warren was always that kind of person. 

RA: So what’s he doing now, since he hasn’t been in comics in almost a quarter of a century?  I believe he got the rights back to Creepy & Eerie while Harris retained Vampirella’s.

LM: He seems to working on some deal that, of course, he doesn’t want to talk about.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some European TV series or something in the offing.

Anyway, how I got hooked up with Mike was that I met him in New York when we were both visiting.  He was just getting ready to move back to California and the Bay area.  It was like “Oh, you’re from California!” At that time, he was going to start an art agency with some of the artists who had moved to California from New York.  He told me that maybe when I got back to California I could maybe work for the art agency too, maybe.  I’d always worked in other fields than comics.  I’d worked advertising agencies, that kind of thing.  So I went in to see them, but was unimpressed with what they had in mind.  I didn’t think it would fly and it didn’t.  But later, he was going to set up Star*Reach and he put out a call for stories.  I answered the call. 

RA: You actually did quite a lot of work for Star*Reach.  There were two serials and a fair number of one-off stories.

LM: Mike was very open to ideas.  Unlike many publishers, he didn’t have a strict editorial policy.  I worked really fast and Mike had a pretty reasonable publishing schedule.  He had an issue come out every three or four months so it wasn’t hard to put out that many pages.  Most of the books I worked on that were commercial came out every month so, for those, you really had to bust your hand to make deadlines.  I was dependable.  There was some kind of formula about comics—I don’t know who said it first—that states that artists & writers get regular work if they’re easy to work with, or that they’re any good, or that they can make the deadlines, or any combination of the three.  If you could do all three you were gold.  I could usually manage two out of three. 

RA: Do you have any particular story of your own that you personally think is really good?

LM: I really liked ‘Stark’s Quest’.  In looking back, I really wish that one had got around more.  There were some other individual stories that I really liked a lot.  I did one called ‘My Deadly, My Love’ for Wimmen’s Comix.  For me, that hit a lot of good notes, making fun of the woman-in-jeopardy type of story along with real estate development and a sort of cruel but attractive lesbian love story all in one clump. 

RA: It’s too bad ‘Stark’s Quest’ didn’t make it into Epic Illustrated as one of their color serials.

LM: Yeah, but I don’t think they were really interested in anything that had been published anywhere before.  Or, at least, not heavily redone, such as ‘The Sacred And The Profane’. 

I’m thinking about putting out the Pudge, Girl Blimp series as a graphic novel.  All three issues collected, plus the other appearances that she’s made over the years as one of those print on demand things. 

Pudge actually was going to be a graphic novel in the early 1980s.  St. Martin’s Press was interested in doing it.  The editor was really gung-ho and it proceeded pretty far along the process but then when it came time for the sales department meeting where they try to figure out where to sell this or that book, they thought the college market and bookstores would be the logical place to put it but with all the nudity and sex they didn’t think they could place it in that market.  For about six months they pondered it then let it drop.

RA: There must have been a big change in the college market from when I was going to school {circa 1974-1978} ‘cause that’s all we bought!

LM: {laughs} I know!  I think it was the difference between what a New York company thinks versus what’s really going on.  I’m sure it was their distributors they were thinking of.  But…I got a lot of free trips to New York out of it and some really terrific lunches so…{laughs}. 

RA: I think publishers often miss the bus on where to place niche books.  For example, westerns.  Every western town of any size I’ve ever been to has a western folklife center in it with tons of western themed items.  Books, cds, dvds, magazines, knick-knacks, clothing but there’s never any comics there.  The only place I’ve ever seen a comic book in a folklife center was in Billings, Montana where they were displaying Stan Lyne’s Rick O’Shay books because Lyne was a local. 

Why aren’t they selling western comics in those places—to a built in audience that buys anything western?  Can’t be that hard to check with western towns’ chamber of commences and get an address.  Or selling war comics, like the Sgt. Rock Archives to the Military Book Club that the company that used to be Doubleday runs?  Or mystery comics like Road To Perdition to the mystery book clubs? At least the Science Fiction Book Club sells V For Vendetta, Watchmen and some other collected stuff.  Why isn’t Desperado or Dusty Starr in a folklife center next to the chuckwagon cook books?  Or Joe Kubert’s new book, Tex, which is really pretty good?  I’m not sure if it occurs to a large, mainstream publisher to target a particular audience and sell directly to them.  Small press publishers do it all the time.

LM: Oh, I’d completely forgotten Rick O’Shay!  I loved that stuff!  They could sell a lot of Sgt. Blueberry’s there too.  Or Lt. Blueberry or whatever.  

Trouble with publishers is that distribution is everything.  That’s been the key to all kinds of stuff not being successful.  If somebody is enthusiastic enough, clever enough to find the audience, the wok can become very popular.  But you need a fanatic to do that because the distributors operate under entirely different criteria.  They’re about moving product in large enough quantity to make them money with as little effort as possible.  They’re kind of lazy in regard to the actual product and where best to sell it.   This is, of course, one of the wonderful assets of web comics—no middlemen.

RA: Well, I was recently talking to some folks around Peter Beagle and he’s apparently got a deal with Scholastic to adapt his novel The Last Unicorn into a graphic novel, similar to what Scholastic is doing with Jeff Smith’s Bone at the moment, and they were looking for suggestions for an artist.  I suggested Linda Medley…

LM: Oh, she’d be perfect!

RA: …because, with that book, you’d want somebody who could draw the fantastic but could still ground it in the look of reality.  She’s as good as anybody in the business at doing just that.  Plus, I haven’t seen her work in a couple of years and maybe she’s looking for a good gig. 

LM: Actually, I didn’t even see her at San Diego this year, although it’s gotten so big it’d be easy to miss someone.  She might have been there. 

RA: Well, they knew Linda’s work and seemed interested.  The one thing they said they definitely wanted to stay away from was a manga style approach.  That style was used for the animated movie back in 1982 and they told me that was as close as they wanted to get to it. 

LM: No, no, no!  That wouldn’t work for that book at all. 

The person whose work I really like now is Carla Speed McNeil—her Finder & Mystery Date books.  Just breathtaking, both in art and story.  Both parts really hold up.  As you know, a lot of times somebody will be a really good writer but the artwork doesn’t really match it or they’re a terrific artist but their stories…ZZZZZ…put you to sleep.  I think a lot of Joe Kubert’s stories, that he’s written himself, are interesting—but they don’t really have the punch to them that his artwork does.  Next to the artwork, the stories can come across as sort of…boring. 

RA: His recent book, Tex, was written by an Italian and it’s actually a pretty good western.  Long—it’s 250 pages plus but it’s a decent revenge chase story. 

LM: I keep hoping the western comic will come back.  I loved them as a kid and it’s such a rich goldmine of all kinds of tales.

RA: It’s also one where parents don’t seem to mind the violence too much.  You can get away with a high level of realistic violence because it’s a western and people expect violence in it. 

LM: {laughs} That’s right!  That’s right!  You can’t do the nudity but the violence can still be there.  It still strikes me as so weird…well, not really weird, because we have a Puritan past…but that whole thing of how completely gory some material can be but Heaven forbid that anybody is in bed with each other. 

RA: {laughs} It might be better for everybody if it was the other way around.

LM: One of the things I really enjoyed about the underground comix was that you could actually do stories that involved sex, nudity, that sort of thing without having to put violent sequences into the story.  They were very popular stories, too.  {chuckles}

RA: Well, this is a question that I ask everybody, because I find it interesting and sometimes it gives me a new artist or writer or book to check out, so…is there any artist or writer, besides the ones you’ve already mentioned, that you follow or enjoy nowadays?

LM: I really like Alan Moore, the Hernandez brothers, Bill Watterson. ..Bill’s work is brilliant, fresh, heartfelt, insightful and beautifully drawn.

RA: There’s a part of me that really wishes he’d come out of retirement.

LM: Yeah.  But, on the other hand, I really admire him for how he’s done it all his way.  He had a big success, quit while he was at the top of his game.  If the juice is gone—you don’t want to do it anymore—that’s much better than continuing on.  Better to quit while you’re ahead. 

Back to your question, I like the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean combos.  All the different tales that they’ve done.  Jill Thompson—I love Scary Godmother.  I like the French artist, Clair Bretecher. 

RA: You do have a new Pudge story in Dark Horse’s Sexy Chix book.

LM: I did a Pudge story for Diana Schutz, who’s a complete Pudge fan—she’s always loved Pudge so she begged me to not just do a story but to do a Pudge story.  I did a story called ‘Hurricane Eye For The Straight Girl’.  It’s a story of Pudge being a volunteer at one of the rescue homeless shelters after Hurricane Katrina and the adventures she has with one of the rescue boats.  It was a lot of fun to do.

Years ago I got into computer graphics animation.  All kinds of digital art.  So this is the first comic story that I’ve done entirely digital.  Boy, it made it a lot easier and faster to do.  I’m hoping to do a story for the next “Friends Of Lulu” anthology, which they are just putting together now.  The ‘Girls’ Guide To Guys’ or something like that.  On that one, we’ll see. 

I’ve really gotten interested in web comics as well.  As much as I enjoy having something in hand, not having to worry about the strip’s distribution is also good. 

RA: Well, before we conclude, I noticed in the checklist you gave me that you’d done a Batman story a few years back for Archie Goodwin.  I had the book setting at home and reread it, because I hadn’t read it since it came out back in ’98 or so, and was happy to re-discover it was a pretty good story, although the art seemed a little cluttered. 

LM: Yeah, that was when Archie was battling cancer.  I came up with this story and he was interested in hooking me up with this, at the time, brand new artist.  Archie then got really ill for a while and didn’t have the time to work with the artist at all and his conclusion was that the artist just worked the art to death.  It just kind of killed the story. 

The way it was supposed to work was almost like the flip side of a coin, where all the panels dealing with Batman were to be almost in black & white, almost completely from his viewpoint.  The panels dealing with the motorcyclist, on the other hand, were to be done in neon color of the night.  All bright with darkness behind them.  The graphic theme, with the two sides of the coin, got completely lost and it all came out in the neon version, which didn’t do the Batman any favors.  It was over-designed to death.  The guy was just starting out though, so you know…  I’ve gotten some complements on it though.

RA: I think the story’s fine.  It just has a very busy art approach. 

LM: Archie had shown me what the guy had done before and about half of his work was very strong.  I could see why Archie thought he would be a good interpreter of the story, but Archie was ill and just couldn’t guide the artist in the way that he had planned to.  Another reminder of how many steps there are in making good comics work.

RA: I appreciate you taking the time to chat.  It was nice of you.

LM: I enjoyed doing it.



                                                        A 2006 Mini-Interview With Steve Leialoha


RA: Here’s a short interview with master artist, Steve Leialoha.  Tell us, Steve, which comic creators did you like as a kid, just starting out?

SL: All the usual for a kid in the early 60’s: Kane, Infantino, Anderson, Kirby, Kubert, Ditko were but some of the artists I avidly followed.  I bought most everything that came out.

RA: The first time I noticed your work was as a crackerjack inkers on such titles as Warlock, Howard The Duck and the like.  How did you get your professional break into comics?  What was the first book you supplied full art to?


SL: My first mainstream work was as an inker on Warlock and Howard The Duck.  I was lucky enough to come along just as Jim Starlin and Frank Brunner were looking for inkers.  The first regular penciling I did was on Spiderwoman.

RA: Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever seeing you inked by anybody but yourself.

SL: If I’m penciling I usually ink myself, though I’ve had other artists ink my work from time to time. 

RA: You mentioned that you did some work for Warren Comics besides the artwork that appeared on their fan pages.  What was it and where did it appear?

SL: I inked a Carmine Infantino story in Creepy #117, and later did some artwork for the Harris incarnation of Creepy.

RA: The story ‘Marginal Incident’ appeared in an early issue of Star*Reach.  At the time it appeared I was reading a great deal of Edgar Pangborn’s novels and stories and was struck by the similarities in tone between your story and Pangborn’s work.  Can you tell us the genesis behind that story?

SL: I don’t remember the specifics, but I WAS trying to evoke the sort of sensibility that Pangborn evoked, though it didn’t derive from him specifically.  My influences then were also Ray Bradbury, R. A. Lafferty and the French BD artists.  After ‘Marginal Incident’ I received a nice note from Bradbury with a few words of encouragement.

RA: You did quite a lot of work for Star*Reach, even while you were working full time for Marvel, something many artists couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do.  What was it about Star*Reach that attracted you?

SL: As an anthology book Star*Reach offered an opportunity to do stories of a more personal nature, which is what appealed to me the most.  That and the fact that Mike Friedrich was an encouraging and enthusiastic editor.

RA: A silly question, perhaps, but were Rick Rabbit & Newton, the Rabbit Wonder the same rabbit or different hares?

SL: Yes, they were.

RA: Oh, now that’s just a cruel answer! 

I really liked your work on Coyote (which was recently reprinted).  Why did you leave after only two issues?  Good as the artists were who followed you, neither of them captured the sense of another world, right around the corner from our own, that you and Marshall Rogers did.

SL: I’ve always been fond of mythology and brought that into Coyote.  I left after realizing that we had different ideas about the nature of collaborative work.

RA: You’ve had a long and varied career in mainstream books.  What do you consider the high points in terms of comics that you enjoyed working on?

SL: They all had something that appealed to me at the time I did them, from crass commercialism (Secret Wars 2: I figured someone had to make all that money and it might as well be me) to wanting to work with the people involved (Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: it was all worth it for the pleasant sushi lunch I had with Douglas Adams).  Despite technical problems (a week to ink a book) Star Wars had a lot of nice fringe benefits as well and Howard The Duck was a lot of fun to be involved with (Gene Colon was one of my favorite pencillers to ink).

RA: On the other side of the coin, which books do you wish had turned out a bit better than the end result?

SL: That’s a common wish on every book, but I would have liked to have redone some of Hitchhiker’s Guide after the aforementioned lunch.  Marvin would have looked very different.  It also seems unlikely that the Byron Priess project I did some work on, I, Robot, based on the Harlan Ellison film script, will ever see the light of day.  Ah, well.  At least I got more lunches out of that one.

RA: Please tell us about your current projects.

SL: I’m enjoying my current work on Fables as everyone is great to work with and it’s actually a book I would buy even if I weren’t involved with it.  Mostly I’m inking but I’m scheduled to draw and ink two issues of the new second series: Jack: A Fable, featuring some of the same Fables characters.

RA: Any final words?

SL: This is a good place to stop.  I’ve got deadlines to meet….



                                                            A 2006 Interview with Trina Robbins!


RA: Thanks for agreeing to the interview.  Let’s see, where were you born?  When did you move to California?


TR: I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and left it as soon as possible.  I moved to Los Angeles for a few years in the 1960s, than went back to NYC (the Lower East side) in 1966.  Finally I came back to San Francisco in 1970 and haven’t left since!


RA: What were you first experiences with comics?


TR: My big sister read comics (in those days, girls DID read comics, because there were comics specifically done for them to read), so I read her teen comics—Patsy Walker, Millie the Model and the others.  I was also a serious Raggedy Ann fan as a child and wanted EVERYTHING Raggedy Ann, and, of course, there were Raggedy Ann comics.


RA: After 1965 or so, most comic fans became fans just through comics alone but those who grew up earlier often were as influenced by the newspaper comic strips as they were by comic books.  Did any comic strips catch your eye?  And if so, why?


TR: I’ve written this before: my left-wing father would not allow the Journal American in the house because it was a “right wing rag”.  It was!  But it also carried the best comics: Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Prince Valiant, etc., etc.  Same with the trashier but also right-wing Daily News, except that the publisher, Captain Patterson, was an idiot with terrible taste in comics, so the only good comic in the Daily News was Brenda Starr.  However, my father DID buy the New York liberal paper The Compass, later renamed The Star, and that paper carried the Sunday Spirit sections, which I absolutely ADORED.  (Even as a kid, I knew good comics when I saw them).  So I was very influenced by Will Eisner, his art, his storytelling.


RA: When you were starting out, who were your inspirations from the regular comic books?


TR: I adored Wally Wood (and still do).  I loved Matt Baker, and had read all the Timely teen comics, which by the time I started out professionally had all ceased publication.


RA: How about outside comics?


TR: I’d been a big science fiction fan since the age of 13—loved Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Ted Sturgeon, Anthony Burgess, etc.


RA: Perhaps the first work of yours that I noticed was your efforts in the underground comix of the early 1970s.  How did you get started there?


TR: I had read comics as a kid, but stopped when I got into high school, because my mother told me that comics were kid stuff and I was a teenager now.  So being an obedient daughter, I gave away my comics collection (worth thousands today of course!  Thanks, Mom!) to the neighborhood kids.  But I got back into comics with the Marvel renaissance of the mid-60s, when us hippies and college students were reading Doctor Strange and going, “Wow, man, psychedelic!” 


Actually, all along I’d been drawing stuff in pencil and ink on plain paper, and suddenly realized that what I’d been drawing were proto-comics.  However, superheroes just weren’t me.  Then one day somebody showed me a copy of the early underground paper coming out of New York, the East Village Other (EVO) and there were comics in it!  But they weren’t traditional superhero comics.  They were psychedelic, designy things that didn’t necessarily have storylines, and I realized that this was what I wanted to do.  Shortly after that, I moved back to New York (I’d been living in L.A.) and visited the EVO offices where a friend of mine just happened to be managing editor.  Through her I met the editor and publisher and before I knew it, I was drawing comics for them.


RA: You edited the first comix devoted to and created by women—‘It Ain’t About Me, Babe’, which came out in 1970.  Can you give us the history behind that book?  Who were the female contributors?


TR: Well, the guys in the underground were totally shutting me out, so I joined the staff of the West Coasts’ first feminist paper—‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’—and with their moral support I felt strong enough to produce that comix.  It was pretty much my answer to the guys.  But it was hard, because so few women were drawing comics in those days.  The two main contributors were me and Willy Mendes, who at that time was the only other woman in San Francisco drawing comix.  I had to go out and find the others.  Later, after the book was already put together, Lee Marrs showed up on my doorstep, and she was absolutely great, but it was too late—the book was already at the printer’s.


RA: What would you consider the best & the worst of your underground comix experience?


TR: My worst experience in the undergrounds was that the guys (and the underground artists at the time I started were all guys) didn’t accept me and shut me out.  One of my best experiences, early on, was when I met Phil Seuling, and he told me that he hated undergrounds.  But then when he learned that I was the artist behind ‘Panthea’, which was running in Gothic Blimp Works, a comic tabloid published by EVO, he said that Panthea was the only underground that he DID like, and he invited me to be on the underground comix panel at the 2nd Seuling con.  Which was great, because the guy who was putting the panel together had NOT invited me to be on it.  Now he had no choice!  In general, back in those early days when I was getting no help or support from the boys’ club, all the people who sent me letters telling me how much they liked my comics provided me with a best experience.


RA: I know you’re probably sick of this question, but could you tell us one more time about how you designed Vampirella’s initial appearance?


TR: Ooooooh Kay.  It was 1969 (I think) and somebody told me that Jim Warren, publisher of Creepy and Eerie, was gonna publish a magazine centering on women.  I met him (he was a very nice guy and still is) and he invited me to try drawing a story.  I was a dismal flop at that, just not good enough at the time, but there I was, sitting at his desk, when he got a phone call from Frank Frazetta, who needed to discuss what Vampirella would wear.  Jim tried to describe it over the phone, and while he was talking, I sketched out the costume on a piece of paper,  showed it to him, and he said to Frank “There’s a young lady here who just drew exactly what I have in mind.”  Then he put me on the phone to Frazetta, and I described the costume to him.  And that’s how it happened!


RA: Did you ever think that Warren’s half-woman, half-panther character Pantha was a bit of a knock-off of your own Panthea? 


TR: I can’t even remember Pantha!  I remember Marvel introduced a half-lion character, and I DID kind think she was a Panthea ripoff.  They also came up with a Black woman detective who I felt was a ripoff of my Black action heroine, Fox. 


RA: You really seem to like the ‘jungle girl’ comics.  A jungle girl of one sort or another pops up on your covers quite a bit.  Many politically correct critics seem to regard those books and stories as either sexist or racist.  Personally I regard them as no more harmful in a sexist way than Tarzan or Bomba (who wore a hell of a lot less clothing than any of the ladies)…


TR: Exactly!


RA: …and neither would I consider either the jungle girls or guys racist—rather simply a sign of the times in which they were written.  All the jungle guys and gals spent as much, if not more, time battling white hunters, colonialists and smugglers as they did battling the local natives. I’d be interested in your take on Sheena, Lann and the rest.


TR: I loved them as a kid!  I used to play that I lived in a treehouse with my pet chimpanzee and was forever rescuing hapless natives and explorers!  What little girl wouldn’t want to be a beautiful leopard-clad jungle girl, swinging from vines and living in treehouses?  And Tiger Girl went Sheena one better: she actually had two pet tigers!  Plus, they were in control, they rescued the guys.  They were the stars of their stories.  If you look back at the jungle girls today, you can see that they’re not wearing any less than women wore to the beach at the time, and they are practically covered from head to toe compared to today’s ‘Bad Girl’ comic characters. 


RA: You did just one story for Star*Reach—‘Drug Fiends Of The Martian Moons’, which you wrote and penciled and which Steve Leialoha inked.  Artistically you seemed to be a rather charming match of talents but I don’t recall seeing any other comic collaborations by the two of you.  Am I missing something?


TR: No, we didn’t.  Although we did kinda collaborate a little bit on a She-Hulk story by Peter David, back in the 1980s (at least, I THINK it was the ‘80s).


RA: You did a series of adaptations of some unlikely novels and stories, including Sax Rohmer’s ‘Dope’, Elizabeth A. Lynn’s ‘The Woman Who Loved The Moon’ and a Russian novel entitled ‘Red Love’.  Why did you select those stories, which, on the surface at least, don’t look like regular comic fare?  Do you have plans to do any more?


TR: No plans to do more, because I don’t draw anymore.  I decided to adapt ‘Red Love’ and ‘Dope’ because I’d read both books and they were so interesting and so obscure.  I thought they’d make great comics, and Dean Mullaney and Deni Loubert respectively gave me the opportunity to do them.  As for ‘The Woman Who Loved The Moon’, Lizzie Lynn, bless her heart, asked me if I’d like to adapt something of hers into a comic, and she sent me that story.  I read it immediately, and after I stopped crying, I phoned her and said I’d love to!


RA: I’ve noticed that your girl-entry comics (the ones that you drew) don’t really fit into the usual ‘Archie’ style mode that most creators indulge in when they do ‘girl’ comics.


TR: No, they don’t.  I was only a peripheral Archie reader as a girl—the Timely teen titles and Katy Keene were so much more interesting to me.


RA:  Your books seem much more influenced in style and substance by Bill Woggon’s Kathy Keene books.  Is that deliberate or accidental?


TR: What’s deliberate is the reader participation that Bill Woggon had in his Kathy Keene comics—yes, I try to do the same thing.  Bill Woggon was such a nice guy, and he made so many kids happy when he used their clothing designs, and I know from the letters I have received that my comics had the same effect. 


RA: What lead to the creation of Misty & California Girls?  California Girls would have been creator owned, correct?


TR: I approached Jim Shooter with the idea for Misty, and he went for a limited 6 issue series.  In one way it was an immense success.  I still have a carton full of letters from little girls stashed in my moldy basement—I couldn’t bear to throw them out.  Along with absolutely adorable designs, they almost all said “I love your book because there were never any comics for me, but this comic is for me.”  Then they would add, “but I can never find it.” and that was the problem!  The comic stores wouldn’t carry it, and after 6 issues, Jim Shooter wouldn’t publish it anymore.  Then I went to Eclipse with California Girls (yes, that was creator owned), and they gave it 8 issues, but the problems were even worse.  If the comic stores wouldn’t carry a girl’s comic published by Marvel, they were even less willing to carry a black & white girl’s comic with a higher cover price.  So after 8 issues, Dean Mullaney said, “I don’t mind not making a profit, but I can’t afford to lose money.” and folded it.  I completely understood, and think he was great to keep it going as long as he did.


RA: Can you explain your fascination with paper dolls?  They appear in a lot of your books, even some of the undergrounds.


TR: Little girls love them.  All little girls love paper dolls, and what are grown women but older little girls?  Do any of us REALLY grow up?


RA: Well, this seems a good spot for this question.  People have been either complaining or hearing about the lack of comics for girls for at least a couple of decades but nothing really seems to change in mainstream American comics.  Yet I notice many girls reading various manga titles, which have a great many comics aimed directly at girls.


TR: Absolutely!  Thousands of American girls in their early teens or adolescence are reading and drawing manga!


RA: Are American publishers in danger of being left in the dust in regards to a huge potential market?


TR: Yes, but I really wonder if they care, as long as they always have their tiny boys’ club.


RA: I guess you’re referring to the type of boy or male reader who reads superheroes, nothing but superheroes, and often only one publisher’s superheroes.  All else is crap, not matter how well written or drawn!  Still, a significant market is clearly there, although I see no sign of an effort to capitalize on it by the mainstream publishers.  Why not?


TR: See above.  The boys like their boys’ club and want to keep it that way.  Until recently they’ve also had a universal amnesia, so they thought that girls didn’t read comics, completely forgetting the success of girls’ teen comics and romance comics in the ‘40s & ‘50s.  But manga has changed all that.  I think most of them now realize that girls WILL read comics when there are comics they want to read.


RA: I’ve four daughters and I like sharing my love for comics with them.  Still, I know how difficult it is finding quality material that they like.  Frankly, I don’t think it’s easy finding quality material for boys today, let alone girls.  Perhaps you could give us your take on why it’s important for both girls and boys to have entry level comics for them, beyond and above maintaining a market.


TR: Beyond and above maintaining a market, comics are just plain fun, and girls have a right to have fun too.


RA: As a librarian, I know there’s a big push on currently to stock graphic novels in schools and public libraries.  Largely, because kids will read them.


TR: Yes!!! Isn’t it wonderful?  Remember how when you went to school, if the teacher found you reading a comic in class, they would confiscate it?


RA: Yeah, all the time!  {laughs}.  Now, I know that librarians, including myself, are looking for good novels that kids will read, of any sort.  However, the emphasis is always on the NOVEL—with the graphic aspect being secondary, no matter how great the artwork.  This is NOT the way the average comic book publisher markets their books nor the way the average comic fan makes their purchase decisions.  Simply put, libraries and librarians, many of which are unfamiliar with the insulated world of comic fans and publishers, are not going to want to purchase a bunch of Spider-Man collections.  If I was trying to sell a reluctant librarian on stocking graphic novels, I could sell them V For Vendetta, because it’s a true novel.  A novel with a beginning, middle and end, that is entertaining.  I could sell them Scary Godmother, Castle Waiting, Patty Cake, Maus, etc. but if I push the umteeth Hulk collection at them they’re going to lose interest fast.  What’s your take, if any, on this?


TR: Of course I agree with you.  The mainstream Big Two are trying to cash in on the graphic novel but they are really clueless.  If I may use the word Literature, I think the REAL graphic novels, such as Castle Waiting, Maus, Persepolis, etc., are indeed literature, while the superhero books are simply corporate attempts to sell products. 


RA:  Yes!  The superhero books are product.  Certainly an entertaining product, sometimes even a superior product, but by their very nature, they can only have a beginning and a middle with no end, no finish, no real payoff.  In fact, the superhero book must have an UNENDING middle because it is a product and a product, particularly a corporate product, can never end.  It’s bad for business. 


Moving on, you’ve written a number of comic history volumes, mostly dealing with comics’ female creators.  Are there any more planned or in the works?  I know you revised and renamed your landmark book A Century Of Women Cartoonists.  It’s now called The Great Women Cartoonists.  Besides the title, what does the newer version offer?


TR: Well, first, it’s kind of frustrating to me that they’re all out of print.  I’d like to get an academic publisher to reprint my Great Women Cartoonists and keep it in print.  I say an academic publisher, because they usually do keep books in print longer.


That said, the Great Women Cartoonists offers color, corrections of previous typos (although the new one had a wopper of a typo, thanks to an editor whom I could cheerfully strangle!), new and corrected information, and more of it, and an entirely new last chapter which deals with contemporary women, since the previous book was way out of date on that matter.  In other words, a revised, corrected version of the other, with great color illos.


RA: Can you tell us a little about your Spanish language book—Califia, Queen Of California?  Any chance it will be published in English?  What are the possibilities of republishing your children’s book Catswalk, The Growing Of Girl?


TR: Califia IS published in English—Spanish and English, it’s bilingual.  But since the publisher lives in Mexico, I doubt it will ever be published here, or be available here except from my website.  As for Catswalk, I suppose at some point I could get the rights back from it if I wanted to, but I’d rather write a new book.


Can you also give us a chat about Eternally Bad, your book about the mythological ‘bad girl’ goddesses from around the world?


TR: Sure!  I had long wanted to write a book on goddesses for young girls—there really wasn’t much out there besides the usual insipid stuff about the Greek gods—but I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Finally, when one publisher phoned me and told me how impressed she was by my professional proposal, but “Could you make it more spiritual?” I blew up (not at her—I was very polite to her) and decided to go the other way, and write about the darkest, nastiest of goddesses (New age spirituality rubs me the wrong way!) and do it for teens and young women—and that’s what happened.


RA: You’ve covered an extremely wide range of comic projects, from the adult work that appeared in the underground press to the kid friendly world of the California Girls and Go Girl.  Do you experience any difficulty changing gears when you approach projects like this?


TR: Kid friendly—or really, GIRL friendly, is what I want to do.  There were no gears to change, because by the time I was writing girl friendly comics I didn’t want to do underground anymore.  Since July, I’ve been writing a series of graphic novels for two different publishing companies—Harcourt Achieve and Capstone/Stone Arch.  All aimed at kids.  Most of them about girls and women, educational comics intended for the classroom, but some of them to be sold in bookstores.  I’ve done biographies of Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman doctor, Sarah Winnemucca, a 19th century Indian activist, Bessie Coleman, the first black woman pilot, Florence Nightingale, Nathan Hale, Simon Bolivar, Hedy Lamarr (!!!!), who was not only an actress but an inventor, plus a story about a Colonial girl who runs away from home and winds up sailing with Anne Bonny and Mary Reade, and a story about a 14 year old slave girl who escapes via the underground railroad.  The last two and the Hedy Lamarr are my favorites.  Some of the art is being done (gorgeously!) by Cynthia Martin and Anne Timmons.  I absolutely love writing them, and can’t wait to see them in print.


RA: I’m looking forward to reading them.  You seemed to have retired from drawing about 10 years ago.  What prompted this?


TR: I hate to bring you down, but the truth is, I was treated too badly for too long by an industry that didn’t want me and shut me out, both mainstream and the underground.  I’m treated much better in the book publishing world, where people are actually nice to me.  I absolutely LOVE the act of writing and I couldn’t be happier than I am now.  I’ve no plans at all to resume drawing.


RA: That’s a damn shame.  I really love your artwork.  I’ve always admired the way, much like Alex Toth, you seemed to know exactly where to put lines on a page for the panel, the page and the story’s best advantage.  It also looks great in color!  ‘The Woman Who Loved The Moon’ is quietly beautiful.  Just fantastic to look at!


TR: Thank you for your kind words.  Too bad you weren’t an editor or publisher in the late 1980s—maybe I’d still be drawing.


RA: Well, since I am a big fan, and because others might be curious, when you were drawing professionally, what were your art techniques?  How did you approach airbrush work, inking and coloring, all of which you seem to be particularly good at?  Was the coloring in Epic Illustrated and Heavy Metal your work?


TR: Of course the coloring was my work!  However, the printer for Epic did a dreadful job with the result that everyone looked red, and I wanted to dig a hole and hide in it, figuring everyone thought that was my coloring.  All my color, in those pre-computer days, was painstaking airbrush.  I have since given away all my airbrush equipment to a neighborhood free arts program.  The inking was done with a #2 Windsor-Newton, the universal brush—although some genius inkers use a #3.


RA: What can you tell us about the background history and future plans for Go Girl?


TR: Anne Timmons and I are working on the next issue at this very moment!  It will be thick—184 pages—and it will be out in time for this year’s San Diego comicon.  I’m very happy with my stories and I think the art is Anne’s best work yet.


RA: Who would you consider the most important women cartoonists, in terms of achievement and influence? 


TR: The three early 20th century greats would be Rose O’Neill, Grace Drayton and Nell Brinkley.  The first two created icons that survive to this day, a century later: the Kewpie and the Campbell Kids.  Nell Brinkley’s work is gorgeous!  She was a superstar in her day, a household name.  she had at least 3 popular songs written about her and sold product—you could buy Nell Brinkley hair curlers!  She also inspired later women cartoonists like Marie Severin, Ramona Fradon, and especially Dale Messick, whose Brenda Starr went on to inspire women like Candice Bergen and Carol Burnett, both of whom wanted to be girl reporters when they were kids, but became famous actresses instead.  Then there’s Tarpe Mills, who created the first costumed woman action hero, Miss Fury, before Wonder Woman, and whose film noir heroine was so famous that a World War II crew named their bomber Miss Fury.


RA: Whose work among modern woman cartoonists do you find particularly interesting?


TR: There are more women drawing comics today than ever before and so many of them are really, really good!  I just finished reading Jessica Abel’s new graphic novel, La Perdida, because I’m reviewing it for Art Forum, and I think it’s the best work she ever did.  I was also mightily impressed by Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.  But, thankfully, I’m a historian rather than a critic of contemporary art, so I’d rather stay out of who’s the best today, and not get lots of women cartoonists taking out contracts on me!


RA: Are there any books in the comic world today that you really enjoy following?


TR: Sorry to tell you, but I don’t read many comics anymore.  I HAVE been reading Fables, and I like it immensely, not just because Steve is inking it, but because Bill Willingham’s writing is clever and innovative, and Bucky’s art (Mark Buckingham) is great.  I’ve also been reading quite a bit of shojo manga, which I really love—no superheroes, just girl heroes, pretty art, cute clothes, no giant boobs.


RA: Speaking of shojo manga, which titles would you recommend for girls, or just young people in general?


TR: There’s some great shojo out there!  I reviewed some all-ages shojo in last summer’s special shojo issue of the Comics Journal.  Read it!  Off the top of my head, titles that I love include Red River, Aria, Princess Ai, Dolls, Paradise Kiss—and of course the one I was providing English rewrites on for over a year, From Far Away.


RA: Any final words?


TR: Can’t think of any!  Thanks for thinking of me.  Cheers!


RA: Well, thank you for sharing.  It’s much appreciated.  Trina Robbins, folks!




                                                                A 2006  Interview With Mike Vosburg!


RA: Thanks for agreeing to the interview.  We’re talking to Mike Vosburg, folks.  Mike, can you fill us in a little on your background?


MV: Well, I was one of the original Detroit comic ghetto guys.  There was myself, Al Milgrom, Jim Starlin, Rich Buckler, Terry Austin and Mike Nasser—there were a bunch of us!  It was a good training ground for beginners in that you had a bunch of guys to run your work by, in terms of what you were doing and how you were progressing at the time. 


I know, for me, drawing comics was a fantasy.  I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan and it wasn’t until I saw Jim Starlin get work that it actually dawned on me that being a comic artist could actually happen.  Working alongside those guys was what got me my start in the professional field. 


In comics I worked mostly for the big two, Marvel and DC, for about 10 years or so.  I bounced around a lot, doing a lot of stuff but I didn’t do much past six or eight issues of anything.  Did some Spider-Man Team-Up things, Morbius, that sort of thing for Marvel early on.  Later I worked on G.I. Joe for a year, did John Carter of Mars. 


For DC I did Starfire, which was a lot of fun.  Starfire was one of those books where they had different incarnations of her.  Superhero, etc.  When I was doing her, she was a barbarian girl.  Every issue had a new writer so every issue of the book took off in a new direction.  That always helped the sales, I’m sure! {chuckles}


I also did a number of issues of Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg for First Comics.


Then I got wise and I got a good paying gig.  I moved out here to California and started working in animation for various companies and projects.  Probably among the most visible things I’ve done were all the mock-up comic covers that the Crypt Keeper displayed from the TV show ‘Tales From The Crypt’.  He’d introduce the story and they’d cut to a faux version of an EC cover and those would be mine.  That was my job for a number of years. 


More recently I’ve been doing storyboards for music videos.  I’ve storyboarded videos for Eminem, Marilyn Manson, Gwen Stefani, Dr. Dre, a bunch of people.  The last big thing I worked on was the lead storyboard artist on ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’.  In fact, I’m starting storyboard work on the next Narnia film, ‘Prince Caspian’, next week. 


I still work in comics too.  I’m doing another—she’s not called Linda Lovecraft anymore, but Lori Lovecraft—but it’s another Lori Lovecraft graphic novel that will be coming out within six months to a year. 


RA: Cool!  I’ve always liked that character.


MV: I’m surprised that you seen them! {laughs}


RA: Actually, that’s the part of your comics career that I’m most familiar with.  I’ve been a fan of Lori Lovecraft since she was named Linda, back in the 1970s. 


MV: Yeah, that was the stuff that I was doing for Star*Reach at the time.  That was her name back then—a play off H. P. Lovecraft and the porn actress Linda Lovelace.  But I decided I had to change her name because I was always getting people coming up to me and saying “Hey!  You’re the guy who does that Linda Lovelace comic!”  Neither the Linda nor Lori versions were porn books and I felt that I needed some product identification that actually applied to the comic I was drawing, so I changed her name.  I also thought that the name Lori had a more mystical feel to it, like Lorelai. 


RA: I was a huge Star*Reach fan and Linda Lovecraft was one of my favorite characters.  I especially liked the way you combined the mystic storylines of a Dr. Strange or Dr. Fate type character with the, at the time, very new linking with the erotic or cheesecake market.  The 1970s adult film market was quite a bit different than it is today.  Back then, the adult filmmakers appeared to be actually working on the concept that adult porn could also have a story.  That concept has generally been pretty much abandoned but there were some interesting attempts.  Mixing adult film references and H. P. Lovecraft was new.  I don’t think anybody had tried that before.  For me, it was a pretty interesting approach to horror.  Lots of {mostly} implied sex but none of the grossness of the undergrounds. 


 MV: Yeah, for me it was more that I really wanted to do something whimsical.  I had worked in underground comix, that’s where I got my first start, but you hit the nail on the head.  Underground comix were either a political statement or pornography or both.  At the time, I really wasn’t interested in doing either of those types of stories.  Nowadays, I’m afraid I might be great at underground comix, because I have a lot of feelings politically. 


RA: Everybody does these days.


MV: The other problem, and I found this with more recent Lori versions, is that when you’re dealing with erotic material half the people want to put you in jail just for doing it and the other half don’t want to buy it because it’s too tame.  It’s pretty hard to find an audience there. 


RA: It’s like erotic novels.  For a while, some of them were actually half-way decently written and about a lot of topics.  Now they’re all kink.  There’s nothing in-between or even to the left of that.  Just all straight kink.  That’s fine if that’s all you like but it’s like ice cream—every so often it’s fun to try a different flavor.


MV: And the problem is, what I like in erotic material is sensual but what you like is perverted. 


RA: Well….thanks.  {laughs} No, I know what you’re saying…


MV: My own personal stuff is reasonable but what you like is weird and dirty.  You just can’t win with that. 


RA: I know that it rather depressed me when I read some of Richard Corben’s reprinted material from the early 1970s and I realized that he was censoring himself.  Apparently because he wanted it back in print and times had changed enough that what was ok and sold well in 1971 would never be displayed in 1993 or whenever.  Better him doing it than someone else, I guess, but it was still depressing. 


MV: Well, it may also be that people change as they grow along and that what you think was ok when you were 25 isn’t necessarily what you think is ok at 45.  I know there’s a lot of material out there, done by me, that I look at and wish I had all the copies to this.  People ask me, usually with Lori or Linda Lovecraft, if I like drawing pornography and I think to myself that the only pornography that I ever drew was G.I. Joe. 


RA: {laughs}  Actually, I’ve never considered either version of Ms. Lovecraft as porn, simply kinda sexy.  Nothing to really make you cring.


MV: The other problem is that there’s nothing, or not much anyways, in either Linda or Lori that you probably wouldn’t find in any popular woman’s magazine.  Because that’s usually where I go for my swipes.  The problem is that by their nature, by the fact that they are comic books that for some people, that means kids only.  There’s resistance to the subject matter under those limits.  It’s just not acceptable for some people that comics deal with any type of sexuality, under any circumstances, period.  It’s a cultural thing and every culture has that thinking to some degree, even if the specific things are different in each culture.  That applies whether it’s Japanese or American or European culture. 


RA: I know what you mean.  I just got the Dark Horse publication of Crying Freeman, from the writer of the Lone Wolf & Cub stories, and it’s an excellent book.  It’s about a modern day Japanese assassin, working for the Chinese mob, against the Yakuza.  It has a lot of explicit sex in it.  I’ve never seen the Japanese original work so I don’t know if what the Dark Horse book is showing was done in Japan or by Dark Horse, but the main characters’ penis and vagina are rendered invisible on the page, although what’s being done in terms of sex is clear beyond any shadow of a doubt.  The image of a young lady performing oral sex on an invisible penis is, to me at least, far more disturbing than if they’d just actually shown the act in detail.  There’s just no way that you cannot “see” the invisible object.  It’s so disturbing that you kind of overload on it and it starts to become funny.  I’d look at the page and wonder what the point was in whiting the penis out?  Nothing, NOTHING, is actually concealed.  {I’ve since discovered that the artwork was originally done that way in Japan and that Dark Horse, bless ‘em, published it as is.}


MV: The answer is probably a legal issue.  It’s the part that you mustn’t see that’s important, not the act that you can see.  It makes no sense, but there it is.  Somebody, somewhere, decided what was acceptable to him and his superiors and if you see more in it than that, then it’s just because you’re perverted to begin with.


RA: It just struck me as really funny, in a “for crying out loud!” sort of way.  Well, to move this back to Star*Reach a little more—how did you find out about Star*Reach and how did you submit your work there?


MV: Well, that goes back to the Detroit Comic Mafia again.  When I was working in comics and

going into New York, the guys I would stay with were Al Milgrom and Jim Starlin.  Mike Friedrich,

who was the Star*Reach editor, at one time was renting a place with Starlin, Bill DuBay—I don’t

remember exactly who all, but they had a big house out on Staten Island.  That’s where I met Mike. 

He saw the material I was doing beyond the commercial, mainstream stuff and apparently thought

that my work had potential for his new book.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of Mike’s but one thing he did

see was the whole potential fan market for fan-oriented books.  Books that if you were a fan, you

would be looking for.  That’s basically what Star*Reach was.  Underground comix were great, but

they weren’t for the average comic reader.  They were for potheads and freaks and whatever… 


RA: True.  About the only place you saw them in my neck of the woods were headshops.  Might have been

different in the big city, though.


MV: Right.  Certainly those two groups of comic/comix readers overlapped but there was a much

bigger base of comic book readers than that of underground comix fans. 


One of the things you need to remember about comics is that for a long time, they were the

undiscovered treasure trove of talent.  You had your Eisners and your Kuberts and your Toths, guys

who were and are magnificent creative people in the field but nobody outside the field knew who they

were.  What happened when comics got discovered, well, you can’t go to the movies now without

seeing one or two previews for movies that originated in comics.  There’s a huge amount of

Hollywood production that is essentially comics-generated movies.  Comics publishers, when I

started out, basically had a large group of talented, creative people in their pockets.  The creators

had nowhere else to go.  But, because of poor management and greed, the comic companies really

held onto the concept of sharecropper labor, what we’ll offer you is it. 


Then what happened to most people in comics is…


RA: They left.


MV: Well, they left because you had guys like Frank Miller, that could produce material that they

could own.  The comic companies were greedy and would only sell it if they had a big chuck of it, or

all of it.  I kind of negatively say that comics haven’t had a fresh idea since Jack Kirby left.  Look at

Marvel Comics today.  They’ve managed to build an entire empire that based on simply rehashing

different concepts of Jack Kirby.  Anything that was truly innovative or exciting might work in

things like movies but comics themselves have never found a way to sell it.  Hellboy, for example, I’m

sure has done well but Hellboy is not a major success in comics.  It’s certainly no best seller.  I

remember talking to Max Collins and telling him that the Lori Lovecraft comics I publish myself

don’t sell any more copies than the comic fanzines I did back in the 1960s.  He told that I wasn’t

alone, that when he did Road To Perdition, it sold something like 2500 copies.  You look at that book. 

It’s a gorgeous book. 


The fact that they were able to turn it into an Oscar contending movie is noteworthy.  It didn’t get

nominated but it had some great movie buzz.  It might be the best adaptation of comic material that

I’ve seen.  I’m not impressed with what Hollywood has done with most comic adaptations.  I’m not a

fan of the Batman movies.


RA: I think the Batman cartoons have been done well.  Not so much the movies. 


MV: Yeah, the Batman cartoons have a little more going for them.  The guys doing them seem to

actually like and read the comics.  The movies always are done by people who claim to like the comics

but I’ve never been sure that they really aware of what kind of material the comics have.  That

campy, over-the-top approach is one all the superhero movies seem to fall into at some point.  In

some ways it’s ignorance and in some ways a lack of respect for the material.  The movie people also

seem to display a problem with translating comics to another medium.


RA: A good comic book artist or writer knows that a comic can’t be all thunder and lightning.  Can’t be all

bombast.  There has to be those quiet moments, those silent moments or it’s all just flash.  It’s also been

noticeable that the best movie adaptations, the ones that work the best as movies, have been those films like

Road To Perdition, A History Of Violence, V For Vendetta, Ghost World, etc. that aren’t superhero based. 

The story’s more important than the spectacle. 


MV: Right!  The biggest problem with the superhero is that you can do one in a comic book and

everyone buys into the concept.  The guy has special powers and he wears a costume.  The first

problem you have with Batman on the screen is that the average guy looks at the actor up there in

the costume and says “That ain’t Batman.”  Even beyond that, it’s that the movie goer doesn’t buy the costume and the world that costume would work in.  The first thing any movie producer, director, writer has to do is solve that disbelief for the viewer. 


RA: What works in comics, and what works in animation as well, doesn’t work in real life because in real life people simply wouldn’t put on those kinds of clothes. 


MV: Well, they would but they’d be spending a lot of time in a shrink’s office. 


RA: The closer to the real world, our world, that superhero movies get the harder it is to believe them.  If someone actually put on all the black leather, quite frankly, they simply wouldn’t be able to move. 


MV: Yeah, or as I like to refer to that first Batman movie—“Frankenbat”.


RA: I’ve always thought that the actors doing Batman, Daredevil, the X-Men, and the like must get a terrible case of chaffing at the end of a day.  {laughs}  If you put on actual leather and try moving and leaping and running it’s going to hurt like hell.  So you have a problem there and when you get into the Spandex suits it’s even sillier. 


MV: On the other hand, I loved the adaptation of the Sin City stories.  The difference, I think, is that it was made by someone who really does love comics.  How they look, the peculiar rules and stylizations that the books use.  Someone who loves comics and understands them as opposed to someone who wasn’t one of those kids waiting every Wednesday at the newsstands to pick up the new comics.  The only real criticism that I had for Sin City is that they were almost too respectful to the original material.  Particularly with the dialogue.  It would have been better with less comic book style dialogue. 


‘Course, none of this is about Star*Reach. 


RA: You also did stuff for Hot Stuf’


MV: Oh, yeah!  Sal Q’s book.  ‘The House On Whore Hill’.  One of the problems that happened to an artist  when I got into comics was that you got typed.  You were a penciler or you were an inker.  At the time, you’d say you drew comics and those people who knew something about the business would always ask if you were a penciler or an inker.  I just regarded myself as an artist and appearing in Star*Reach & Hot Stuf’ allowed the editorial folks to see that I could do both. 


RA: True enough.  I’ve always thought that most pencilers were their own best inkers, in general.  I did have one exceptation.  I never liked John Buscema’s inking on his own material. 


MV: Oh, I did but I think that’s a matter of taste.


RA: Exactly.  I know I’m in the minority there.  But in general, Frank Miller inks himself the best.  Steve Leialoha inks his own pencils the best.  John Romita inks his own pencils best. Mike Ploog…and so on. 


MV: I think the biggest difference is actually the other way around.  Most of the pencilers could ink their own work but that biggest problem was that many of the inkers I knew could handle the tools but they weren’t always great at drawing or designing pages.  But the really great inkers, like Wally Wood, Dick Giordano, you mentioned Leialoha, Klaus Janson, Terry Austin, were great artists in their own right.  They could design a page.  They could tell a story.  Many inkers couldn’t do that.


Comics, of course, aren’t the only genre to have that problem.  Willie Nelson, for example, wrote songs for other singers for years before the powers that be realized he could record his own material and be a success at it.  Bob Dylan didn’t have a big pop hit for at least four or five years after he started recording.  The best artists have a large measure of control on what they produce.  The best painters, the best singers, the best movie makers, the best comic artists & writers, generally do their best with as little front office interference as possible.


But the biggest problem with artistic quality is that to make money in the old days you had to churn it out.  With periodicals you have to make that deadline.  I look at guys like Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, John Buscema and, Damn!, these guys were turning out 30 to 40 pages a month during their prime.  Sometimes more!  With Kubert, he not only drew that much, he was inking the great majority of it himself.  And it wasn’t like they were hacking it out.  Their work was of very high quality.  I’m not certain there’s anybody working in comics today who could do that. 


Part of that, of course, is the way that comics have evolved.  They’re more anal and less interesting.  The love of the genre and its possibilities often doesn’t seem to be there.


RA: I think I know what you mean.  I’ve done a page on the 1970s independents & fanzines and even though some of the art is strictly amateur hour there’s a great deal of enthusiasm.  Much of the mainstream material today…well, it seems largely written by committee.  Tony Isabella wrote to me a few weeks back and he mentioned that many of the books he was reviewing seemed to be inked by four or five different inkers for each issue.  The inconsistency from page to page is incredibly annoying. 


MV: Well, you know, that’s probably deadline problems but even back in the day, the Spirit was drawn by five people.  Eisner was penciling, somebody else was inking backgrounds, somebody else was doing buildings, another was scripting, lettering, what have you.  It was piecemeal work that way.  But they still had Eisner as an art director, going over the work and saying “This is how it should work.” The creative mind was also the boss.  When I worked with Howard Chaykin on American Flagg, that was pretty much the system that we used.  We always had a “shop”.  He was writing, I was penciling, inking and designing.  We had someone else doing backgrounds.  Someone else doing coloring.  The whole process was broken down that way.  That’s just what you had to do a lot of times, just to meet your deadlines. 


That was what the beauty of those Star*Reach pieces was.  You rarely had a deadline.  The good thing about working on those stories was that when they were done, you just turned them in.  No “we needed them last week”.  Mike had material there for several months at a time.  I remember a couple of stories I did for him.  I finished them, looked at them, then completely took them apart and redid them.  A luxury you could never do for a mainstream book at the time.  Again, for me, they were the chance for me to show other people what I could do if I didn’t need to work.  They were a very important part of how I emerged from being a talented, promising newcomer to what I actually did in the field as a professional. 


RA: Now when you revived the character in the late 1990s, you did three or four issues?


MV: I’m working on my seventh Lori story now.  We did three or four individual issues which made up the first graphic novel, along with a fifth story, that was only in the graphic novel.  More recently, we’ve done two new books {in 2002} and we’re putting that together with a long 40 page story which is a third section to the two earlier tales.  Also, in the most recent books, I did a feature called ‘Voodoo Mansion’ so there would be at least two new ‘Voodoo Mansion’ stories as well as the Lori material and the earlier ‘Voodoo Mansion’ stuff.


RA: What publishing company are those coming out from?


MV: I have no idea.  We haven’t gotten a deal yet.  The last couple we self-published and with the trade paperback we’ll probably be doing the same thing.  One of the problems that caused me to go into self-publishing was that the profits were so miniscule that once the publisher took his cut there wasn’t much to go to the creators.  Actually, you have to have another motivation to do self-published comics beside money.   We always used to call it playing the comic book lottery.  The winners are guys like Frank Miller or Mike Mignola with their own creations that seem to make a profit year after year.  Comics just don’t really pay for themselves anymore.  At least the way the market is now.  I don’t see, even on a regular basis, a comic bringing in anywhere near the money I would be making at almost any other art endeavor that I could be working at. 


For me, comics are my hobby.  I like doing them a lot better than a lot of jobs that I do sometimes but I’m under no illusion that they will ever pay the rent for me.  The sad fact is that I’ve probably made more money from the Linda Lovecraft stories that I did for Star*Reach back in the 1970s than I have made total on the Lori Lovecraft material that I’m doing today.  Especially for the amount of time that I’ve put into it. 


RA: That’s a shame, because I like them both.


MV: Well, I don’t take it personal.  It’s not just me.  It’s the whole industry.  The people who are interested in comics aren’t kids anymore.  For kids, if it doesn’t move, it’s not entertainment to a lot of them.  You really are producing material for an evershrinking audience.  In a sense, what you’re doing in comics nowadays is producing visual screenplays in the hope that someone will be interested in them.  In that regard, they make sense. 


RA: My day job is as a librarian and there’s been a big push in the last two years to use graphic novels in libraries but the problem I have as a librarian, as opposed to being a comic reader, is that so much of what’s available to the libraries themselves is rehashed material…the upteenth Spider-Man collection or what have you.  For the first time the average librarian is open to putting comic books in libraries but while they may admire the artwork, what they’re looking for in a graphic novel doesn’t involve the graphic part nearly as much the novel part.  That’s almost 180 degree difference from what the average comic fan looks for in a comic or graphic novel.  If the story’s not there, most librarians won’t care for it. 


MV: Also what you’re doing when you’re working in schools like that is that you’re trying to get kids to read.  What can I put in front of them that they’re actually going to read?  If you do an adaptation of Hamlet, the chances that they’re going to look at it are slim to none.  The other problem is that what you really want them to experience in comics, so that they go out and buy graphic novels on their own, is stuff like Sin City, Hellboy and for school libraries it’s just….


RA: You simply couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t touch a Sin City book.  There is quality material that’s available that would be perfect for libraries but the distributors who deal with libraries are almost totally unaware of it.  They have the sales charts which list the Marvel or DC superhero books or the manga stuff because that’s what sells the most in comic shops but they aren’t really aware of what’s in the books.  Nobody, the comic companies, the jobbers, the distributors, etc. are sitting down and saying “Look, we sell to schools, K-12.  What are the graphic novel companies producing that we can sell a lot of over a long period of time”.  The answer to that is not Spider-Man.  It’s not Batman or Superman.  It’s stuff like ‘Leave It To Chance’, ‘Castle Waiting’, Eric Shanower’s ‘Oz’ books, Scott Roberts’ ‘Patty Cake’ and the like.  ‘V For Vendetta’ for high schools, ‘Patty Cake’ for elementary schools and ‘Castle Waiting’ or ‘Bone’ for middle schools.  The best thing that Scholastic did for Jeff Smith’s Bone books was put Bone’s face on the milk cartons that the schools use.  Kids recognized the face, then went and picked up the book.  All of a sudden, the books are flying out of the library on a regular basis.  Face recognition, then word of month.  Thank god, kids don’t give a damn for sales charts. 


MV: I should warn you that when you talk about contemporary comics, I have absolutely no idea of what’s out there.  I see so little of the stuff that I couldn’t tell you what’s hot or not.  I’ll talk to Howard and we’ll talk about what’s he’s working on but I don’t see the stuff.  When I go into the comic shops, I generally look through the stuff until I get bored, which is generally about two and a half minutes, then move on.  In the same way that I’m producing material for a different audience than the average comic reader, I’m also not the audience that most comics are aimed at, either. 


RA: True, what I buy for myself isn’t anywhere’s close to what I would purchase and shelve in a library.  Whether it’s books or comics. 


MV: I’ve just picked up these Archive books—the Spirit stuff—that’s the kind of stuff that I’m looking for.  I liked ‘100 Bullets’.  The art is that is gorgeous but I get a little worn out with the negative aspect of life that many comics seem to have today.  Sure there’s bad things in life itself but not all of us are living in the gloom and doom world and so many comics seem to live in that dark world and only there. 


RA: I was reading something about Sam Peckinpah, certainly not the world’s cheeriest guy, and he said something to the effect that a script’s got to have some humor in it or nobody’s going to pay attention to it.  Not the studios and not the audience.


MV: Yeah, my favorite director was Alfred Hitchcock, and one of my favorite things about his movies was that mix of edge-of-your-seat suspense and real humor.  One of the few Hitchcock films that I’m not really fond of is called ‘The Wrong Man’ with Henry Fonda.  It’s grim all the way through.  Well acted, well directed but there’s no spark.  That’s a big part of what comics, I think anyways, are doing wrong.  I keep going back to Eisner, who is my stylistic mentor, in terms of what I want to do with books.  I want them to be solid material but I always want to remember that they’re meant to be entertaining too.  There are more stories available to cartoonists than the average revenge fantasy. 


I tend to look at lot of comic stuff nowadays but I don’t read a lot of comic stuff.  We were talking earlier about pencilers who inked their own works.  I take it a bit further in terms of graphic stories.  I like guys who do the whole package.  The biggest problem now is that it is so time consuming to do that type of complete work, that unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re not going to have the opportunity to work on something like that.  Walt Simonson could probably do it.  Chaykin, Miller…I’m not really familiar with the younger artists who might fit into that.


RA: There are a number of female artists who are quite good at it.  Carla Speed McNeil, Linda Medley, Colleen Doran and the like.  Eric Shanower’s Troy series.  Darwyn Cooke is excellent.


MV: I’ve seen Cooke’s material. 


RA: Yeah, Cooke’s supposed to be doing a new monthly Spirit book, with the approval of the Eisner Estate, for DC. 


MV: Now, is it just going to be him—writing, drawing and inking?


RA: From what I understand, yes.  I’m not too sure on whether it’s going to be monthly but I believe he’s intending to do the whole thing.


MV: Well, I both admire him and fear for him.  You know, nobody remembers all the bad Spirit stories.  All we remember all the brilliant stories by Eisner.  Cooke’s stories can’t be as good as the worst of the Spirit stories.  It’s got to be as good as the good stuff.  And the Eisner stuff was produced, the stuff I’m reading right now was produced the year I was born.  The stories that Eisner was doing were for a vastly different audience.  They were for a postwar audience with a different sensibility and we’re way beyond that way of thinking today.  My first question about the Darwyn Cooke material would be is it going to be period stuff?  Are you going to do it in the style of the late 1940s or an updated approach?


RA: The guy doing Eisner’s John Law character, Gary Chaloner, is setting those stories in the 1940s.  He doesn’t actually state the year but it’s clearly a 1940s time period.  But he’s not calling it a period piece.


MV: The amount of research and the worry of getting the period right can be a nightmare.  Would this character do this at this time, etc?  I’m working on my own new feature called Retrowood.  It’s a condensation of the history and geography of the last 80 years encapsulized in the city of Retrowood.  Outwardly It’s a film noir version of Hollywood in the 30’s and 40’s, but I’m not shackled by the research of a period piece…I want to create more a sense and feeling of the time than a documentary approach.  My hero is a private eye who is trying to move up in the existing order…until he starts to see the consequences of his upward mobility.  I’m hoping to have the first book out in early 2007. 


You know, there’s always somebody who knows more about the period than you do too.  Alex Toth is a wizard on that sort of thing.  Of course, he can back it up. 


RA: I wish he was still doing comics.


MV: I guess we all do, but he’s an example of what I was talking about.  One of the things about Alex, and Joe Kubert also, is that they’re both guys that believe that evil is an exterior force.  That once you can defeat it the world will be a better place.  I don’t buy into that at all.  To me, evil is an internal thing and once you realize that that is so, you can begin to make a better life for yourself.  The birth of the anti-hero is probably that moment when people began relate to what Walt Kelly, through Pogo, said—“We have met the enemy and he is us.”  As for Alex working in comics now, well, look at Edward Risso’s work in 100 Bullets and you begin to see both the good and evil in both the villain and the protagonist.  Alex would have a hard time coping with that concept. 


RA: Didn’t he leave Torpedo because the character was too dark?  Not heroic enough?  He was right, of course.  The Torpedo character was a baldfaced scumbag.


MV: I don’t blame him on that.  I think he was right to do so.  Everyone I know raves about the Sopranos TV show but for me, I’ve never thought the Mafia was something to look up to.  It may not be a bad show but just not my cup of tea.  However, even the Sopranos have that “evil is within us all” focus.  Even Tony Soprano is being examined by viewers as more than just the standard villain.  Still, that particular show is just not my cup of tea.


Why a character does something and what do they do afterwards is more interesting to me than just action for action’s sake. 


RA: Back to the Star*Reach material, you had a co-scripter for a number of the Linda Lovelace stories.  Her name was Mary Skrenes.


MV: Mary was good friends with Steve Skeates.  The reason Mary was working with me was that I was supposed to be writing stories about this incredibly sexy woman and I really didn’t have a clue about who she should be. {laughs}  I really turned to Mary in that respect.  I wanted her to inject a little more real life into the character so that she wasn’t just a pin-up character.  I didn’t want Linda to be a one-joke story.  So Mary did some interesting things with the character in the stories she did. 


RA: The last Linda Lovelace story, which came out about a year after the first three, was totally done by you and it was considerably more mature and thoughtful in the writing…actually quite philosophical.


MV: Which one was that one?  The minute you said mature and thoughtful you lost me.  {laughs} Was it the Mad Arab story?


RA: The story I was referring to was called ‘Nymphonecronamia’.  I thought that was a big jump forward for you in terms of story.


MV: I probably had more time to think about the material on that one.  What I was trying to do with Linda was make her a real character.  In fact why that story was never included in a Linda Lovecraft collection is because ‘Nymphonecronamia’ is essentially a earlier version of the first Lori Lovecraft story ‘My Favorite Redhead’ and even then it wasn’t really my idea.  Have you ever seen the original ‘The Mummy’, the Boris Karloff film?  Here was a guy who (A) sets himself up for eternal damnation because he has this mad thing for this woman and (B) has been dead 3000 years and what’s the first thing he’s got to do when he is reanimated—he’s got to go find this woman.  Now that’s an interesting character.  {laughs} In the 1990s remake he comes to life after 3000 years and what he wants to do is destroy the world.  Blahh.  Not as interesting.  So the first Lori Lovecraft story I did was kind of a remake of the original Mummy film as well as the fourth Lori story.  Both the last Linda story and the first Lori story were takes on that same idea. 


Linda enters a dimension and encounters a character like Abdul Alhazred and kind of has to fight her way out.  It was basically the Mummy story with Linda/Lori as the girl he thinks is his old girlfriend.  Those stories are really similar.  Sometimes it’s easier to swipe and rework your own stuff.  There certainly wasn’t enough known about the Star*Reach stuff that would make redoing the story readily apparent. 


To be honest, I never really knew what kind of numbers that Star*Reach sold.  I got the reports from Mike all the time as to how many copies the issues sold but I really can’t remember what those numbers were.  I also did a story for Mike called ‘Skywalker’ that Steve Englehart scripted.  I knew George Lucas was a comics fan and my story came out some time before his Star Wars movie debuted but I couldn’t very well complain about Lucas using the name because I’d swiped it from singer Buffy St. Marie.  I’m sure Lucas was familiar with Star*Reach however because that how Howard Chaykin wound up doing the first Star Wars adaptation.  Lucas had seen and was a big fan of Chaykin’s ‘Cody Starbuck’. 


At the time that ‘Skywalker’ came out there was a whole series of mystical slanted stories.  We’d all get together, smoke pot and read Carlos Castaneda.  All those stories were a satire on that Castaneda material, Don Juan and the rest. 


RA: There was also a story in Imagine or Star*Reach where the lead character looked exactly like Joni Mitchell. 


MV: Yeah, Lee Marrs scripted that.  It was a bit of a disappointment to me.  It was called ‘Black Crow’ and it had some of the same characters as ‘Skywalker’.  It was about an Indian shaman who was madly in love with this pop singer.  He’d be in one persona and she’d get bored with him so he’d change into another persona so he could attract her all over again.  The whole idea that I thought would be neat would be to take the dialogue and base it on Joni Mitchell songs.  You could take the dialogue almost directly from her songs.  But something happened when we were doing the story and the singer actually became Joni Mitchell.  She started singing actual Joni Mitchell songs.  It confused what the story was about.  Was it about the singer Joni Mitchell?  It kept the story from going where it probably should have gone because it was no longer a fictional account but a sort of warped documentary.  It would have been a more interesting story if it’d been a total fiction.  Like with all collaborations there were some wonderful things that Lee did, but the whole point of the story seemed lost to me.  I would rather it’d been in a different direction.  I’m sure she felt much the same way about my drawings—like, geez, why did he draw this?  {laughs}


Don’t get me wrong, Lee’s a very nice person.  Looking at stuff that I did, I can see it and say “Boy, that was a dumb idea.”  With this story, I think it would have been a better story if we’d stuck with the original concept. 


RA: Well, that seems to cover just about all of your Star*Reach work. 


MV: Anyway, life is good.  I’m about to start storyboarding the second Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, in the very near future.  We have a first Wednesday thing here for cartoonists here, sort of like the First Friday that they used to do in New York.  I always look forward to those.  I also have a website called HYPERLINK, where you can order the comics or original art. 


RA: Thanks for all the information! It’s much appreciated.





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