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Superheroes, superheroines





Detail from the cover

of Three Dimensional Tales from the Crypt of Terror No 2,

Spring 1954


The list of writers and artists who contributed to

– and produced some of their best work for –

EC reads like a ‘who’s who’ of mid-20th-century comic books,

including Feldstein, Wood, Harvey Kurtzman,

Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Graham Ingels,

Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, Al Williamson,

Bernie Krigstein and Frank Frazetta


Alien invasions and corrupt cops!

The history of EC Comics - in pictures

Bill Gaines revolutionised the 1950s comics industry

with EC Comics’ taboo-busting crime tales,

stupendous sci-fi plots

… and war stories that didn’t flinch from the truth


Thu 20 Aug 2020    07.00 BST




















added 10 July 2007




















added 10 July 2007




















added 10 July 2007


















added 10 July 2007


















Michael Turner, 37, Creator of Superheroines, Is Dead


July 6, 2008
















comics        UK






























comics        USA













































EC comics        USA










Fantagraphics        USA










Valiant Comics        USA

























strips / comic strips        UK / USA














comic strip authors        USA


























web comics        USA

















online, vertical-scroll comics
















Murphy Anderson    USA    1926-2015


comic book artist

best known

for drawing superheroes

for DC Comics

from the 1950s to the ’70s










the San Francisco Comic Book Company

Gary Edson Arlington    USA    1938-2014










comic strip artist        USA










teenage magazine comic strips        UK










British Library

staging exhibition of comics

in 'overdue' celebration of genre        UK        22 January 2014


Library chief, Roy Keating,

says show will explore field

from Misty comics and superhero classics

to graphic novels










Comic-Con International convention        USA













USA > New York Comic Con        UK

















Leonard Norman Wein        USA        1948-2017


prolific comic book writer

who collaborated

on bringing to life

two of the art form’s

best-known characters,

Wolverine and Swamp Thing











Tom Moore        USA        1928-2015


"Archie" cartoonist

who brought to life the escapades

of a freckled-face, red-haired character


Moore (...)

began drawing cartoons

while in the U.S. Navy

during the Korean War


Moore drew

Archie Andrews and his friends

on and off from 1953

until he retired

in the late 1980s.


Annual sales

of the comic regularly surpassed

half a million during the 1960s,

according to the El Paso Times

( http://bit.ly/1LANI9f ).

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/07/21/us/ap-us-obit-archie-cartoonist.html - broken link




















“Wee Pals,”

with its racially and ethnically diverse characters,

rose in popularity

after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.


Morrie Turner,

via Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco


Morrie Turner Dies at 90; Broke Barriers in Comics


JAN. 28, 2014
















Jay Edward Maeder Jr.        USA        1947-2014


columnist and editor

for The Daily News and The Miami Herald

and the last writer of the comic strip “Annie”










Morris Nolten Turner        USA        1923-2014



who broke the color barrier twice

— as the first African-American

comic strip artist whose work

was widely syndicated

in mainstream newspapers,

and as the creator

of the first syndicated strip

with a racially and ethnically mixed

cast of characters —










William Elsworth Blackbeard        USA        1926-2011


author, editor,

anthologist and ardent accumulator,

Mr. Blackbeard

is widely credited with helping

save the American newspaper comic strip

from the scrap heap,

amassing a collection

considered the most comprehensive

ever assembled.










Roy of the Rovers

and other classic comics return to newsstands        March 2009










comics > Dark Horse Comics        USA






comic book        UK






comic book         USA








comic book legend         USA






comic-book sexism        UK






gender stereotypes        UK






Leslie Noel Daniels III        USA        1943-2011


one of the earliest historians

of comic books

— from the launching

(off the doomed planet Krypton)

of Superman in 1938

through the countercultural comix

movement of the ’60s —

and an author of horror novels
























Yahoo > Comics


31 August 2009














character        UK






female characters        UK






DC character > The Sandman        UK






character > Dick Tracy





The history of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future        UK


When Marcus Morris

and Frank Hampson

created Eagle

at the end of the 1940s,

British boys and girls

were still living under rations.


Dan Dare's bold colours

and dashing storylines


the hearts of a generation










hero        USA





























superheroes / comic book superheroes        USA
























Marvel's greatest superheroes > scientific geniuses








































Marvel Comics > The Black Panther

may not be the mightiest superhero

on the planet,

but he’s certainly among the coolest.


Created in 1966,

he was the first black superhero

in mainstream comics.


While his cape-wearing peers

spend their off hours

slogging away

at mundane day jobs

— reporter at a major

metropolitan newspaper, say —

the Panther is a king,

the sovereign ruler of Wakanda,

the fictional, technologically advanced

African nation.


And then there’s his costume:

skintight and jet black from head to toe.


His former wife,

Ororo Munroe (Storm of the X-Men),

can summon hurricanes.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjDjIWPwcPU - 16 October 2017


















































Here’s to 60 years, Spidey, and another 60 more. Excelsior!

JUNE 1962

Amazing Fantasy No. 15

Marvel Entertainment


Spider-Man Turns 60 Years Old This Month. He’s as Boyish as Ever.

Before movie franchises,

Peter Parker (and his alter ego) began in the humble pages of comic books.

To look back, we asked readers for some of their favorite adventures.


June 1, 2022
















USA > Spiderman / Spider-Man        UK / USA



























Stan Lee        USA










USA > Spider-Girl        UK


















Documentaire > Super-héros : l'éternel combat (1/3)

Vérité, justice et modèle américain

(Réalisation: Michael Kantor - 53mn)        FR

En juin 1938,


fait sa première apparition

dans la revue Action comics.


D'abord cantonné

aux pages des journaux généralistes,

le héros imaginé par les dessinateurs

Jerry Siegel et Joe Shuster

connaît d'emblée un immense succès

et définit les codes d'un nouveau genre

de la bande dessinée :

les comics, qui s'imposent bientôt

comme le mètre étalon

de l'industrie de la BD

aux États-Unis.


Une aubaine,

dans l'Amérique de la Grande Dépression,

pour une nouvelle génération

de dessinateurs, fils d'immigrés juifs

des ghettos de New York pour la plupart,

qui imaginent ces nouveaux personnages

dotés de superpouvoirs.


En 1939,

Bob Kane crée Batman

avant que Joe Simon et Jack Kirby

ne donnent vie au très patriotique

Captain America en 1941,

au moment où les États-Unis

entrent en guerre avec le Japon.


Les super-héros deviennent alors

un instrument de propagande

au service de l'effort de guerre:

Captain America étend Hitler

d'un direct du droit en couverture

et Wonderwoman exalte

le rôle des femmes américaines

à l'arrière du front.


À la sortie du second conflit mondial,

l'Amérique et ses super-héros

sont au zénith de leur puissance.


Mais en dépit de cette aura,

justiciers et vengeurs masqués

s'attirent bientôt les foudres

des parlementaires mccarthystes

et des puritains les plus fervents.


Leurs aventures jugées trop violentes

font l'objet d'une censure

de la Comics code authority,

à laquelle l'industrie se pliera

jusque dans les années 1980,

et qui conduira parfois même

à des autodafés

de plusieurs centaines d'exemplaires.


Mais l'escalade de la Guerre froide

et la peur de la menace nucléaire

vont permettre aux super-héros de réaffirmer

leur rôle de défenseurs du modèle américain

et à l'industrie des comics de connaître

un nouvel âge d'or à partir des années 1960.



Hérauts de l'oncle Sam

Au moyen d'interviews

d'historiens de la bande dessinée

et de témoignages

des plus célèbres dessinateurs de comics,

Michael Kantor

retrace les évolutions d'une industrie

dont les héros accompagnent

depuis leur création

les soubresauts de l'histoire des États-Unis.


Autant de personnages devenus des mythes

de la culture populaire outre Atlantique,

et dont le documentariste se sert ici

comme de miroirs pour mettre en lumière

les mutations de la société américaine

depuis les années 1930.


Un film éclairant sur le rôle joué

par ces hérauts de l'American way of life

et de la superpuissance de l'Oncle Sam,

qui ont fait des comics

une industrie multimilliardaire

diffusée dans le monde entier.











Wolverine: everything you need to know - infographic        26 July 2013


Originally called The Badger,

Wolverine made his first appearance

in The Incredible Hulk comic in 1974

and his film debut in X-Men in 2000










Islamic Green Lantern

introduced by DC Comics        6 September 2012        UK


New superhero is a tattooed Arab-American

called Simon Baz with a criminal record

for illegal street racing










USA > Batman's first appearance - 1939 edition of Detective Comics        UK

















USA > Superman - first comic 1938        UK / USA






















First Superman comic sells for $1m    February 2010


1938 edition of Action Comics No1

with cover showing superhero lifting car

sets record for comic book sale










Superman > comic book artist > Joe Shuster    1914-1992

















heroine        USA











villain        USA








supervillain        USA






comics        UK






comic book        UK

































comic artists        USA










comic book artist > Amy Reeder        USA










Neal Adams    USA    1941-2022


artist who changed the game

with his realistic illustrations

in the 1960s and '70s.



somewhat of a superhero himself

in the comic book world,

he was the champion of his peers,

pushing for artist rights and fair pay.


Batman, Superman,

the Green Lantern and the X-Men

are just a handful of the characters

that Adams reimagined beginning

in the late 1960s.


He flipped the script by straying

from the traditional cartoonish look

found in comics.



Adams sketched heroes and villains

with a gritty, realistic flair.










Sheldon Douglas Moldoff        USA        1920-2012


Sheldon Moldoff drew

some of the most recognizable superheroes

of comic books’ golden age

without receiving recognition

in his own right until decades later










Eugene Jules Colan        USA        1926-2011


towering figure

among comic-book artists,

whose depictions

of some of the best-known

characters in the genre

were lauded for their realism,


and painterly qualities










autobiographical comic book >  Harvey Lawrence Pekar        USA        1939-2010












illustrator of comic books > Alfonso Williamson        USA        1931-2010






comic-book artist / illustrator > Frank Frazzetta        USA        1928-2010






 illustrator > John Romita Jr.






comic-book artist > Chester Brown






comic-book artist > Michael Turner






comic artist > Charlie Adlard





comic-strip artist > Jack Kirby






John Higgins’ Razorjack





comic-book writer > UK > Alan Moore        UK













Alan Moore's dystopian comic book > Watchmen        UK
















USA > DC comics        UK / USA



















USA > Marvel comics        UK / USA




























Marvel > Joe Quesada





Doctor Doom












Silver Surfer






The 99: Superheroes inspired by the qualities of Allah        UK






Comic-Con        USA






















Published November 9, 1951

Pasted from Wikipedia



Primary source




















added 15 May 2007
















The classic 1939 cover for Superman #1



















Wonder Woman made her debut in 1941,

drawn by Harry Peter and written by William Marston.

















Corpus of news articles


Arts > Books > Comics >


Superheroes, Superheroines




Sheldon Moldoff,

Batman Comic Book Artist,

Dies at 91


March 8, 2012

The New York Times



Sheldon Moldoff, who drew some of the most recognizable superheroes of comic books’ golden age without receiving recognition in his own right until decades later, died on Feb. 29 near his home in Lauderhill, Fla. He was 91.

The cause was complications of kidney failure, his daughter, Ellen Moldoff Stein, said.

Mr. Moldoff drew covers for the first appearances of the characters Flash and Green Lantern in 1940 and some of the earliest renderings of Hawkman. He also contributed to the first issue of Action Comics, in which Superman was introduced (though he did not draw the Man of Steel).

But he is probably remembered most for his work as a ghost artist on Bob Kane’s Batman from 1953 to 1967.

“He would get the script, give it to me, and I would lay it out, finish it, pencil it up and give it back to him,” Mr. Moldoff told The Asbury Park Press in 1999. “Now, being a ghost, you don’t say anything to anybody. You just work for your boss and that’s it. So Bob took all the credit.”

Mr. Moldoff used a distinctive cartoonish style that complemented the often-bizarre Batman plots of the 1950s and ’60s. He created some of the oddest characters ever to grace Gotham, like Zebra Batman, Ace the Bat-Hound and Bat-Mite. Among his hundreds of Batman covers is one showing Batman carrying Robin’s body for a two-part 1963 story called “Robin Dies at Dawn.” (The Boy Wonder pulls through.) But at a time when most artists went uncredited, Mr. Moldoff’s signature was never attached to the work.

With the advent of comic conventions and a growing comic culture, fans came to recognize Mr. Moldoff’s work in the 1980s, according to a blog by Mark Evanier’s blog, a comic-book writer and historian.

“The credits gradually were given to me,” Mr. Moldoff said.

Sheldon Douglas Moldoff was born on April 14, 1920, in Manhattan. By the time he was 17 he was submitting freelance work to Detective Comics.

Mr. Moldoff was hired as an assistant to Kane out of high school, but left to draw Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and his own recurring character, Jon Valor, the Black Pirate. In 1953 he began working as one of the chief ghost artists on Batman, doing that work until 1967.

Later he worked with Kane on Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, a Batman-inspired cartoon featuring goofy animal superheroes.

His wife, Shirley, died 10 years ago. In addition to their daughter, Mr. Moldoff is survived by two sons, Richard and Kenneth; his brothers Albert and Stanley; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Sheldon Moldoff, Batman Comic Book Artist, Dies at 91,






Gene Colan,

Prolific Comic-Book Artist,

Dies at 84


June 25, 2011

The New York Times



Gene Colan, a towering figure among comic-book artists, whose depictions of some of the best-known characters in the genre were lauded for their realism, expressiveness and painterly qualities, died on Thursday in the Bronx. He was 84 and lived in Brooklyn.

The cause was complications of cancer and liver disease, his son, Erik, said.

Most closely associated with Marvel Comics, Mr. Colan also drew for DC and other publishers. At Marvel, he was best known for Daredevil (written by Marvel’s editor in chief, Stan Lee), about a blind man with superpowers; the Falcon, one of the first African-American superheroes, created by Mr. Colan and Mr. Lee; Howard the Duck, written by Steve Gerber; and The Tomb of Dracula, which Mr. Colan created with the writer Marv Wolfman.

Mr. Colan’s work was noteworthy on several counts. The first was its sheer duration: He completed his first professional assignment in the 1940s and his last a year or two ago. In between, his art was a mainstay of the Silver Age of comics, as the period from the mid-1950s to about 1970 — a time of heady artistic ferment in the field — is known.

The second was its prodigious volume: Over nearly seven decades he illustrated many hundreds of comics, from the famous, including Batman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk, to the possibly less so, including Ben Casey, Falling in Love and Captain Britain.

The third was his visual style, by all accounts unlike that of any other artist in the business. Where comic-book art tends toward deliberately flat, stylized images, Mr. Colan preferred a realistic look that emphasized texture and fluidity: the drape of a hero’s cape, tilt of a head, the arc of an oncoming fist.

A lifelong film buff, Mr. Colan was known as a master of light and shadow, which lent his work a noirish, cinematic quality.

“He was referred to as a painter with a pencil,” Tom Field, the author of “Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan“ (2005), said in an interview on Friday. “Comic books had been put together like a production line: There’s someone who writes the script, someone who would letter the words onto the pages, someone who would do the pencil illustrations. And typically another artist would come along with India ink and embellish those illustrations so they would stand out for the printer. In Gene’s case, the pencils were so rich and lavish that when the technology evolved to that point, the publishers stopped putting ink on his pencils and reproduced the work just as it was drawn.”

Mr. Colan had lived for many years with glaucoma; since the early 1990s, Mr. Field said, he was nearly blind in one eye and had tunnel vision in the other. Throughout this period, his work continued unabated, and it was, in most estimates, as fine as what had gone before.

Eugene Jules Colan was born in New York on Sept. 1, 1926. (The family name, according to Mr. Field’s book, was originally Cohen.) He was reared in Manhattan, where his parents ran an antiques business on the Upper East Side. He studied at the Art Students League of New York and toward the end of World War II served in the Philippines with the Army Air Forces.

After the war he joined Marvel (then known as Timely Comics), where his assignments would include Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner.

For DC (and its precursor, National Comics), Mr. Colan drew Batman, Hopalong Cassidy and Silverblade.

Mr. Colan’s first marriage, to Cynthia Sanders, ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Adrienne Brickman, died last year. He is survived by two children from his second marriage, his son, Erik, and a daughter, Nanci Solo; and three grandchildren.

Underpinning the realistic look of Mr. Colan’s comics was his fealty to real-world models. For the Dracula series, he based the title character on Jack Palance, whom he had seen play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a 1968 television movie. Fittingly, Mr. Palance went on to play Dracula in a 1974 television movie.

On another occasion, Mr. Colan needed to draw a particular make of handgun. “He was such a stickler for detail,” Mr. Field said, “that he went down to the police station and asked them to pull one out and show it to him.”

Gene Colan, Prolific Comic-Book Artist, Dies at 84, NYT, 25.6.2011,






Harvey Pekar,

‘American Splendor’ Creator,

Dies at 70


July 12, 2010
The New York Times


Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comic book “American Splendor” attracted a cult following for its unvarnished stories of a depressed, aggrieved Everyman negotiating daily life in Cleveland and became the basis for a critically acclaimed 2003 film, died on Monday at his home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He was 70.

A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office said that no cause of death had yet been determined. Capt. Michael Cannon of the Cleveland Heights Police Department, which was summoned to Mr. Pekar’s home by his wife, Joyce Brabner, told The Associated Press that Mr. Pekar had suffered from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression.

Mr. Pekar (pronounced PEE-kar), who toiled for nearly 40 years as a file clerk in a Veterans Administration hospital, applied the brutally frank autobiographical style of Henry Miller to the comic-book format, creating a distinctive series of dispatches from an all-too-ordinary life. His alter ego, introduced in 1976, trudged on from episode to episode, quarreling with co-workers, dealing with car problems, addressing family crises and fretting over money matters and health problems.

“Harvey was like the original blogger, before there was an Internet,” said Dean Haspiel, an artist who worked with Mr. Pekar on “American Splendor” and “The Quitter,” his memoir. “He was ‘Seinfeld’ before ‘Seinfeld.’ Comics, which had been power fantasies for 12-year-old boys, could now be about anything.”

Since he could not draw, Mr. Pekar enlisted top comic-book artists to do the illustrations, notably R. Crumb, who had encouraged him to publish and contributed illustrations for the first issues of “American Splendor.” Later issues were illustrated by Gary Dumm, Greg Budgett and Mark Zingarelli.

“It dawned on me that comics were not an intrinsically limited medium,” Mr. Pekar told Interview magazine in 2009. “There was a tremendous amount of things you could do in comics that you couldn’t do in other art forms — but no one was doing it. I figured if I’d make a try at it, I’d at least be a footnote in history.”

Harvey Lawrence Pekar was born on Oct. 8, 1939, in Cleveland, where his parents, Jewish immigrants from Poland, ran a neighborhood grocery store. The neighborhood, once white, became mostly black in the 1940s, and Harvey was the target of local youths who called him “white cracker” and routinely beat him up. The experience, he later theorized, instilled a profound sense of inferiority.

After the family moved to a white neighborhood, Mr. Pekar found that the constant fighting paid off. In one-on-one combat, he usually emerged the victor, and he became a respected street scrapper. At the same time, he nourished deep-seated anxieties and compulsions that made him fearful of taking on any challenge, one of the major themes of “The Quitter” (2005).

A series of dead-end jobs led to enlistment in the Navy, which discharged him when his anxieties made it impossible for him to pass inspections. Mr. Pekar resumed working a string of low-paying jobs, usually clerical. In 1965 he found a permanent roost with the Veterans Administration, where he turned down all offers of promotion and remained a file clerk until he retired in 2001.

On the side, however, Mr. Pekar began writing articles for Jazz Review in the late 1950s, and later for British jazz magazines and Downbeat. He also struck up a friendship, in 1962, with R. Crumb, a fellow jazz enthusiast and record collector then living in Cleveland. In Mr. Crumb’s early work he saw new possibilities in the comic-book form.

He began sketching out stories with stick-figure illustrations. Mr. Crumb, impressed, encouraged him to publish and showed his work to other artists, who also saw what Mr. Crumb saw. Mr. Pekar’s humble tales “from off the streets of Cleveland,” as the subtitle to “American Splendor” has it, resonated with enough readers to keep the experiment alive.

“I always wanted praise and I always wanted attention; I won’t lie to you,” he told Interview magazine in 2009. “I was a jazz critic and that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted people to write about me, not me about them.”

The cantankerous Mr. Pekar, who published the first 15 issues of “American Splendor” himself, became a regular on “Late Night With David Letterman” for two years in the late 1980s, until he went on a memorable tirade against General Electric, the parent company of NBC, and was dropped for several years from the show’s guest list.

Wider fame came with the film, a quirky blend of documentary footage, animation and fiction. Mr. Pekar and his wife were played by Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, but Mr. Pekar provided the narration and slipped into several scenes in both live and animated form. He wrote about the film in “Our Movie Year” (2004).

In addition to “American Splendor,” Mr. Pekar wrote several biographies, including “American Splendor: Unsung Hero” (2003), about the Vietnam War experiences of Robert McNeill, a fellow worker at the VA hospital.

Mr. Pekar’s other books include “Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History” (2008), “The Beats” (2009) and “Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation” (2009) as well as “Our Cancer Year” (1994), an account of his treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he wrote with his wife.

Mr. Pekar’s first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their daughter, Danielle.

Success did not seem to ease Mr. Pekar’s existential predicament. “Of course I don’t think I have it made by any means,” his alter ego said in a cartoon in Entertainment Weekly in 2003. “I’m too insecure, obsessive and paranoid for that.”

Harvey Pekar, ‘American Splendor’ Creator, Dies at 70, NYT, 12.7.2010,






Al Williamson,

Illustrator of Comic Books,

Dies at 79


June 20, 2010
The New York Times


Flash Gordon fires his ray gun to blast a path toward Ming the Merciless, tyrant of the doomed planet Mongo.

Secret Agent Corrigan crosses swords with his Carpathian nemesis as he rescues the shapely Russian spy Karla Kopak.

Luke Skywalker straddles a winged serpent to swoop down the Great Well of the distant planet Kabal.

Those are among the thousands of images Al Williamson sketched as one of America’s pre-eminent artists of comic books and newspaper comic strips.

Mr. Williamson died on June 12 in upstate New York, his wife, Cori, said. He was 79.

In a career that lasted more than 50 years, Mr. Williamson worked for nearly every major comics publisher, including EC, Marvel, King, Classics Illustrated, Dark Horse and Dell.

“He was one of the more sublimely talented artists to work in mainstream comics,” said Tom Spurgeon, editor of the online magazine Comics Reporter. “His men were handsome, his women were beautiful, and the landscapes he drew — alien or westerns or battlefields — always seemed lushly authentic. He made panels you could lose yourself in.”

Mark Schultz, author of “Al Williamson’s Flash Gordon: A Lifelong Vision of the Heroic” (Flesk Publications, 2009), a collection of Mr. Williamson’s Flash Gordon images, offered a similar assessment.

“What made his work unique is that he incorporated the fluid motion of cinema into his drawings,” Mr. Schultz said. “No other illustrator or cartoonist has approached his ability to create an illusion of action.”

Mr. Williamson is probably best known for his interpretations of Flash Gordon, the interstellar adventurer created by Alex Raymond in the mid-1930s. Mr. Williamson illustrated Flash Gordon comic books in the 1960s and returned to the character in 1980, drawing an adaptation of the Flash Gordon motion picture released that year. In the 1990s, he produced a Flash Gordon series for Marvel and later contributed to the Sunday strip.

Mr. Williamson first made his professional mark at 17 as the youngest contributor to EC, the publisher of somewhat notorious horror tales, as well as combat stories and science fiction. He specialized in illustrations for EC’s Weird Science and Weird Fantasy titles.

For 13 years, starting in 1967, Mr. Williamson drew the newspaper strip “Secret Agent Corrigan,” another adaptation of a character originated by Raymond in the 1930s, first known only as Secret Agent X-9.

When George Lucas, producer of the “Star Wars” movies, was asked who should draw the comics version, he turned to the man whose Flash Gordon images he greatly admired. With “The Empire Strikes Back” due for release in 1980, Mr. Williamson began working on Marvel’s comic book versions of “Star Wars,” as well as a newspaper strip.

Alfonso Williamson was born in Manhattan on March 21, 1931, one of two children of Sally and Alfonso Williamson. His father, of Scottish descent, was a citizen of Colombia, and soon after his son was born the family moved to Bogotá.

When the boy was 9, his mother took him to the movies. He saw a chapter in the “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe” serial, was enraptured, and started sketching scenes from memory.

The family returned to New York when Alfonso was 13. He took classes at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in Manhattan (now the School of Visual Arts), and was later hired by EC.

Mr. Williamson’s first wife, the former Arlene Sattler, died in 1977. In addition to his wife of 32 years, the former Cori Pasquier, he is survived by his sister, Liliana Gonzalez Williamson; a daughter, Valerie Lalor; and a son, Victor.

The last Flash Gordon images drawn by Mr. Williamson show the hero leading rebels in an attack on Ming’s mountain fortress, then dueling with Ming until the tyrant leaps into a volcanic crater to avoid being captured.

“Which, of course, allows him to return another day,” Mr. Schultz said. “You never want to show the reader the body.”

Al Williamson, Illustrator of Comic Books, Dies at 79, NYT, 20.6.2010,






Frank Frazetta, Illustrator, Dies at 82;

Helped Define Comic Book Heroes


May 10, 2010
The New York Times


Frank Frazetta, an illustrator of comic books, movie posters and paperback book covers whose visions of musclebound men fighting with swords and axes to defend scantily dressed women helped define fantasy heroes like Conan, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, died on Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 82.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said Rob Pistella and Stephen Ferzoco, Mr. Frazetta’s business managers.

Mr. Frazetta was a versatile and prolific comic book artist who, in the 1940s and ’50s, drew for comic strips like Al Capp’s “Lil’ Abner” and comic books like “Famous Funnies,” for which he contributed a series of covers depicting the futuristic adventurer Buck Rogers.

A satirical advertisement Mr. Frazetta drew for Mad earned him his first Hollywood job, the movie poster for “What’s New Pussycat?” (1965), a sex farce written by Woody Allen that starred Peter Sellers. In 1983 he collaborated with the director Ralph Bakshi to produce the animated film “Fire and Ice.”

His most prominent work, however, was on the cover of book jackets, where his signature images were of strikingly fierce, hard-bodied heroes and bosomy, callipygian damsels in distress. In 1966, his cover of “Conan the Adventurer,” a collection of four fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, depicted a brawny long-haired warrior standing in repose on top of a pile of skeletons and other detritus, his sword thrust downward into the mound, an apparently naked young woman lying at his feet, hugging his ankle.

The cover created a new look for fantasy adventure novels and established Mr. Frazetta as an artist who could sell books. He illustrated many more Conan books (including “Conan the Conqueror,” “Conan the Usurper” and “Conan the Avenger”) and works by Edgar Rice Burroughs (including “John Carter and the Savage Apes of Mars” and “Tarzan and the Antmen”).

“Paperback publishers have been known to buy one of his paintings for use as a cover, then commission a writer to turn out a novel to go with it,” The New York Times reported in 1977, the same year that a collection of his drawings, “The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta,” sold more than 300,000 copies.

Frank Frazzetta was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1928, and as a boy studied painting at a local art school. (Early in his career, he excised one z from his last name because “with one z it just looked better,” Mr. Pistella said. “He said the two z’s and two t’s was too clumsy.”)

Mr. Frazetta began drawing for comic books of all stripes — westerns, mysteries, fantasies — when he was still a teenager. He was also a good enough baseball player to try out for the New York Giants.

The popularity of Mr. Frazetta’s work coincided with the rise of heavy metal in the early 1970s, and his otherworldly imagery showed up on a number of album covers, including Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster” and Nazareth’s “Expect No Mercy.” Last year, Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist for Metallica, bought Mr. Frazetta’s cover artwork for the paperback reissue of Robert E. Howard’s “Conan the Conqueror” for $1 million.

Mr. Frazetta married Eleanor Kelly, known as Ellie, in 1956. She served as his occasional model and as his business partner; in 2000 she started a small museum of her husband’s work on their property in East Stroudsburg, Pa. She died last year.

Mr. Frazetta is survived by three sisters, Carol, Adel and Jeanie; two sons, Alfonso Frank Frazetta, known as Frank Jr., and William Frazetta, both of East Stroudsburg; two daughters, Heidi Grabin, of Englewood, Fla., and Holly Frazetta, of Boca Grande, Fla.; and 11 grandchildren.

After Ellie Frazetta’s death, her children became embroiled in a custodial dispute over their father’s work, and in December, Frank Jr. was arrested on charges of breaking into the family museum and attempting to remove 90 paintings that had been insured for $20 million. In April, the family said the dispute over the paintings had been resolved, and the Monroe County, Pa., district attorney said he would drop the charges.

    Frank Frazetta, Illustrator, Dies at 82;
    Helped Define Comic Book Heroes, NYT, 10.5.2010,


















Algorithm and Blues        NYT        27 September 2009
















Algorithm and Blues


September 27, 2009
The New York Times


Well, this is unexpected — a comic book about the quest for logical certainty in mathematics. The story spans the decades from the late 19th century to World War II, a period when the nature of mathematical truth was being furiously debated. The stellar cast, headed up by Bertrand Russell, includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses, plus a couple of homicidal maniacs, an apocryphal barber and Adolf Hitler.

Improbable material for comic-book treatment? Not really. The principals in this intellectual drama are superheroes of a sort. They go up against a powerful nemesis, who might be called Dark Antinomy. Each is haunted by an inner demon, the Specter of Madness. Their quest has a tragic arc, not unlike that of Superman or Donald Duck.

So, at least, the creators of “Logicomix” would have us believe. First published last year in Greece (where it became a surprise best seller), the comic book — er, graphic novel? — is the brainchild of Apostolos Doxiadis, previously the author of a not-bad mathematical fiction called “Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture.” For expert assistance on logic, Doxiadis called on his friend Christos Papadimitriou, a professor of computer science at Berkeley and the author of a novel about Alan Turing. The art was done by Alecos Papadatos (drawings) and Annie Di Donna (color).

All four collaborators pop up in interludes throughout the book. (Doxiadis, evidently a handsome fellow, is drawn to look rather like Robert Goulet.) We see them chatting in the artists’ studio or strolling around contemporary Athens, accompanied by an adorable dog called Manga (Greek slang for “cool dude,” not a reference to Japanese comics). They argue about the developing ­logic-and-­madness theme and fret over whether there’s too much or too little technical stuff for the average reader. It’s almost as if they want to pre-empt the stern judgment of the reviewer. Fat chance.

The story proper opens on Sept. 4, 1939, three days after the Nazi invasion of Poland. Bertrand Russell is giving a public lecture at an American university on the role of logic in human affairs. Angry isolationists in the audience challenge Russell to explain how logic could justify participating in a world war. Ah, he responds, but what is logic?

In a series of flashbacks, Russell recounts his epic struggle with that question. We see him first as a little boy, in the 1870s, being brought up by his grandparents after the mysterious — to him, at least — disappearance of his mother and father. (Before succumbing to disease, Russell’s parents lived in a scandalous ménage-a-trois with a rather sinister amateur scientist.) Russell’s grandfather, Lord John Russell, a Whig aristocrat and reformer, had twice been prime minister, but it was his dour and pious grandmother who dominated his childhood. Not only did he suffer from crushing loneliness, but it was borne in upon him that his Uncle Willy had to be shut away as a violent lunatic. (His Aunt Agatha was none too sane either.) This was the beginning of his lifelong terror of hereditary madness, and the impetus for many a nightmare, which the cartoonists depict with lurid relish.

The adolescent Russell sought refuge in the abstractions of mathematics. (In his autobiography, he claimed it was his love of mathematics that saved him from suicide.) His vision of an enchanted logical world was jarred, however, when he reached Cambridge and found that mathematics as practiced there was little more than a bag of calculating tricks, sloppily based on physical intuition rather than rigorous proof. If certain knowledge was to be achieved, he grew convinced, the house of mathematics had to be rebuilt from scratch on firm logical foundations.

Russell’s quest for certainty coincided with a busy erotic career. We see him courting Alys, the pretty American Quaker girl who would become the first of his four wives. (The cartoonists inexplicably neglect to depict what Russell later described as “the happiest morning of my life,” when Alys allowed him to kiss her breasts). The young couple set off on a tour of the Continent, where Russell seeks out Gottlob Frege, the greatest logician since Aristotle, and Georg Cantor, the creator of the mathematical theory of infinity. Both men, to Russell’s consternation, prove to be slightly daft. In Paris, at the 1900 International Congress of Mathematicians, he witnesses a titanic clash between Henri Poincaré and David Hilbert, the two greatest mathematicians of the day, over the importance of intuition versus proof. Returning to England, Russell spends the next decade laboring with Alfred North Whitehead to complete the epic “Principia Mathematica” — all the while doing his best to seduce Whitehead’s comely wife, Evelyn. Their (stillborn) masterpiece runs many thousands of pages, a mere 362 of which are required to prove the interesting proposition “1 + 1 = 2.”

All of this is presented with real graphic verve. (Even though I’m a text guy, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the witty drawings.) To ginger up the story, the authors often deviate from the actual facts. As they admit in an afterword, Russell never met Frege or Cantor in the flesh. Nor, I am fairly certain, did he ever say to Whitehead, “I’m tired, man.” (You expect Whitehead to reply, “Me too, bro!”) We are assured, however, that no liberties have been taken with “the great adventure of ideas.” And for the most part the ideas are conveyed accurately, and with delightful simplicity. If you don’t know much about infinity, for instance, you are invited to check in to “Hilbert’s Hotel” — which, with its infinite number of rooms, can miraculously accommodate additional guests even when it’s completely full.

There is one serious misstep, though. It has to do with the notorious paradox that Russell discovered in the spring of 1901: the paradox of the set of all sets that don’t contain themselves as members. (Think of the barber of Seville, who shaves all men, and only those men, who do not shave themselves. Does this barber shave himself or not? Either possibility yields a contradiction.) The authors have fun unpacking Russell’s paradox, but they exaggerate its fallout. The paradox did ultimately doom Russell’s (and Frege’s) project of reducing mathematics to pure logic. However — and this is something that Russell himself failed to realize, along with the authors — it left mathematics pretty much undisturbed. When Cantor heard of Russell’s paradox, he did not react like a madman, the way ­“Logicomix” caricatures him. He calmly observed that it did not apply to his own theory of sets, which evolved into the present-day foundation of mathematics.

It is true that Cantor did suffer fits of madness (the magus of infinity died in a mental asylum), as did many other figures in this story. Frege, the consummate logician, ended up a foaming anti-Semite. Kurt Gödel, who proved that no logical system could capture all of mathematics, starved himself to death out of a paranoid fear that people were poisoning his food. Russell maintained his own grip on sanity, but his fear of hereditary madness was borne out when his elder son became schizophrenic and his granddaughter, also schizophrenic, committed suicide by setting herself afire. Russell’s philosophical confidence, however, was shattered by his onetime pupil Ludwig Wittgenstein, who made him realize that he had never really understood what logic was.

Is it madness to be driven by a passion for something as inhuman as abstract certainty? This is a question the four creators of “Logicomix” ponder as, in a beguiling coda, they make their way through nighttime Athens to an open-air performance of the “Oresteia.” Oddly enough, Aeschylus’ trilogy furnishes the concluding wisdom, which, at the risk of triteness, I’ll condense into a mathematical inequality:

Life > logic.


Jim Holt is the author of “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This:

A History and Philosophy of Jokes.”

He is at work on a book about the puzzle of existence.



Written by Apostolos Doxiadis

and Christos H. Papadimitriou

Illustrated by Alecos Papadatos

and Annie Di Donna

347 pp. Bloomsbury. $22.95

Algorithm and Blues, NYT, 27.9.2009,






Michael Turner, 37,

Creator of Superheroines,

Is Dead


July 6, 2008
The New York Times


Michael Turner, a popular comic-book artist who came to fame in the mid-1990s and was best known for creating two sexy female lead characters, Witchblade and Fathom, died on June 27 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 37.

The cause was complications from treatment for bone cancer, his colleague Vince Hernandez said in a statement.

Armed with only a hastily assembled five-page sample of his work, Mr. Turner was discovered at a comic-book convention in 1993 by Marc Silvestri, one of seven artists who founded Image Comics in 1992. Within months, Mr. Turner went from waiting tables to being a top-selling artist.

Mr. Turner, along with Mr. Silvestri and a few others, soon created his best-known character, Witchblade, named after a supernatural weapon that affixed itself to the arm of Sara Pezzini, a homicide detective in New York; the transformation left her provocatively clad, armed and dangerous.

The novelist and part-time comic-book writer Brad Meltzer, in a special edition of the comics-industry magazine Wizard that was devoted to Mr. Turner before he died, said: “Anyone who says they didn’t become aware of Mike when they saw one of his hot girl drawings is a liar. That’s when he hit the radar.”

Witchblade first appeared in comic books in 1995 and became the basis of a live-action series on the cable channel TNT in 2001. It ran for about two seasons.

In 1998, Mr. Turner created the aquatic Fathom, published by Top Cow Productions. In her secret identity Fathom was a marine biologist with a model’s looks named Aspen Matthews.

Two years later, Mr. Turner learned he had a type of cancer called chondrosarcoma in his right pelvis. He lost his hip, 40 percent of his pelvis and three pounds of bone and underwent nine months of radiation therapy. He eventually went into remission, only to have the cancer return several times.

In 2002, Mr. Turner founded Aspen MLT, an entertainment publishing company. The L stood for Lane, his middle name, which he rarely used. The company’s comics were delayed by a yearlong legal battle with Top Cow regarding the rights to Fathom and other properties. The case was settled out of court the next year.

In 2004, Mr. Turner began contributing work to DC and Marvel, the comics industry giants. His cover art brought him particular attention, including his illustrations for Identity Crisis, a top-selling seven-part mystery written by Mr. Meltzer, in which DC superheroes, including Superman, Green Arrow and Hawkman, are forced to question their culpability in a vengeful murder.

As with every cover they worked on, “Mike and I spoke at length about the design” of the final one for the project, Mr. Meltzer wrote in an e-mail message. The cover presented the characters as empty costumes, which ambiguously represented either the end of the age of superheroes or a rebirth.

Mr. Meltzer continued: “The only thing we argued about, as only two geeks can: whether Batman’s cowl should be flat and empty, or stiff and armored. I lost. He won. And he was right. But make no mistake, with Mike gone, the capes and cowls are most certainly empty. His covers were the first thing every reader saw. And he was the one true ‘big name’ on the book. That’s why people picked it up.”

Fans were important to Mr. Turner. He was always appreciative of people who stopped to say hello at conventions, and he signed countless autographs, even when he was confined to a wheelchair, Gareb Shamus, the publisher of Wizard, said.

Mr. Turner was born in Crossville, Tenn., on April 21, 1971, and is survived by his mother, Grace, and his brother, Jake.

In high school, Mr. Turner took an art class, but he mostly drew for his own amusement. In 1993, he was encouraged to put together a sampling of his work and to attend the San Diego Comic-Con, the nation’s largest comic convention. It was there he met the staff of Top Cow.

“We gave him his first shot,” Mr. Silvestri said. “That will always be important: that we had a little something to do with bringing Mike to the world of comics.”

One of the first tests for the new artist was to draw a building. It looked awful, “like a lump of bread,” Mr. Silvestri recalled. Still, he found Mr. Turner so affable that they tried again, this time with help from a reference book on New York architecture. The results were remarkable.

“I did a double take,” Mr. Silvestri said. “It was beautiful, incredible. More than I would’ve possibly expected from a seasoned professional. I asked him flat out, ‘Where did this come from?’ He said, ‘No one ever told me to look at a picture before.’ ”

Michael Turner, 37, Creator of Superheroines, Is Dead, NYT, 6.7.2008,






Grossman Land


July 2, 2008
6:43 pm
The New York Times
By Steven Heller


In his 40-plus year career as a cartoonist, illustrator, sculptor and animator Robert Grossman has created numerous political comic strips for mainstream and alternative magazines. These strips acerbically address issues of the day, most often before they are on the popular culture radar screen.

His earliest strips in the 1960s included “Captain Melanin,” which featured one of the first black superheroes; “Roger Ruthless of the C.I.A.,” which questioned the agency’s work; and the comically veiled Richard M. Nightcrawler, an insect with henchmen named Haldebug and Ehrlichbug. In the 70s, his strip titled “Zoonooz” featured a menagerie of anthropomorphic beasts, including President Gerald Duck.

The 80s brought us Cap’n Bushy, in which a squirrel that looked a lot like President George H.W. Bush fought the evil Saddy the Baddy. And in the 90s, there were Bill and Hilma Klintstone who lived in the Stone Age town of Bigrock. The deft way in which Mr. Grossman captures the essential truth behind his characters have impressed many fans and followers.

His most recent political comics, which began in The New York Observer and migrated to The Nation, are now collected under his own Web site, O-manland. They follow the ins and outs of the 2008 presidential campaign. Indeed, Mr. Grossman was one of the first American comic strip artists to cover the campaign consistently. Since I’ve long admired his work, I took the opportunity of the launch of his Web site to discuss with him what makes his satire work so well.

Steven Heller: Why O-manland?
Robert Grossman: O-manland is just the name of the site/blog that I put online a couple of days ago as the repository of all the comic strips I’ve done so far regarding the election. I dreamed up the character called O-man exactly a year ago for an installment of “Observer Campaign Comics,” a weekly strip I started last April, which was discontinued last October. Since then I have been doing a monthly strip in The Nation magazine in a space called “Comix Nation” that I share with Steve Brodner, Ward Sutton, Francis Jetter, Rick Meyerowitz, Bob Blechman and others.

Q: Why not do McCainland?
A: John McCain has appeared a few times in the current series, most recently as an old veteran who magically transforms into an unstoppable war machine called Flyboy McPlane. I expect to do more with him, perhaps dog-fighting with O-man who also flies.

Q: Do you think of yourself as partisan, or are you an equal opportunity satirist?
A: I don’t think cartoons are ever “for” anything. The idea is to ridicule everything, although you are free to guess for whom I am likely to vote when the time comes.

Q: Some people argue that caricature is undignified when it comes to depicting presidents or presidential candidates, what do you think?
A: Undignified? Virtually anything has more dignity than lying and blundering before the whole stupefied world, which seems to be the politician’s eternal role.

Q: What distinguishes your strips from more traditional editorial cartoons is, well, your sense of the absurd. One of your strips titled “Fancy That!” appeared late last and introduced the notion that Hillary Clinton is a fan of ferrets. Where did that come from?
A: Absurd? Surely you’ve noticed that reality is absurd. Rudy Giuliani’s excoriation of ferret owners really happened as quoted. It was only logical that Mrs. Clinton might have seen that as an opportunity to gain support. Incidentally, since no one seems to have picked it up, I’ll point out that my picture of Hillary Clinton and the ferret is solidly based on a painting by Leonardo da Vinci of a woman fondling a weasel.

Q: You also introduced Maria the Mechanical Woman from Fritz Lang’s classic film “Metropolis” into your strip. Forgive me for asking but what does she have to do with the price of campaign commercials?
A: Although mechanical women have cropped up here and there in the past — think of Coppelia in the Tales of Hoffmann — the lady robot in “Metropolis” stands out for me as a paragon of the idea. George Lukas said she was the inspiration for his C3PO. I was looking for someone who could coach Hillary Clinton in likeableness. I had already given Michael Bloomberg a personal robot — Macro-Mike, the good government golem — so I thought Maria could be that robot’s great grandmother. I confess I didn’t know she was named Maria until I googled “Metropolis.” but then I thought, why not?

Q: It is sometimes easy to cross the line between satire and insult, even outright slander. So, where do you draw the line?
A: If satire isn’t at least a little insulting what’s the point of it? Slander is a legal term, but I believe the courts have generally held that parody is a form of protected expression.

Q: Speaking of crossing the line, your “Oh Obama” strip that ran on May 27, in The Nation raises an unpleasant specter of harm coming to Barack Obama in a song sung by Hillary Clinton. While a clever play on the lyrics of “Oh Susanna,” don’t you think it was in bad taste?
A: Some of the readers of The Nation took strong offense and I had to point out to them that Hillary Clinton had more than once brought up the subject of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination as a reason she was prolonging her campaign. Keith Olbermann practically went nuts on the air raging at her about it, and other commentators loudly tsk-tsked as well. As far as I know I’m the only one who made up a song about it, and a danceable one at that.

Q: How do you see your strips evolving as the campaign wears on? Do you have a plan?
A: Of course I don’t have a plan for how the strips will go because they depend on how the election goes, which is delightfully unknowable. In January, we thought we would be looking at a contest between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Now that would have been funny.

Q: Hey, I noticed a character in your strip titled “Taint Funny” that looks suspiciously like me. Is it?
A: By golly, the arugula analyst in “Taint Funny” does look a bit like you! Do you think I need a disclaimer in tiny print saying: Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental?

Grossman Land, NYT, 2.7.2008,






From Trash to Auction,

Faster Than a Speeding ...

Well, You Know


June 30, 2008
The New York Times


Comic-book collectors like their numbers. They know that the first issue of X-Men, which introduced Marvel’s mutant superheroes, was published in 1963 and had a cover price of 12 cents. They also know that today a copy of that issue, in near mint condition, is worth $16,500. (Parents, take note.)

And while the market for back issues is well established, more and more collectors are turning their attention to the hand-drawn covers and interior pages that make up a comic book. This original art has become the focus of auctions with sales in the five and six figures. It’s a surprising turn of events for work that in the early days of the industry, was considered so unimportant that it was used to sop up ink or spilled coffee, given away to fans or even destroyed outright.

The art eventually stopped being discarded, and in the 1970s it generally became policy to return the covers and pages to the artists, many of whom began selling it to fans and collectors, who are hungry for it. Last month the cover of Weird Science No. 16, from 1952, drawn by Wally Wood, sold for $200,000. In February an inside black-and-white page from the 1963 X-Men No. 1, by the influential Jack Kirby, sold for $33,460. Late last year two color paintings by Alex Ross, used as covers for a recent Justice League story, were sold by his art dealer for $45,000 and $50,000. In 2005 an auction for the black-and-white cover of Batman No. 11, from 1942, by Fred Ray and Jerry Robinson, closed at $195,500.

The sales reflect the range of what entices collectors: from the wide-ranging work of Mr. Kirby, the “King of Comics,” to rarities like the early Batman cover to lavishly painted depictions of classic superheroes by the critically acclaimed Mr. Ross.

“From the ’60s and the ’70s, when these markets were just beginning, it’s been shocking,” said Jerry Weist, 58, author of “The Comic Art Price Guide.” “And to the old-timers we can hardly believe it. We felt vindicated when we started to see covers sell for five, six or seven thousand dollars in the ’70s. Now it’s gone beyond that. I’m pretty much priced out of the field.”

Collectors of original comic-book art sound like a subculture within a subculture, and that’s fine with many aficionados. “There was a thrill in finding something nerdier than collecting comics,” said David Mandel, 37, an executive producer of the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” who first bought original art during a visit to the San Diego Comic-Con in 1995.

Mr. Mandel has pieces that would make many fans drool, like the cover, by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum, of Giant-Size X-Men from 1975, which trumpeted Wolverine, Storm and others as the new incarnation of the mutant team, and the 1982 cover of Daredevil No. 181, by Frank Miller, depicting the death of Elektra, the title hero’s girlfriend.

His collection also includes the last four pages from “The Killing Joke,” a seminal 1988 story that helped usher in a new level of maturity for comic books. That Batman tale chronicles a possible origin for the hero’s nemesis, and was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. In November the last page of the story became available at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. Mr. Mandel landed it for just over $31,000.

“The story ends with them laughing, taking a moment in their relationship to laugh,” Mr. Mandel said. “As a reader and as a comedy writer, it resonated.”

More so than with comic books — where multiple copies of even the most sought-after issue exist — the original art they are produced from satisfies a collector’s desire for the exclusive. “If I have the original hand-drawn cover to, say, an issue of X-Men, that’s the only hand-drawn cover to that issue of X-Men. It’s one of a kind. Anyone who has a collecting gene can respond to that,” Mr. Mandel said.

The value of any original comic-book art begins with its creator. “If it is Superman drawn by Curt Swan, it’s worth a lot more than Superman drawn by Joe Schmo,” said Joe Mannarino, who owns Comic Art Appraisal and All Star Auctions in Ridgewood, N.J., with his wife, Nadia.

Mr. Swan, who died in 1996, drew Superman regularly from the 1950s through the 1980s. The value of a page of his art is also contingent on what is depicted (Superman in action or supporting characters talking?) and whether the issue is significant. (First appearances and important stories are more valuable than routine adventures.) An attempt to recapture the collector’s childhood comes into play too.

“An awful amount of the money being spent is certainly connected to the baby-boom generation and their sense of nostalgia,” said Mr. Weist, the price-guide author.

Nostalgia is certainly something Mr. Ross, 38, is familiar with. His first major comic-book project was in 1994, for Marvel, and it retold the early days of the Marvel universe of heroes through the eyes of a photojournalist. His reputation for photorealistic renderings of superheroes was cemented two years later by Kingdom Come, a lavishly painted comic that envisioned a future DC universe with irresponsible superheroes run rampant. The project pushed prices for his original art from hundreds to thousands of dollars a page.

“Images of DC and Marvel characters are the best sellers, bar none,” said Mr. Ross, who sells many pieces at alexrossart.com. “It’s also what I enjoy to illustrate the most. It’s what the buyers of similar backgrounds as myself want. They want the thing they grew up with.”

From Trash to Auction, Faster Than a Speeding ...Well, You Know,
    NYT, 30.6.2008,






Comics Publishers

Cautiously Go Online


November 13, 2007
Filed at 8:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Marvel is putting some of its older comics online Tuesday, hoping to reintroduce young people to the X-Men and Fantastic Four by showcasing the original issues in which such characters appeared.

It's a tentative move onto the Internet: Comics can only be viewed in a Web browser, not downloaded, and new issues will only go online at least six months after they first appear in print.

Still, it represents perhaps the comics industry's most aggressive Web push yet. Even as their creations -- from Iron Man to Wonder Woman -- become increasingly visible in pop culture through new movies and video games, old-school comics publishers rely primarily on specialized, out-of-the-way comic shops for distribution of their bread-and-butter product.

''You don't have that spinner rack of comic books sitting in the local five-and-dime any more,'' said Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing. ''We don't have our product intersecting kids in their lifestyle space as much as we used to.''

Translate ''kids' lifestyle space'' into plain English and you get ''the Internet.'' Marvel's two most prominent competitors currently offer online teasers designed to drive the sales of comics or book collections.

Dark Horse Comics now puts its monthly anthologies ''Dark Horse Presents'' up for free viewing on its MySpace site. The images are vibrant and large.

DC Comics has also put issues up on MySpace, and recently launched the competition-based Zuda Comics, which encourages users to rank each other's work, as a way to tap into the expanding Web comic scene. Company president Paul Levitz said he expects to put more original comics online in coming years.

''We look at anything that connects comics to people,'' Levitz said. ''The most interesting thing about the online world to me is the opportunity for new forms of creativity. ... It's a question of what forms of storytelling work for the Web?''

For its mature Vertigo imprint, DC offers weekly sneak peeks at the first five or six pages of upcoming issues. The publisher also gives out downloadable PDF files of the first issues in certain series, timed to publication of the series in book or graphic novel format.

The Web release of DC's ''Y the Last Man'' sent sales of that book collection soaring at Bridge City Comics in Portland, Ore., the shop's owner Michael Ring said.

''They really do tend to be feeder systems,'' Ring said of online comics. ''They give people that initial taste.''

For Marvel, the general public has often already gotten its initial taste through movies like ''Spider-Man'' or the ''Fantastic Four'' franchises.

The publisher is hoping fans will be intrigued enough about the origins of those characters to shell out $9.99 a month, or $4.99 monthly with a year-long commitment. For that price, they'll be able to poke through, say, the first 100 issues of Stan Lee's 1963 creation ''Amazing Spider-Man'' at their leisure, along with more recent titles like ''House of M'' and ''Young Avengers.'' Comics can be viewed in several different formats, including frame-by-frame navigation.

Ring expects Marvel's effort to put a slight dent in the back-issue segment of the comic shop industry, where rare, out-of-print titles sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay and at trade shows.

Though most comic fans are collectors, some simply want to catch up on the backstory of their favorite characters and would no longer have to pay top dollar to do so.

About 2,500 issues will be available at launch of Marvel Digital Comics, with 20 more being released each week.


On the Net:




    Comics Publishers Cautiously Go Online, NYT, 13.11.2007,






Ideas & Trends

You’re a Good Prop, Cruel Muse


October 14, 2007
The New York Times


THE cult of the suffering artist, that gaunt, rheumy-eyed creation of Romanticism, was all about introspection and isolation, so it didn’t exactly bequeath a handbook.

If it had, a few artists probably would have been cited as examples to emulate. Van Gogh, of course, as the depressive in chief. “The more I am spent, ill, a broken pitcher,” he wrote shortly before the earlobe incident, “so much more am I an artist.” Rimbaud, with his description of the artist as he who “exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences,” would have been included. And even such late entries as the novelist Ford Madox Ford, who wore his artistic hair shirt extra scratchy, piling up miseries and misdeeds: bankruptcy, depression, incarceration, agoraphobia and infidelity (with his wife’s sister, no less). He described his youth as a period of “moral torture.”

To make room on this list for Charles M. Schulz, hugely wealthy and long famous creator of a beloved bunch of cartoon kids and their zany beagle, might seem like a stretch, or a gag from “Peanuts” itself. But since Mr. Schulz’s death seven years ago — in fact even while he was alive — the image of him as an unhappy, lonely and bitter man who drew deeply on his discontent to create his comic strips has gained ground. And with the publication this week of a highly anticipated biography by David Michaelis, “Schulz and Peanuts,” that examines seemingly every disappointment and slight (real or perceived) in Mr. Schulz’s 77 years, his reputation as tormented creative soul seems poised only to grow.

The book was written with the cooperation of Mr. Schulz’s family, but in the weeks leading up to its release, some family members have criticized it, saying that it overemphasizes his melancholy and chilly side at the expense of other aspects of his personality — his generosity, his sense of humor, his love of family and, in many ways, his resolute normalness.

“It’s not a full portrait,” Jean Schulz, his second wife, told The New York Times last week. Monte Schulz, his son, called it “preposterous.” Mr. Michaelis has defended himself, saying that after years of research and hundreds of interviews with those who knew the cartoonist best, “this was the man I found.”

Such arguments are nothing particularly new in the world of biography. Writers and loved ones often end up staring each other down across a big chasm separating substantially different versions of a subject both claim to know intimately. But in the case of Mr. Schulz, the dispute seems to bring up a more fundamental question, whether almost two centuries after outlaws like Byron and Chateaubriand linked suffering and creativity, a connection that probably would have baffled Shakespeare or Swift, we still have a deep-seated need to believe in the idea of the tortured artist, to think that the only enduring ones are the really unhappy ones, even if we’re talking about syndicated cartoon-strip artists.

While Mr. Schulz took pains to say that he did not see his cartoons as serious art, critics and writers have tended to disagree, some comparing his career to that of Balzac in scope. The short-story writer George Saunders has said that “Peanuts” prepared him for Beckett. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the man behind that work was a Balzac or a Beckett, or more than a very talented and insightful popular entertainer. And this is the ground in which Mr. Michaelis has gone to work, depicting Mr. Schulz as a much more self-aware and autobiographical artist than has been understood previously, a conduit for his times and the timeless subjects of art: longing, love, heartbreak, disappointment, distrust. (One strip, drawn when Mr. Schulz’s first marriage was breaking up and his wife, suspicious of an affair, was questioning his phone bills, shows Charlie Brown yelling at a lovesick Snoopy: “And stop making those long-distance phone calls!”)

Looked at simply as a narrative problem, it is not hard to see why any biographer would want a strong framing device in trying to tell the story of Mr. Schulz. He was a homebody workaholic whose passions, other than his strips, were golf and hockey. He was a Sunday school teacher who was not only a teetotaler but disdainful of drinking and those who did it. His favorite ice cream was vanilla. A woman who knew him at the height of his early fame described him as a “genius at becoming invisible.”

In trying to mine the sources of a lifelong gloom it’s not easy to figure out where his demons might have come from — except a naturally oversensitive and crabby personality.

He had, by conventional measures, what George Plimpton (speaking of himself) called a “non-unhappy childhood.” His father, an industrious barber in St. Paul, had work throughout the Depression. His mother could be aloof and withholding and died when he was 20. But it was she who took him to his first comics show; she knew he was smitten.

Stacked up against the sundry misfortunes that were courted by or fell on the heads of history’s best-known tortured artists — prostitute mothers (Jean Genet); drug addictions (Coleridge); physical deformities (Toulouse-Lautrec) — those that Mr. Michaelis describes in Mr. Schulz’s youth sound tame and sometimes a little silly. His father used to give him funny haircuts; he had to sleep in a room with his grandmother, who snored; he was afraid of girls and had a crushing Norwegian sense of humility; he was terrorized by schoolyard bullies, though those who knew him at the time can’t remember an instance of him actually being walloped by any.

Patricia Hampl, a memoirist and poet who grew up in St. Paul and teaches at the University of Minnesota, suggested that our desire to think of good artists as fundamentally troubled stems from a need even now — perhaps particularly now, in the age of entertainment’s dominance — for art to be something separate from our quotidian lives, something almost spiritual.

“People don’t want to believe that someone like them could just sit down at a typewriter or a desk and create something great or timeless,” she said. “It’s got to be the product of a lot of misery and angst.” She compared the impulse to that of conspiracy theorists and their reluctance to believe in the banality of evil: “It’s hard to accept that a guy could just go up into a building and shoot the president.”

Morris Dickstein, a professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, said he believed that despite the cliché of the suffering artist, pain still deserved a whole lot of credit as a catalyst for creativity. “People who have always had a happy life and lived on an even keel and haven’t had a lot of misfortune really don’t tend to be creative people,” he said. (Though of course there are many contemporary examples of successful writers and artists who seem to have gotten by with fairly contented lives: John Updike? Jeff Koons?)

Perhaps in today’s era of acute awareness of our depressions and neuroses, Mr. Schulz’s, as mild as they might have been, were simply enough to qualify him for membership in the modern miserable artists’ club. Or, as Mr. Dickstein suggested, maybe there wasn’t a need for a monumental amount of misery but for just enough to fit the funny pages.

“It got filtered into a medium that we don’t think of as deep,” Mr. Dickstein said, “and certainly not as being dark.”

And yet in its own way “Peanuts” could make a bit of newsprint as forlorn as a set for “Waiting for Godot” (with a kite, of course, caught in the naked tree and a doghouse somewhere in the distance). As Mr. Schulz himself summed it up: “All the loves in the strip are unrequited; all the baseball games are lost; all the test scores are D-minuses; the Great Pumpkin never comes; and the football is always pulled away.”

    You’re a Good Prop, Cruel Muse, NYT, 14.10.2007,






Collector Buys Coveted Batman Comic


October 10, 2007
Filed at 12:26 p.m. ET
The New York Times


ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. (AP) -- Holy collectibles, Batman! A near-mint copy of Detective Comics 27, a pre-World War II comic featuring Batman's debut, was recently found in an attic and sold to a local collector.

The comic is considered to be the second-most valuable available and can fetch up to $500,000. The only comic considered more valuable is Action Comics 1, where Superman makes his first appearance.

Collector Todd McDevitt said the Batman issue he bought is worth about $250,000, but he won't say how much he paid for it or who sold the book to him.

''It was a typical story of someone cleaning up junk in their attic and finding an old comic book and wondering if this was one of those ones that was worth a lot of money,'' McDevitt told the Beaver County Times.

McDevitt, owner of the Pittsburgh region's five New Dimension Comics stores, said he has been saving money since 1986 so that he could buy a valuable comic when it appeared.

When the seller walked in with the Batman issue, ''my eyes almost popped out of my head,'' McDevitt said. ''I guess I should have been more reserved, but I'm not a very good poker player.''

Experts estimate there are between 20 to a few hundred copies of the Batman debut.

McDevitt's comic now sits safely in an airtight bag in a bank vault. On occasion, he takes it out to show friends and customers.

''I've been toying with the idea of reading it, but I haven't yet,'' he said. ''I'm going to savor it.''

    Collector Buys Coveted Batman Comic, NYT, 10.10.2007,






DC Comics launches

online search for new superheroes


Tuesday July 10, 2007
Ed Pilkington in New York


The publishers of some of the most cherished names in comic book history, including Batman and Superman, are launching a website designed to open up the world of comics to a new generation of web-literate and talented amateurs.

DC Comics, a division of Warner Brothers Entertainment, is setting up a web imprint called Zudacomics.com in the hope of filtering out the best young writers and artists from the current boom in web comics. The best entrants will be awarded a year-long contract to produce content that will feature on the web and in print.

The first of a monthly series of competitions will be launched in October. The company's executives will boil down the entries to the best 10, which will be voted upon by registered members of the site.

Paul Levitz, the publisher of DC Comics, would not specify how much the winners would be paid over their year's contract, but he said they would receive an up-front fee, followed by royalties on any strips that made it into print.

"People creating their own comics and putting them up on the web has become a phenomenon in our field, but many artists haven't worked out how to monetise their efforts. We hope to bring some of those people on board, to the benefit of both sides," Mr Levitz said.

Of DC Comics' famous stable of characters, Batman and Superman were created by in-house draughtsmen. Wonder Woman, the superheroine who was as beautiful as Aphrodite and stronger than Hercules, had a less traditional start in life: its creator, a psychologist called William Marston who believed in women's empowerment, was approached by DC Comics after he wrote an article in 1940 for Family Circle magazine about the growing comic book industry.

More recently, the craze in manga comics has helped the comic industry to avoid the troubles of other print media in the US which have suffered falling circulation due to migration to the internet. This autumn 87 new manga series are planned, according to the comic news website ICV2.

DC Comics launches online search for new superheroes, G, 10.7.2007,






Marvel Comics Buries Captain America


June 30, 2007
Filed at 4:48 p.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- It's a funeral fit for a superhero.

In the drizzling rain at Arlington National Cemetery, thousands of grieving patriots solemnly watch as the pall bearers -- Iron Man, the Black Panther, Ben Grimm and Ms. Marvel -- carry a casket draped with an American flag.

Yes, folks, Captain America is dead and buried in the latest issue of Marvel Comics, due on newsstands the morning after Independence Day. After 66 years of battling villains from Adolf Hitler to the Red Skull, the red, white and blue leader of the Avengers was felled by an assassin's bullet on the steps of a New York federal courthouse.

He was headed to court after refusing to sign the government's Superhero Registration Act, a move that would have revealed his true identity. A sniper who fired from a rooftop was captured as police and Captain America's military escort were left to cope with chaos in the streets.

But the sniper didn't act alone, and didn't even fire the shot that killed the captain.

Writer Jeph Loeb has been busy working through the stages of grief in the most recent issues of Marvel Comics. A book centered on Wolverine dealt with denial; one with the Avengers covered anger; and Spider-Man battled depression.

With the story line so relevant to present-day politics, and the timing of the latest issue so precise, it's hard not to think the whole thing is one big slam on the government.

''Part of it grew out of the fact that we are a country that's at war, we are being perceived differently in the world,'' Loeb said. ''He wears the flag and he is assassinated -- it's impossible not to have it at least be a metaphor for the complications of present day.''

But Loeb says he was working with more personal material: the death of his 17-year-old son from cancer.

''So many people have lost their sons and daughters over the years, for the greater good or to cancer or other horrible things,'' said Loeb, an executive producer for NBC's ''Heroes.'' ''I wanted this to be something people would identify with.''

In the final frames of the book, the Falcon delivers a eulogy asking superheros old and young to stand up and honor Captain America. Loeb did a similar thing at his son's funeral.

''It was this moment where I realized that we were all different, but this boy, my son, made us all connected,'' he said. ''It was powerful.''

Captain America, whose secret identity was Steve Rogers, was an early member of the pantheon of comic book heroes that began with Superman in the 1930s.

He landed on newsstands in March 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor -- delivering a punch to Hitler on the cover of his first issue, a sock-in-the-jaw reminder that there was a war on and the United States was not involved.

Since then, Marvel Entertainment Inc., has sold more than 200 million copies of Captain America magazine in 75 countries.

In the most recent story line, he became involved in a superhero ''civil war,'' taking up sides against Iron Man in the registration controversy, climaxed by his arrest and assassination.

Marvel says you never know what will happen. He may make it back from the dead after all, although Loeb says that question isn't really important right now.

''The question is, how does the world continue without this hero?'' he said. ''If that story of his return gets told further down the line, great. But everyone's still been dealing with his loss.

''They aren't going to wake up and it's a dream, like it's some episode of 'Dallas.'''


On the Net:


Marvel Comics Buries Captain America,






A Quirky Superhero

of the Comics Trade


November 12, 2006

The New York Times



YOU may not know a little publishing company called Dark Horse Comics, but if you are a fan of Concrete (whose brain was transplanted by aliens into a stone body), Hellboy (he of the sawed-off red horns, satanic red tail and gargantuan red fist) or Sin City (the violent, edge-of-desperation town where people and principles are routinely bought and sold), then you certainly know its characters and its comic books.

And if you are a Dark Horse aficionado with an insatiable appetite, the company has more in store for next year. A new comic book series about Buffy the Vampire Slayer is on its way, written by Joss Whedon, who wrote and helped produce the popular television series of the same name. Dark Horse will also release “Star Wars: Legacy Vol. 1,” chronicling the distant future of the Jedi, as well as “300: The Art of the Film,” an account of the movie adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series about an ancient, epic battle between Spartan and Persian soldiers.

By nurturing and backing a quirky, brooding and inventive stable of writers and artists, Dark Horse has spent the last 20 years carving out and maintaining its place as a scrappy comic book franchise in an industry dominated by Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics.

Dark Horse, which is privately held, has endured in an industry where many small publishers last less than a year. It has thrived, its owners say, by sharing financial success with its artists and taking its role as an independent publisher very, very seriously.

“Every comic we do, whether we ask to share the film or toy rights or not, we publish because we think it’s a great comic,” said Mike Richardson, who founded Dark Horse 20 years ago and is the company’s president. “We want to survive far into the future, but we also want to leave a legacy.”

The Dark Horse approach calls for protecting the creative and financial rights of its contributors — including giving them a cut of the profits — and publishing comics that are well out of the mainstream (meaning fewer capes and cowls).

Based in Milwaukie, Ore., Dark Horse entered the game thanks to the birth of the direct sales market in the 1980s, which moved comics beyond newsstands and into specialty stores. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a small-press, black-and-white comic, became a hit in 1984 and started a boom that Dark Horse also enjoyed. But quick-hit comics publishers introduced a glut of ill-conceived characters and the market collapsed, taking many companies down with it. Dark Horse, however, avoided the debacle.

At the time, Mr. Richardson was a member of a community of artists and writers aspiring to make their marks in comics. Some of them created the stories in Dark Horse Presents No. 1, the company’s first comic book. “Later, I created a list of artists and writers that we thought were the best in comics and started calling them,” Mr. Richardson said. His sales pitch included promises of competitive pay and ownership of the work. The pitch worked, giving Dark Horse access to some of the most original and creative minds in the comics business.

Dark Horse later branched out to produce licensed comics devoted to the “Star Wars,” “Aliens” and “Terminator” films. It was also among a small group of pioneers that began importing Japanese comics, also known as manga (pronounced MAHN-gah).

Delving into everything from romance and adventure stories to science fiction and horror, manga have developed a large following in America and are commonly sold in bookstores. One of Dark Horse’s biggest manga successes has been the 28-volume Lone Wolf and Cub, about a wandering samurai and a young boy. The most violent and gory manga titles that Dark Horse reprints are shrink-wrapped.

“We’re reprinting them as they were published in Japan,” said Neil Hankerson, Dark Horse’s executive vice president. “We publish as is or we don’t publish it at all.”

COMIC books — sealed in plastic or not — were only the beginning. By 1991, Dark Horse had set up a unit to develop toys and later began a film division and a publishing imprint for decidedly noncomics products, including collections of Playboy interviews and a series of novels chronicling the early years of Tony Montana, the character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film “Scarface.”

Today, Dark Horse is the third-largest publisher, behind the much larger Marvel and DC, in the direct market, which includes the specialty shops that cater to comic book fans. That market produced more than $500 million in sales last year, according to Milton Griepp, the publisher and founder of ICv2, an online trade publication that covers pop culture for retailers.

According to Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of English-language comics, Marvel had 36.9 percent of the market last year and DC (owned by Time Warner) had 32.9 percent; Dark Horse came in at 5.6 percent.

At the heart of Dark Horse’s varied efforts is Mr. Richardson, 56, who is also its president. “I’m sure some people would like me to have less of a hand in things,” he said in an interview. “But clearly I like to control the direction of the different divisions.” He said Dark Horse, with about 100 employees, had $30 million in revenue last year.

Mr. Richardson grew up in Portland, Ore., reading the adventures of a certain caped crusader and a spectacular wall-crawler. “My preschool fascination with comics meant that I could read by the time I entered the first grade,” he said. “I had boxes of comics in my closet and collected every one I could get my hands on — even the recruiting comics you could get at the Air Force recruiting stations.”

It became a lifelong passion. Mr. Richardson began to write comics for an amateur press association and, after graduating from college, established a chain of comic book stores in Oregon. The success of his stores, where writers and artists often appeared to sign their work, and his contacts with other industry professionals paved the way to the founding of Dark Horse.

“There was a recurring complaint that the people who created the comics couldn’t own their own work if they worked for the major companies,” he said. “There were so many horrible stories of people who signed the back of the check and lost the rights to their characters.”

Perhaps the most famous example goes back to Superman himself. Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster, the men who created the man of steel, sold their comic strip, and the rights to the character, for $130 in 1938. Superman, of course, would go on to both inspire countless champions and fill DC’s coffers. Mr. Siegel and Mr. Shuster would have to fight for decades to be recognized and compensated. Although they never won a court award, in 1975 Warner Communications agreed to give both men lifelong pensions worth about $38,000 a year.

“We built our publishing platform around creators’ rights,” Mr. Richardson said. “Our pitch was, ‘We’ll match the rights that you get from other companies and we’ll let you own the work.’ ”

Dark Horse pays by the story or the page, and shares profit generated by comic books and related merchandise. That is different from the standard work-for-hire arrangement at DC and Marvel: creators are paid for a specific story and perhaps receive royalties from collected editions, but the bulk of the revenue, and all of the merchandising opportunities, remain with the companies.

In fact, a group of artists, primarily from Marvel, set up their own company, Image comics, in 1992 because they were disenchanted with corporate-owned characters that generated profits for their bosses but not for them.

“It is always a blow to any organization when you lose talented people,” Dan Buckley, the publisher of Marvel, said. “However, we were able to fill those shoes with other talented artists.” He added that Marvel “now has more creative opportunities under its umbrella, inside and outside of the Marvel universe.”

At DC, the president and publisher, Paul Levitz, said the company does not adhere to a rigid compensation model and has made “many types of arrangements.” He said that “different deals appeal to different creative talent at different times, but we have no shortage of great people wanting to do new series for us or work our star characters.”

PAUL CHADWICK is the writer-artist behind Concrete, one of Dark Horse’s early successes. Mr. Chadwick chronicles the struggles of Concrete, a k a Ron Lithgow, as he learns to cope with and take advantage of his cement-block body while championing environmental causes or scaling Mount Everest.

Concrete first appeared in an eight-page story in Dark Horse Presents No. 1 in 1986. It was a runaway hit. “We were hoping to sell 10,000 copies, and it sold 50,000,” Mr. Richardson said.

Thanks to their participation in APA-5, an amateur press association devoted to comics and pop culture, Mr. Chadwick and Mr. Richardson were already acquainted when Mr. Chadwick joined Dark Horse.

Other APA-5 members who are part of the Dark Horse family constitute a virtual Who’s Who of the comics industry; they include Randy Stradley, the company’s vice president; Mr. Miller, one of the comic world’s superstars; and Mark Verheiden, a writer for the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” who has written Dark Horse comics like Aliens, Predator and Timecop.

Mr. Chadwick first shopped the Concrete concept around in 1983. “I was pretty roundly turned down,” he recalled. A few years and some improvements later, he tried again, with different results. “I had eight offers, including one from Dark Horse, which was just starting up,” he said. “They matched Marvel’s offer and were so enthusiastic that it caused me to go with them, which turned out to be very good for me.”

The Concrete stories would win several Eisner Awards, among the most prestigious honors bestowed upon comic book creators. Mr. Chadwick’s next installment of the continuing saga begins with Concrete suffering from amnesia after being struck by lightning in a desert in Colorado. His memory loss makes him even more uncertain of his place in the world.

Dark Horse is also patient with contributors like Mr. Chadwick. Unlike those who work for DC or Marvel on a Batman or Captain America, which are monthly publications and are generally expected to arrive without fail every 30 days, Mr. Chadwick works at his own pace. “I go mini-series by mini-series,” he said. “The last one took me — gulp — six years. I’m hoping to cut down on that on the next one.”

Mr. Richardson accepts uncertain timetables. “Creators who are doing very personal work can’t crank them out on a regular basis,” he said. “We support the creator and the rate they can produce it. We want them to be special; sometimes that’s not possible to produce on a 30-day schedule.”

Such support generates intense feelings of loyalty. When asked what it would take to offer Concrete to another publisher, Mr. Chadwick is quick with his answer: “A plane going down with Mike Richardson on it. Mike’s done a lot for me. It would be the height of disloyalty to go somewhere else.”

Mr. Richardson does not see the ebb and flow of the publication cycle as a creative issue. “The fans understand a creator-owned work,” he said. “They wouldn’t just want to see us crank something out.”

To fill the sales gaps caused by unpredictable publication, Dark Horse licenses characters from popular films, novels and video games and builds comic books around them.

Attention to quality played a role in this business strategy, too. Dark Horse discovered “a way to do licensed comics successfully,” Mr. Griepp said. “Marvel and DC haven’t found a formula that worked. It never really clicked.”

At Dark Horse, “they put a higher grade of talent on the books,” Mr. Griepp said. “They didn’t take the tack that the license is going to sell these books.” He also said the company made the comics easier to repackage by focusing on shorter story lines.

Licensed books, unlike creator-owned titles that can be as tame or as daring as a publisher desires, may have to observe some outside restrictions. “Our basic guidelines are: ‘Don’t do anything in the comics that you wouldn’t see in the films,’ ” said Mr. Stradley of Dark Horse. “It’s an easy rule to follow.”

Dark Horse approaches the licensed titles as sequels to the films, not simply repeating the same story. Its Aliens adaptation was a hit, selling more than one million copies. In a twist, Dark Horse’s first Predator series was adapted into the story for the film sequel, Predator 2. In turn, in order to protect its license, Dark Horse adapted that film back into a comic. “So a comic was adapted into a movie which was then adapted into a comic,” Mr. Richardson said.

The success of space-creature comics led Dark Horse to deploy a well-worn industry tactic: the team-up. Thus Aliens vs. Predator was born — the comic and then the film. “That two-way street with Hollywood makes Dark Horse stand out,” Mr. Griepp said. “They were able to do it in a way that their larger competitors could not.”

Dark Horse’s success in Hollywood has been relatively fast and furious. It began in 1992 with “Dr. Giggles,” a film about a mental patient posing as a doctor; the company was a co-producer. Next was a blockbuster: the Mask, one of Mr. Richardson’s creations, whom he describes as “a Tex Avery cartoon come to life.”

In 1994, Hollywood turned the Mask into a film starring Jim Carrey; it captured around $120 million domestically. In 1994, Dark Horse turned another of its properties, Timecop, into a film; the box-office take was almost $45 million. Just like that, “I was in the film business,” Mr. Richardson said.

Dark Horse has come a long way from the day in 1986 when Mr. Richardson and Mr. Stradley put the company’s first issue on the counter of a comic book shop. At the time, all Dark Horse could offer contributors was a print outlet and its dedication to creator rights. Today, it can offer access to the worlds of toys, film and animation.

DARK HORSE also remains hungry and productive, sometimes inspired by comic book properties, sometimes not. Next year, it will publish “Bottomfeeder,” the cartoonist B. H. Fingerman’s first novel, about a vampire in New York who meets others of his kind in several unusual cliques.

In January, it will publish Hellboy Animated Vol. 1: The Black Wedding, timed to the DVD release of the title character’s first animated foray. Its roster of original films includes “My Name Is Bruce,” in which Bruce Campbell, a popular B-movie actor, is kidnapped to protect an Oregon town from monsters. And the veteran horror director John Landis will make “Gone,” a thriller that takes place in a haunted house.

“A lot of companies have sprung up trying to do what I’ve done,” Mr. Richardson said. “They try to take comics and cruise them into films.” But there is often “a long period between a sale and when a film gets made,” he added. “If your comics can’t stand on their own, they may not last very long.

“If the comic deserves to be taken into another media,” he said, “that’s a bonus.”

A Quirky Superhero of the Comics Trade,










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