Cerebus (1977)

Cerebus the Aardvark is a series created by Canadian cartoonist Dave Sim, which ran from December 1977 until March 2004. The title character of the 300-issue series was an anthropomorphic aardvark who takes on a number of roles throughout the series—barbarian, prime minister and Pope among them. The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined in with the 65th issue. As the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim’s controversial beliefs.

The 6000-page story is a challenge to summarize. Beginning as a parody of sword and sorcery comics, it moved into seemingly any topic Sim wished to explore — power and politics, religion and spirituality, gender issues, and more. It progressively became more serious and ambitious than its parodic roots — what has come to be dubbed “Cerebus Syndrome“. Sim announced early on that the series would end with the death of the title character. The story has a large cast of characters, many of which began as parodies of characters from comic books and popular culture.

Starting with the High Society storyline, the series became divided into self-contained “novels”, which form parts of the overall story. The ten “novels” of the series have been collected in 16 books, known as “Cerebus phonebooks” for their resemblance to telephone directories. At a time when the series was about 70% completed, celebrated comic book writer Alan Moore wrote, “Cerebus, as if I need to say so, is still to comic books what Hydrogen is to the Periodic Table.”

Phoenix (1975)

After his spaceship crashes, astronaut Ed Tyler is captured by extraterrestrials. He uses their technology to become the superhuman Phoenix, but the aliens would rather destroy his planet than let him escape. Part of the short-lived Atlas superhero line from former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman.

American Flagg! (1983)

American Flagg, which ran 50 issues (Oct. 1983 – March 1988), was one of the first titles to be published by First Comics, an early alternative press comics company founded in Evanston, Illinois in 1983. Unusually for the time, the company offered its freelance writers and artists creator rights, including ownership of their creations.Regardless, writer-artist Howard Chaykin, then living in New York City, felt trepidation when First Comics approached him to do a project. He recalled in 2010,

        “My concern had all and everything to do with the fact that this was a brand new company, located in [a suburb of] Chicago. I’d always worked for companies I’d visited and had day-to-day-dealings with. [But they talked about a financial plan that would make it possible for me to get out from under the debt I had accrued working for [publisher] Byron Preiss[illustrating early graphic novels]. It was encouraging, so I went home and concocted a scenario, a pitch document, and that was it.”

Chaykin devised a series set in 2031, a high-tech but spiritually empty, consumerist world in which the American government has relocated to Mars, leaving what remains of the U.S. to be governed by the all-encompassing corporation the Plex. The series star is Reuben Flagg, a former TV star drafted into the Plexus Rangers and posted as a deputy in Chicago, Illinois.

The first 12 issues, running through cover-date September 1984, consisted of four interlocking, three-issue story arcs. Chaykin recalled his difficulty in producing 28 pages of art and script monthly. “I was still a smoker and a drinker at the time. And [the output was such that] I’d never done anything like that before, and it was insane. It just devoured my life I had no assistants. I didn’t how to work with an assistant at that point, and it was a very difficult process. … I was trying to do a fairly high-quality product and I didn’t want to slough it off.”

Twisted Tales (1982)

Twisted Tales was published bi-monthly by Pacific Comics from November 1982 to May 1984 (eight issues). After Pacific went bankrupt, two final issues were published by Eclipse Comics in November and December 1984. In August 1986, Blackthorne Publishing released Twisted Tales 3-D #1 (#7 in their 3-D series), with reprints of stories taken from earlier issues. In November 1987 a Twisted Tales trade paperback was released by Eclipse Comics with a Dave Stevens cover, featuring previously unpublished stories and art.

Nexus V1 – Capital Comics (1981)

Nexus is a comic book series created by writer Mike Baron and penciler Steve Rude in 1981. The series is a combination of the superhero and science fiction genres, set 500 years in the future.

The series debuted as a three-issue black-and-white limited series (the third of which featured a 33 RPM flexi disc with music and dialogue from the issue), followed by an eighty-issue ongoing full-color series. The black-and-white issues and the first six color issues were published by Capital Comics; after Capital’s demise, First Comics took over publication.

On the creation of the series: Baron noted that they had originally pitched a series called Encyclopaedias to Capital Comics, but the company rejected this, saying they were looking for a superhero title. Over a drink at a restaurant, Baron outlined his ideas for Nexus to Rude.

Nexus was entirely Baron’s idea. He even came up with the lightning bolt for the costume. All that we needed then was a name… a few weeks passed. Baron calls, and, without preamble, just says “Nexus.” We finally had our name.”

Demon Hunter (1975)

The origin of Gideon Cross, who turns against the demon cult that trained him as a killer. First and only issue of the series; creator Rich Buckler later revised the idea as Marvels Devil-Slayer. Story by Buckler and David Anthony Kraft; art and cover by Buckler.

Planet of the Vampires (1975)

In the far-off era of 2010 AD, astronauts return from space to find Earth ruled by technological geniuses who live on human blood. They join the primitive resistance fighters who dwell outside the domed cities. Part of the short-lived Atlas science fiction line from former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman.

 

Berni Wrightson: Master of the Macabre (1983)

Berni Wrightson Master of the Macabre was created by Bruce Jones with the full cooperation of the master himself. Originally published by Pacific Comics, it reprints Wrightson’s early horror stories, some of which appear here in color for the first time. The series ended with issue #4 but was briefly continued when it was picked up by Eclipse, which published issue #5.

Love and Rockets (1981)

The Hernandez brothers self-published the first issue of Love and Rockets in 1981, but since 1982 it has been published by Fantagraphics Books. The magazine temporarily ceased publication in 1996 after the release of issue #50, while Gilbert and Jaime went on to do separate series involving many of the same characters. However, in 2001 Los Bros revived the series as Love and Rockets Volume 2.

Love and Rockets contains several ongoing serial narratives, the most prominent being Gilbert’s Palomar stories and Jaime’s Hoppers 13(aka Locas) stories. It also contains one-offs, shorter stories, surrealist jokes, and more.

Palomar tells the story of a fictional village in Latin America and its inhabitants. Its vibrant characters and sometimes-fantastic events are sometimes compared to the magical realism literary style of authors such as Gabriel García Márquez. The series is also sometimes referred to as Heartbreak Soup, after the first story set in Palomar.

Hoppers 13 follows the tangled llives of a group of primarily chicano characters, from their teenage years in the early days of the California punk scene to the present day. (Hoppers, or Huerta, is a fictional city based on the Hernandezes’s home town of Oxnard, California.) The series is also often called Locas (Spanish for “crazy women”) because of the many quirky female characters depicted.

Eerie (1970’s)

Eerie was an American magazine of horror comics introduced in 1966 by Warren Publishing. Like Mad, it was a black-and-white newsstand publication in a magazine format and thus did not require the approval or seal of the Comics Code Authority. Each issue’s stories were introduced by the host character, Cousin Eerie. Its sister publications were Creepy and Vampirella.

The first issue, in early 1966, had only a 200-issue run of an “ashcan” edition. With a logo by Ben Oda, it was created overnight by editor Archie Goodwin and letterer Gaspar Saladino to establish publisher Jim Warren’s ownership of the title when it was discovered that a rival publisher would be using the name. Warren explained, “We launched  Eerie because we thought Creepy ought to have an adversary. The Laurel and Hardy syndrome always appealed to me. Creepy and Eerie are like Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.”