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.”
The Rocketeer’s first adventure appeared in 1982 as a backup feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell‘s Starslayer series from Pacific Comics. Two more installments appeared in Pacific’s showcase comic Pacific Presents #1 and 2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a special Rocketeer issue released by Eclipse Comics. The complete story was then collected by Eclipse in a single volume titled The Rocketeer. It was published in three versions: a trade paperback edition, a trade hardcover, and a signed, limited edition hardcover. Noted fantasy author Harlan Ellison, a fan of the Rocketeer and also an acquaintance of Dave Stevens, wrote the introduction to the collection; both Dave Stevens and Harlan Ellison signed the limited edition on a specially bound-in bookplate.
The story was continued in the Rocketeer Adventure Magazine. Two issues were published by Comico Comics in 1988 and 1989; the third installment was not published until 1995, six years later by Dark Horse Comics. All three issues were then collected by Dark Horse into a glossy trade paperback titled The Rocketeer: Cliff’s New York Adventure that quickly went out-of-print.
The Badger was originally published by the short-lived Capital Comics company and then First Comics. He was created by writer Mike Baron in 1983 and published through the early 1990s in a titular series that ended when First Comics also ceased all publications. Since the ongoing series ended in 1991, new Badger titles have been released through Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics and IDW Publishing.
Cerebus the Aardvarkis 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.”
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 lives 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’ home town of Oxnard, California.) The series is also often called Locas (Spanish for “crazy women”) because of the many quirky female characters depicted.
Megaton Man is a creator-owned comic book series published by Kitchen Sink Press beginning in 1984. Donald Simpson wrote and drew the series, in which the title character first appeared and starred. The original Megaton Man series ran for ten issues, but the character was later revived in a limited series, The Return of Megaton Man, and a series of one-shot issues spun off from the concept. In 1994, Simpson left Kitchen Sink to form his own company, Fiasco Comics, through which Simpson self-published his new title Bizarre Heroes, featuring Megaton Man (and many members of his old supporting cast) as part of a large ensemble cast.
Created by album and book cover designer Dean Motter, Mister X was developed for a year in close collaboration with comic artist and illustrator Paul Rivoche, whose series of poster illustrations stirred up great interest in the project. The series published early work by comic artists who would later emerge as important alternative cartoonists, including Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, Seth, Shane Oakley and D’Israeli.
A highly successful promotional campaign with posters and ads followed for the next year, while Motter and Rivoche struggled to produce an actual issue of Mister X. When Rivoche quit, Vortex Comics president Bill Marks became more skeptical than ever that Motter would be able to produce the series on time, and decided to turn the work over to the Hernandez brothers. The first four issues were written and illustrated by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, with additional writing by Mario Hernandez. The Hernandez brothers quit over payment delays from Vortex. Issues 5 through 14 of the series were then written by Motter, with issues 6 through 13 illustrated by Seth.
The Hero Discovered follows Kevin Matchstick, an alienated young man who meets a wizard called Mirth and discovers that he, among other things, possesses both a magic baseball bat and superhuman abilities. In the course of the comic, he defeats the nefarious plans of a being called the Umbra Sprite. He ultimately discovers that Mirth is Merlin, the baseball bat is Excalibur, and he is, in some ambiguous way, King Arthur. All the chapter titles are lines from Shakespeare’sHamlet.
After his first appearance in a 10-page story in Mystery Comics Digest #5, Dr. Spektor was spun off into his own title, The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor. The series ran for 24 issues (May 1973 – February 1977). His final original story appeared in one issue of Gold Key Spotlight (#8, August 1977). Jesse Santos replaced Spiegle as artist on the series, and remained there for the entire run.
Dr. Spektor appeared in all four issues of Gold Key’s Spine-Tingling Tales (1975–76), where he provided linking narration for some of the stories within. (These stories were reprints from Mystery Comics Digest that dealt with characters who later appeared in his title). He also had stories he narrated in Mystery Comics Digest #10, #11, #12, and #21, and articles in Golden Comics Digest #25, #26, and #33.
Under the Whitman Comics name, issue #25 was released in May 1982. It reprinted issue #1, but with a line-art cover instead of the original painted cover.
Dalgoda by Jan Strnad and Dennis Fujitake was published by Fantagraphics Books in 1984. This is a series that needs to come back! Not only were the featured stories and art amazing, but the books also featured back-up stories by Alan Moore (“The Bojeffries Saga”) and Kevin Nowlan (“Grimwood’s Daughter”).