Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six great comics published by Comico

Grendel

Grendel

The birth of the direct market brought a slew of new independent publishers in the 1980s, including First Comics, Eclipse and Comico. It was the latter that really made an impact on both myself and Strangeways creator Matt Maxwell at the time.

In an email discussion earlier this week about 1980s comics, the subject turned to Comico, and Matt and I started listing some of our favorite series by the publisher. So when I decided to make them the focus of this edition of Six by 6, I reached out to Matt to see if he’d be interested in helping me out this week. “I started expanding my horizons right about the time they started publishing comics,” he told me, a sentiment I can echo. Elementals, in fact, may have been the first non-Marvel/DC comic I ever bought.

So without further ado, here are six great titles (actually seven, if you’ll note how Matt slipped in an extra title in his last entry — sneaky!) that Comico published back in the day.

1. Grendel, written by Matt Wagner, art by Matt Wagner and a host of others: I missed out on the Comico Primer and the very early Grendel material, but I came on board for Devil by the Deed, which was a graphic novel retelling of those stories that came out about the time that the Devil’s Legacy (written by Matt Wagner with art by the Pander Brothers) started up. In short, I was blown away by the range of the themes at play in Wagner’s storytelling (and by the hyper-stylized renderings of the Panders.) The first convention sketch I paid for was a Christine Spar Grendel (right before I got Stephen Bisette to draw Cthulhu). Grendel really was a comic for grownups when such a thing was a comparative rarity. I can’t do it justice in the time I have here, but really, every fan of sequential storytelling owes it to themselves to catch up on this book, which I believe is being reprinted in its entirety by Dark Horse. Romance, treachery, betrayal, crime, noir, science fiction, dark fantasy, even straight superheroics can be found in the pages of Grendel, not to mention an incredible range of formal techniques and experimentation, and work by artists who are both superstars now and all but forgotten, sadly. (Matt Maxwell)

Jonny Quest

Jonny Quest

2. Jonny Quest, written by Doug Wildey and William Messner-Loebs, art by Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Steve Rude, Doug Wildey, Wendy Pini, Joe Staton and many more: I remember as a kid that the reruns of the Jonny Quest cartoon from the 1960s came on really early, like maybe 6 a.m. early, so it was rare that I was actually awake enough to watch them. But I do remember seeing some of them and thinking how cool they were. In the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera brought the Quest family back, in the form of edited versions of the 1960s cartoons as well as new episodes. It was around that time, I think, that Comico started publishing its Jonny Quest comic. The series started with a bang, as Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey wrote and drew a story for the first issue, with William Messner-Loebs taking over the reigns from there. Those first few issues featured artwork by a “who’s who” of creators — Tom Yeates, Steve Rude, Adam Kubert, and even covers by Dave Stevens. Eventually Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley settled in as the art team for the book, which ran for 31 issues (not including a few specials done by Wildey). It was a fun series that stayed true to its cartoon action, adventure and intrigue roots. (JK Parkin)

Ginger Fox

Ginger Fox

3. Ginger Fox, written by Mike Baron and art by the Pander Brothers: I’ll admit to skipping out on the World of Ginger Fox graphic novel, but the miniseries with art by the Pander Brothers was one of my absolute favorites of the 80s. Like JH Williams, the Panders made every script they drew a hundred times smarter and sharper, and what could have been a forgettable throwaway story set in the glitz of 80s Hollywood becomes a crazed and memorable fourth-wall-breaker. And nobody seems to remember this but me, however, the Pander Brothers had been tapped for a Max Headroom comic that never saw the light of day, but really should have, given the preview art that I’d seen. Scour the dollar bins for these. Can’t miss the photo-covers. (Matt Maxwell)

mage

4. Mage, written and drawn by Matt Wagner: I still remember seeing all the hype around this one. It was around the time I started reading and subscribing to stuff like Comics Buyer’s Guide and Amazing Heroes and other comic-oriented magazines, and I started realizing there was a business and creators and such behind all these comics I loved. Mage was a fairly well-regarded and well-reviewed series by a lot of folks, both reviewers and comic fans alike, and just picking up an issue would tell you why. The Hero Discovered, the first of three planned books in the Mage story, introduced Kevin Matchstick, the reluctant hero who, it would turn out, was the reborn King Arthur. Armed with a magical baseball bat that filled in for Excalibur and guided by Mirth, his Merlin, Matchstick would go on to discover his destiny and fight the forces of evil in the form of the Umbra Sprite. This series and its sequel have both been collected by Image, and hopefully one day soon we’ll get to see the final part of the trilogy. (JK Parkin)

sam-max-freelance_super

5. Sam and Max: Freelance Police and Gumby Holiday Specials, written by Steve Purcell and Bob Burden, art by Purcell and Art Adams: This is cheating a little bit, since I got into Sam and Max by way of the Epic comics collection of some of the older material. But upon reading those, I made it my business to track down copies of all the Comico material, where it had originally appeared. If you don’t know the wonder of Sam and Max, or worse yet, you can’t enjoy them, then there’s really no hope, is there? They’re the stars of a funny animal book that is often only funny for the wrongest of reasons, where mayhem is always a heartbeat away, and where pain can come from the fuzziest of fists. One of the Gumby specials, with art by Art Adams if memory serves, was also written by Mr. Purcell, and both are light-heartedly deranged stories that should appeal to anyone who has a soul. Is that a wide enough net? I’d love to see the Gumby material get reprinted (and have heard rumors to that effect). The Sam and Max books have been reprinted by Mr. Purcell himself, I believe, and are usually available at shows, and maybe even through Diamond. (Matt Maxwell)

Elementals

Elementals

6. Elementals, written by Bill Willingham, with art by Willingham and others: I was fairly young when the first issue of Elementals came out, but I can still remember how the cover practically jumped off the shelf when I first saw it. I was a big fan of superheroes, of course, and had been devouring Marvel and DC’s output for years, but here was something that really stood out amidst the patchwork of covers up on that wall at Lone Star Comics. The brightly colored heroes against the stark white background were eye-catching. Of course, it’s what’s inside that counts, and that first issue hooked me pretty early. This book had it all — death, sex, violence, betrayal, vampires, religion, shady government types, larger-than-life supernatural destruction — as well as several great characters the book was built around. In addition to four well-developed main characters — Fathom, Monolith, Vortex and Morningstar –I always thought the villain, Lord Saker, was one of the cooler concepts in villainy at the time. His origins came from Biblical times, as he was raised from the dead by a false prophet, and the separation from God combined with his new-found immortality kind of drove him nuts. And very, very evil. Overall this was a heck of a book and a great introduction for me personally to a new world of comics. It’s a shame it isn’t still in print. (JK Parkin)

News From Our Partners

Comments

20 Comments

the best thing about comico comics is a lot of them have made it into quarter bins and dollar sales!

Comico was a HUGE influence on BOOM!, I loved that company. Let’s not forget ROBOTECH, which was one of the first times that anime and a manga sensibility made it across the Pacific into the US, much less the direct market.

Also Evangeline and Justice Machine. Matthew Sweet even wrote a song about Evangeline. Maze Agency also really catapulted Adam Hughes’ work to the forefront of everyone’s attention.

The first issue of Robotech was titled Macross. After the first issue, Robotech was added to the title. Published in December, 1984, according to Overstreet. The ad for Macross says ‘coming in November’. I just saw the ad last week while reading an old copy of Comics Interview.

Hmmm. You know, I may just own every book Comico published. Mage being my favorite.

Ross: The Robotech books are what originally got me to look at the Comico line when I was younger, but I quickly branched out to Grendel, Mage, Johnny Quest and a host of other Comico titles. I may be remembering incorrectly, but I seem to recall they had very high quality paper for most of their books, something that really appealed to me at a time where most DC & Marvel books were still on that crappy paper (although premium paper was used for a handful of books at the time).

Many great talents found their start in the pages of Comico comics. Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham, Sam Keith, Chuck Dixon, Reggie Byers, Mike Leeke, Adam Hughes, Bernie Mireault , Neil Vokes and many others. There is also a long list of tremendous talent with seasoned track records.

Bill Cucinotta and I are two of the founding partners of Comico and we are hoping to bring some of that magic back with a new venture, CO2 Comics using the web and print to produce great comics again.

Ditto what Ross said. He and I sit around the office a lot and talk about what a big influence Comico had on both of us. Hell, if it weren’t for Bob Schreck and Diana Schutz being so cool back when I first attended Comic-Con 20 years ago, I don’t know if I would be working in comic books today. (That’s a September BOOM! editorial page spoiler for you.) And, of course, Bill Willingham was one of the first creators I ever met (and bugged!) because of my love for Elementals!

I have on my wall in my office at BOOM! 3 pages of original art – two Mage pages and one page from the Grendel run in Primer. Like Phil said, I think I own every comic book they published.

Chip

PS: Congrats to Gerry and Bill for getting back into the game!

They were great. Didn’t they also do a Star Blazers comic back then too?

I’d put Maze Agency in there myself, but then again I always feel like that series never gets enough love or attention…

I’m probably the only man on Earth who loved Frank Thorne’s RIBIT!

Josh Fitzpatrick

August 17, 2009 at 5:38 am

You grabbed me with the cover, that is the first non-Robotech, non-GI Joe comic I ever purchased and it changed my life forever. Grendel alone introduced me to the Panders, Bernie Mireault, JK Snyder, Jay Geldhof, and some guy named Tim Sale. And let’s not forget one of the guest artists on Elementals was a lass by the name of Jill Thompson. Such great comics, I treasure them above everything else in my collection. Not to mention top production values, limited interruptions? Check. Wrap around covers? Check. Also didn’t Jamie S Rich get his start in the Grendel letter columns?

Gerry, thanks to you, Bill, the late Phil Lasorda, Bob, Diana Schutz, and the rest for the phenomenal run of books.

Jonah — yes, the paper was better. Marvel’s Epic line was the only thing that was similar — and a clear effort to compete with Pacific, Eclipse, First, and Comico.

Comico had a number of innovations that are often overlooked both in the areas of production and promotion that set new standards for the indies and the big two. We did maximize the use of the Wrap around covers, we moved process color from the then popular gray-line method to a blue-line method that dramaticly improved our color (Thanks Mark Wheatly!) We utilized Murphy Anderson’s Color separations to the limit with 372 flat colors of which I personally designed the color key that most of the industry used at the time. We also used a few different types of paper to individualize the aesthetics of each book. I believe we were the first indie to pursue licenced property. We used things like mobiles, and convention bags before there were any and even offered scholarships at the Kubert school to encourage top young talent. Sorry if I’m bragging but am encouraged that Comico is getting some love. Thanks guys!

“Dynamo Joe,” illustrated by Doug Rice. Doug Rice’s art, and the subject matter which involved giant robot battlesuits, was highly influenced by Japanese animation at a time when it wasn’t widely seen here in the United States. I remember that the editors even included a brief description of manga, so the readers would understand what Rice was doing.

(On a side note, Doug Rice created a great costume for John Ostrander and Kim Yale’s run on DC’s “Manhunter.”)

As far as super-hero books, I always enjoyed Justice Machine as much as any of the other Comico books

I would like to say the “The Next Man” was truly awesome, and died before it really could get going….

Josh Fitzpatrick

August 17, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Justice Machine is unfortunately one of the forgotten greats. Unfortunately by the time it ended it was a shell of its former self, does anyone know if Mike Gustovich sold the rights? Or if there is a chance of a collection?

Sam & Max was reprinted by Telltale games, and is available for order on their website (unless it’s sold out): http://www.telltalegames.com/

What’s the status of “The Elementals” license?

I purchased the Justice Machine rights from Mike Gustovich in 1991. In 2009, a collection of some of the Machine stories I wrote in a TPB, The New Justice Machine, High Gear Edition Volume One.

Here’s a link.

http://www.transfuzion.biz/TITLES/JusticeMachine.htm

If you can’t find it in comic stores, you can order it from Amazon.com.

As for The Elementals…supposedly Andrew Rev bought the rights from BIll WIllingham.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives