Tom Lyle: 1953 to 2019

I was very sorry to hear that longtime comic book artist Tom Lyle passed away earlier this month.

As with a number of other comic book artists who got their start in the 1980s, Lyle’s earliest work was published by Bill Black at AC Comics.  In late 1986, following a meeting with Chuck Dixon at a Philadelphia convention, Lyle began working for Eclipse Comics.  He penciled back-up stories in Airboy featuring the Skywolf character, followed by a three issue Skywolf miniseries, and a few other related books for Eclipse.Airboy 13 Skywolf pg 6

I personally didn’t have an opportunity to see this work until 2014, when IDW began releasing the Airboy Archives trade paperbacks.  Looking at those Skywolf stories, I was impressed by how solid & accomplished Lyle’s work was that early in his career, both in terms of his storytelling and his attention to detail.  In regards to the later, a good example of this is seen in the above page from Airboy #13 (Jan 1987).  Lyle and inker Romeo Tanghal do great work rendering both the airplane and the Himalayan Mountains.

The Skywolf back-ups and miniseries were all written by regular Airboy writer Chuck Dixon, who Lyle would collaborate with again in the future.Starman 1 cover 1988 small

In late 1988 Lyle, working with writer Roger Stern and inker Bob Smith, introduced a new Starman, Will Payton, to the DC Comics universe.  Although not a huge hit, Starman was nevertheless well-received by readers, and the title ran for 45 issues, with Lyle penciling the first two years of the run.  Starting with issue #15 Lyle was paired up with inker Scott Hanna.  The two of them made a very effective art team, and they would work together on several more occasions over the years.

Lyle then worked on a couple of jobs for Marvel.  He penciled an eight page Captain America story in Marvel Comics Presents #60 written by John Figueroa and inked by Roy Richardson.  This was followed by a three part serial that ran in Marvel Comics Present #77-79 featuring the usual teaming up of Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos with Dracula.  Written by Doug Murray and inked by Josef Rubinstein, the serial saw the Howlers having to work with the lord of the vampires against the Nazis.

In 1990 Lyle worked on the five issue Robin miniseries for DC Comics, featuring Tim Drake’s first solo story.  The miniseries reunited Lyle with Chuck Dixon and Bob Smith.  It was a huge hit, gaining Lyle a great deal of attention & acclaim.  Within the story Dixon & Lyle introduced the villains King Snake and Lynx, both of whom would become recurring foes in the Batman rogues gallery.  Also around this time Lyle drew the covers for an eight issue Justice Society of America miniseries.Comet 3 pg 2Lyle’s next project was for Impact Comics (or, if you prefer, !mpact Comics) a DC Comics imprint featuring revamped versions of Archie Comics’ oddball line of superheroes.  Lyle was the artist & plotter of The Comet, an interesting reimagining of the character.  Scripting The Comet was Mark Waid.  Beginning with the second issue Scott Hanna came on as the inker / finisher.JSA 6 cover 1991 small

I was 15 years old when the Impact line started, and I really enjoyed most of the books.  The Comet was definitely a really good, intriguing series.  Lyle & Hanna once again made a great art team.  Regrettably, despite apparently having some long-term plans for the series, Lyle left The Comet after issue #8.  It fell to Waid, now the full writer, to bring the series to a close when the Impact books were unfortunately cancelled a year later.

Lyle’s departure from The Comet was probably due to his increasing workload on the Batman group of titles.  During this time he penciled “Shadow Box,” a three part follow-up to the Robin miniseries that ran in Batman #467-469.  After that he was busy on the high-profile four issue miniseries Robin II: The Joker’s Wild.  As the title implies, this miniseries saw Tim Drake’s long-awaited first encounter with Gotham City’s Clown Prince of Crime, the villain who had murdered the previous Boy Wonder.

Following on from this, the team of Dixon, Lyle & Hanna worked on Detective Comics #645-649.  One of the highlights of this short run was the introduction of Stephanie Brown aka The Spoiler.  Stephanie would go on to become a long-running, popular supporting character in the Bat-books, eventually becoming a new Batgirl.Robin 1 pg 1After completing a third Robin miniseries, Lyle moved over to Marvel Comics, where he immediately established himself on the Spider-Man titles.  He penciled the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #27, once again working with Scott Hanna.  Written by Jack C. Harris, another former DC mainstay, the annual introduced the new hero Annex.

Batman 468 cover smallThis was followed by Lyle & Hanna drawing Spider-Man #35-37, which were part of the mega-crossover “Maximum Carnage.”  Lyle also penciled the Venom: Funeral Pyre miniseries, and drew a few covers for the Spider-Man Classic series that was reprinting the original Lee & Ditko stories.

The adjective-less Spider-Man series had initially been conceived as a vehicle for which the super-popular Todd McFarlane could both write and draw his own Spider-Man stories.  However he had then left the series with issue #16 to co-found Image Comics, and for the next two years the title served as something of anthology, with various guest creative teams.  Finally, beginning with issue #44, Lyle & Hanna became the regular art team on Spider-Man, with writer Howard Mackie joining them.

Truth to tell, this was actually the point at which I basically lost interest in the Spider-Man books.  The padded-out “Maximum Carnage” event, followed soon after by the meandering “Clone Saga,” caused me to drop all of the Spider-Man series from my comic shop pull list.  Nevertheless, I would on occasion pick up the odd issue here & there, and I did enjoy Lyle’s work on the character. He also did a good job depicting the villainous Hobgoblin and his supernatural counterpart the Demogoblin.

Spider-Man 48 pg 11Despite my own feelings about “The Clone Saga,” I know it has its fans.  Lyle definitely played a key part in that storyline.  When Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly returned he assumed the identity of the Scarlet Spider.  It was Lyle who designed the Scarlet Spider’s costume.  I know some people thought a Spider-Man type character wearing a hoodie was ridiculous but, as I said before, the Scarlet Spider has his fans, and the costume designed by Lyle was certainly a part of that.Spider-Man 53 cover small

Lyle remained on Spider-Man through issue #61.  He then jumped over to the new Punisher series that was written by John Ostrander.  Unfortunately by this point the character had become majorly overexposed, and there was a definite “Punisher fatigue” in fandom.  Ostrander attempted to take the character in new, different directions, first having him try to destroy organized crime from within, and then having him work with S.H.I.E.L.D. to fight terrorists, but the series was cancelled with issue #18.  Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and I think Lyle, paired with inker Robert Jones, did some really good work drawing it.

Lyle next wrote & penciled a four issue Warlock miniseries for Marvel in 1998, which was again inked by Jones.  After that Lyle & Jones worked on several issues of the ongoing Star Wars comic book for Dark Horse.  He also worked on several issues of Mutant X for Marvel.

Unfortunately in the early 2000s Lyle began having trouble finding work in comics. Honestly, this is one of the most exasperating things about the industry.  Here was an artist who for over a decade did good work on some of the most popular characters at both DC and Marvel, and then suddenly he finds himself not receiving any assignments.  It’s a story we’ve regrettably heard variations of over and over again.  It’s a genuine shame that freelancers who time and again were there for publishers do not find that loyalty rewarded.

Punisher 15 cover 1997 smallFortunately for Lyle he was able to successfully transition into another career.  He began teaching sequential illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2005, a position he remained at for the next decade and a half.

Tragically in September of this year Lyle suffered a brain aneurysm.  After undergoing surgery he was placed in a medically induced coma.  Unfortunately he never recovered, and he passed away on November 19th.  He was 66 years old.

The sad fact is that health care in this country has become more and more unaffordable for most people.  After her husband passed away Sue Lyle was left with astronomical medical bills.  Tom’s brother-in-law set up a Go Fund Me to help Sue.  I hope that anyone who reads this who is in a position to help out will contribute.

Lyle was a longtime friend of June Brigman & Roy Richardson, who also got into the comic book biz around the same time. After Lyle passed away, Brigman shared a few memories of him on Facebook:

“Roy and I were friends with Tom and his wife Sue for, oh…about thirty years. Tom and I followed a similar path, working for Marvel and DC, then SCAD, Tom in Savannah, me in Atlanta. It was Tom who encouraged me to go for a teaching position at SCAD, an experience that I’m very grateful for. And it was Tom’s example that made me, at the ripe ol’ age of 59, finally finish my MFA in illustration. I like to think that we helped give Tom a start in comics. But really, all we did was give him a place to stay when he first visited Marvel and DC. He went on to become a rock star of the comics industry. And while yes, he definitely left his mark on the world of comics, I think his real legacy is his students. They were all so fortunate to have Professor Lyle. Not everyone who can do, can teach. Everything Tom taught came from his experience. He was a master of perspective, he had impeccable draftsmanship, and boy, could he tell a story. And, most importantly, he loved teaching, and truly cared about his students.”

I only met Tom Lyle once, briefly, and a comic book convention in the early 1990s.  Several years later I corresponded with him via e-mail.  At the time I purchased several pages of original comic book artwork from him.  Tom was easy to deal with, and his prices were very reasonable.  Regrettably over the years I’ve had to sell off all of those pages to pay bills, but it was nice having them in my collection for a while.

Tom Lyle was definitely a very talented artist.  Everyone who knew him spoke very highly of him as a person.  He will certainly be missed.

Comic book reviews: Detectives Inc. “A Terror of Dying Dreams”

Michele and I took the Metro North train up to White Plains on Saturday for the New York Comic Fest at the Westchester County Center.  It was a fun convention with a line-up of talented creators as guests.

Among them was writer Don McGregor, who penned some very influential, groundbreaking stories in the 1970s and 80s.  I’ve met McGregor on a couple of occasions previously, but it was still good to see him again.  I purchased a copy of the Sabre 30th Anniversary Edition from him, which has been on my “want list” for a while now.  I mentioned to McGregor that several years back I had written an online review of another of his works, his Detectives Inc. graphic novel, “A Terror of Dying Dreams.”  McGregor responded that he’d be interested in reading that, and I told him that I’d try to re-post it on my current blog at some point in the near future.

After I got home, I suddenly realized, via Facebook, that the very next day, June 15th, was his birthday.  Well, obviously that called for me to speed things up a bit!  So please consider this review a birthday tribute to the talented Don McGregor.

detectives inc a terror of dying dreams cover

McGregor’s first Detectives Inc. book, “A Remembrance of Threatening Green,” was published by Eclipse Comics in 1980.  It was illustrated by Marshall Rogers.  “A Remembrance of Threatening Green” introduced McGregor’s private investigator team of Bob Rainier and Ted Denning.

Several years later Eclipse published McGregor’s second Detectives Inc. saga.  This time McGregor was paired with a past collaborator, the legendary Gene Colan (they had previously worked together on Ragamuffins and Nathaniel Dusk).  “A Terror of Dying Dreams” saw the return of Rainier and Denning, now working side-by-side with social worker Dierdre Sevens.  “A Terror of Dying Dreams” was reprinted as an oversized black & white book by Image Comics in 1999.  I purchased a copy of that from McGregor back in 2001 at one of the Big Apple Comic Cons, where I got it autographed by both him and Colan.  More recently, in 2009 the two Detectives Inc. graphic novels were collected together in a lavish hardcover volume by IDW.

“A Terror of Dying Dreams” opens simultaneously on our three protagonists: Bob Rainier, Ted Denning, and Dierdre Sevens.  Each is poised at a threshold.  For Rainier, it is the gaudy entrance to a Times Square strip club.  For Denning, it is an elevator in a hospital.  For Sevens, it is the front door of an old friend’s house.  By opening the story in this manner, McGregor does a marvelous job of juxtaposing these three people’s individual circumstances, at the same time setting the stage for an examination of each.

Rainier, divorced and gloomy, sulks along the alleyways of adult entertainment, vainly attempting to convince himself that he can easy his loneliness.  Denning rides the elevator to a waiting room, where he meets with his father, and the two discuss old times, all the while waiting for news of Denning’s ailing mother.  And Sevens comes to pay a visit on Leila, a friend who asks for her advice, but who is ultimately unwilling to leave her abusive husband.

detectives inc a terror of dying dreams pg 1

The paths of this trio soon intersect.  Rainier and Denning are, of course, partners in a private detective agency.  Sevens hires the pair to follow Leila’s brutal husband Doug, hoping they will uncover evidence of Doug in a compromising situation, something that she might use to finally convince Leila to leave him.  Rainier and Denning go to work, with Dierdre in tow, and they soon find evidence that Doug, in addition to abusing his wife, is also cheating on her.  Of course, as with the best of detective fiction, this apparently simple case ends up leading them into a much larger scandal.  And with that comes plenty of twists and danger.

(And if you expect me to reveal any more about the plot, forget it!  This is one graphic novel you really ought to read for yourself, so I certainly do not want to spoil it any further.)

McGregor is probably best known for his cutting edge work with the characters of Killraven and Black Panther at Marvel in the 1970s.  With the former, he took what started as a rather clichéd, uneven post-apocalyptic sequel to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and transformed it into an epic, soul-searching saga.  His interpretation of the later character had a significant influence on subsequent writers’ depictions of T’Challa, the noble but troubled monarch of Wakanda.  I admit that when I was younger I did find McGregor’s scripting on those stories, as well as his later works, to be somewhat ponderous.  Looking back, I see that he was one of a handful of individuals in the comic book industry during the Bronze Age striving to craft dialogue and narration that possessed genuine sophistication and palpable atmosphere.

Certainly I did not have any problems with McGregor’s scripting on “A Terror of Dying Dreams.”  McGregor’s prose is very well suited to this genre.  Mystery and detective fiction has always relied on strong narration and description to establish a particular mood, as well as to delve into the characters, their backgrounds, and how they relate to each other and the world in which they exist.  As I noted earlier, this is exactly what McGregor does with Rainier, Denning, and Sevens at the story’s opening and again throughout the entirety of the story.  McGregor’s story is as much about these three individuals as it is about the solving of a mystery.  His introspective writing superbly brings these characters to life, and establishes the realities they live in.  While still occasionally heavy, for the most part McGregor’s narration is strikingly appropriate.

I’ve also found that this is one of those great stories with so many layers to it that you can re-read years later when you are at a different point in your own life and get something new out of it.  Looking at “A Terror of Dying Dreams” in 2014 as someone in his late 30s who has gone through a number of changes and life experiences in the past decade, I certainly have a different perspective on McGregor’s story and characters than I did when I first read it in my mid 20s back in 2001.

detectives inc a terror of dying dreams pg 21

Gene Colan’s work on “A Terror of Dying Dreams” is superb.  His art style, with its unconventional layouts and extensive use of shadows, is perfectly suited for a story such as this.  On occasion, I have found Colan’s work to be rather jarring, at least as far as some of the superhero stories he drew.  His style is perhaps a bit ill-suited to that genre, and is more appropriate for mystery, suspense, and horror.  The fact that Colan was so successful with Daredevil over the years was no doubt due to that character’s firm grounding in reality, set amidst the grim urban locales of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.  Likewise, Colan’s work on both Tomb of Dracula and Doctor Strange was memorable, with his haunting, eerie, disturbing depictions of unearthly, supernatural phenomena and macabre menaces.

It has often been noted that Colan, who passed away in 2011, was a somewhat difficult artist to ink, due to his very distinctive style, as well as his aforementioned use of shadows and darkness.  Of the numerous inkers who tackled Colan’s pencils over the years, I think there was only a handful that really did him justice.  Colan himself stated on more than one occasion that that Tom Palmer was the artist who did the best work inking his pencils, an opinion shared by many fans.  I certainly agree with that assessment, and I would also add George Klein, Frank Giacoia, Bill Everett and Al Williamson to my list of favorite Colan inkers.

More significantly, though, I think that the dark, shadowy nature of Colan’s pencils probably made his stories a challenge to color.  I suspect that some colorists unwittingly end up obliterating the fine detail of Colan’s work.  In the past decade, it has been something of a revelation seeing many of his stories reprinted in black & white within various Marvel Essential collections.

The art in “A Terror of Dying Dreams” was reproduced directly from Colan’s uninked pencils, and the book is black & white.  The result is crisp and stunning.  Colan’s work has never looked better.  Visible is the intricate detail of his work, the subtle gradations of shadow and lighting that he utilizes.  The emotions of McGregor’s characters are vividly brought to life by Colan’s illustration of their facial expressions and fluid body language.  The many and varied settings, from the time-faded boardwalks of Brighton Beach to the glitz of midtown Manhattan, the seedy trappings of Times Square, and the suburban gentility of Dobbs Ferry, are all brought to life by Colan’s talent.  The scenes of action and danger are dramatically rendered, all the while retaining a definite realism and believability.

detectives inc a terror of dying dreams pg 27

This was the type of genre that Colan excelled in.  It is a pity that during his career he did not have many opportunities to work on tales of noir-tinged mystery.  His collaboration with Don McGregor on “A Terror of Dying Dreams” and a handful of other projects enabled readers to view Colan’s skill and talent at work on different genres.  And the black and white, uninked format allows for the full impact and detail of his art to be experienced.

Sequential illustration is, ideally, the synthesis of words and images.  Within “A Terror of Dying Dreams” this is nearly flawless.  McGregor’s writing and Colan’s art complement each other.  The majority of McGregor’s script is dialogue.  Those narrative passages that he does write are usually at the beginning of each chapter, set alongside or between captionless establishing shots by Colan.  McGregor clearly had confidence in Colan, trusting that the art and the dialogue will work together to communicate what is taking place.  He does not clutter up the panels with captions that state what the reader can plainly see. “A Terror of Dying Dreams” is an outstanding example of what can occur when a talented writer and a skilled artist who are working together recognize each other’s strengths.  The result is a balance between story and art, with neither overwhelming the other.

And, simply put, Detectives Inc. “A Terror of Dying Dreams” is an enjoyable, intelligently written graphic novel with superb artwork.  As I said before, I certainly recommend it.  The book is one of the highlights of both Don McGregor’s and Gene Colan’s careers.

Comic book reviews: Valkyrie “Prisoner of the Past”

“We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us.” − Bergen Evans

In my recent blog post about the career of Fred Kida, I mentioned his work for Hillman Periodicals in the 1940s, including how he was the co-creator of the femme fatale aviatrix Valkyrie, who made her debut in the Airboy story in Air Fighters Comics vol 2 #2 (November 1943).  Hillman folded up shop in 1953 and its various characters fell into limbo until 1986 when Eclipse Comics began publishing a new Airboy ongoing series.  Written by Chuck Dixon, it featured Davy Nelson III, the son of the original Airboy who assumed the mantle after his father was murdered.  Eclipse also brought Valkyrie back into print in the book, although in her case she was the original, having spent four decades in a mystic suspended animation.

Valkyrie 1 cover

Val proved popular enough that Eclipse published a three issue Valkyrie miniseries in 1987, written by Dixon, with art by Paul Gulacy & Will Blyberg, and edited by Catherine Yronwode.  It was quickly collected into a trade paperback, “Prisoner of the Past.”

One of the aspects of most Golden Age comic books was that any sort of gradual or sophisticated character development was practically non-existent.  This is particularly true of Valkyrie.  If you read her 1943 debut story “Airboy Meets Valkyrie,” you find that she is not the most subtle of characters, to say the least.  She starts out as an icy, sadistic killer who is unquestionably devoted to the Nazi cause.  Yet within the space of a mere 12 pages Valkyrie falls in love with Airboy, suddenly comes to realize that she is fighting for the wrong side, shoots her commanding officer in the back, and defects to the Allies.  By modern standards it is perhaps not the most convincing of redemptions!  (You can view scans of the entire story on Comic Book Plus.)

Valkyrie 1 pg 21

Dixon must have perceived the problematic nature of Valkyrie’s background, and he tackled it headlong in “Prisoner of the Past.”  In the opening issue, Val is caught on camera by the eleven o’clock new beating the ever living crap out of a gang of muggers.  She becomes a “media superstar” and receives an offer to work for the world’s top modeling agency.  Unfortunately all of this publicity eventually brings her to the attention of the KGB, who recognize her as the same Valkyrie who fought in World War II over four decades before.  The Russian agent Steelfox is dispatched to capture her and bring her back to the Soviet Union to stand trial for war crimes.

The Soviets accuse Valkyrie of leading her squad of Air Maidens in a brutal attack against the village of Lubon in February 1944, murdering two thousand orphaned refugee children.  Val insists over and over that she never flew any missions against civilian targets, only military ones.  Moreover, she tells her captors that she defected to the Allies months earlier, and was in England at the time of her supposed involvement in this atrocity.  But her protests fall on the deaf ears of the Soviets, who are eager to try & execute her as an enemy of the state.

Dixon does excellent work scripting Val in “Prisoner of the Past.”  As the story opens, she is already something of a haunted figure, struggling to adjust to having slept through the past forty years, and keenly feeling the loss of her beloved, the original Airboy, who married, grew old, and died while she was missing.  Captured and brought behind the Iron Curtain, tortured by Steelfox, her past allegiance to the Third Reich thrown into her face, Val’s conscience begins to eat away at her.  “It wasn’t me,” she repeats over and over, and it is obvious that she is trying as desperately to convince the Soviets as she is herself.

In the opening pages of issue three, Val, who is already in anguish from her ordeal, is seemingly visited in her dreams by Misery, a Grim Reaper-esque supernatural entity who collects the souls of aviators.  He was the one who was responsible for Val’s decades-long slumber, and now he seeks to claim her.  Dixon leaves it a bit ambiguous whether it truly is Misery haunting her, or if it is Val’s guilt and torment that is creating this nightmare.  Either way, it is an effectively unsettling sequence.

Valkyrie 3 pg 3

Dixon has always been good at writing female characters that are sexy and strong, yet also well-rounded.  His Valkyrie is a multi-faceted individual who is tough as nails and confident yet at the same time still a very human individual.

Likewise, Dixon does interesting work with Steelfox.  When we first see the Soviet operative, he is gleefully slaughtering resistance fighters in Afghanistan with a poison gas attack; he hardly seems like the sort who has any right to be judging Valkyrie for her actions.  As the story progresses, though, we learn that Steelfox has a very personal stake in matters.  He was one of the few surviving children from the Lubon massacre, although the attack left him crippled.  It is conceivable to see this as the defining moment of his life that set him on the path to becoming a monster.  And once Steelfox learns of Valkyrie’s existence, he is obsessed with exacting vengeance against the woman who he believes destroyed his childhood.  In his own way, Steelfox is as much imprisoned by the past as Val.  If she is haunted by grief & guilt, then he is consumed by hatred.

Although there are several action sequences, Dixon chooses to conclude “Prisoners of the Past” in a more unconventional manner.  The climax of the story is Valkyrie’s trial, via an intense, emotional revelation.  It is a very effective ending.

The artwork by Paul Gulacy and Will Blyberg is definitely top-notch.  I’ve always enjoyed Gulacy’s work.  When he was first starting out, Gulacy worked as an assistant to the late, great Dan Adkins, and he was also influenced by Jim Steranko.  You can definitely see both of their influences in Gulacy’s art, although he is certainly much more than an imitator.

Gulacy is especially well known for his renderings of super-sexy women, but there is much more to his work than that.  There are quite a few artists who can draw a hot girl, but who cannot tell a story to save their life.  Gulacy, in contrast, does amazing layouts.  He has a very cinematic style to his work that is well suited to depicting dynamic action sequences.  At the same time, he is also very good at rendering quieter character moments.

Gulacy’s diverse skills are all at the fore in “Prisoner of the Past.”  His Valkyrie is stunningly beautiful and strong, yet still human and capable of vulnerability.  The action is well choreographed.  And the character moments are moving, full of real emotion.

Valkyrie 1 pg 8

In the first issue there is moment when Valkyrie, laying in her bed, sadly reflects on what she lost over the decades she was in suspended animation.  The collaboration here between Dixon’s scripting and Gulacy’s pencils creates a very melancholy, memorable sequence.

I found an inexpensive used copy of the “Prisoner of the Past” collection on Ebay a week or so ago.  So that’s one way to go if you want to pick up this great story.  However, the miniseries is being reissued by IDW, along with the remainder of the Airboy material from Eclipse.  Airboy Archives Volume One came out in March.  Volume Two, which includes the Valkyrie miniseries, is scheduled for a July release.  I’m planning to pick up both books.  In addition to the writing by Chuck Dixon, there are several talented artists who worked on the Airboy series, among them Tim Truman, Stan Woch, Tom Lyle and Ron Randall.  It’s always nice when quality out-of-print material such as this finally has the opportunity to find a new audience.

Don McGregor and Trevor Von Eeden are on Kickstarter

There is a Kickstarter fundraiser currently taking place that I really wanted to draw everyone’s attention to.  Writer Don McGregor and artist Trevor Von Eeden are attempting to raise the funding to publish their brand new graphic novel Sabre: The Early Future Years.  I’ve already written about how much I enjoy Von Eeden’s artwork in my July 24th blog post.  Because of my appreciation for his artwork, I’d really like to see this project get funded.  McGregor and Von Eeden’s target is $17,000 to me met by September 9, 2013.  As of this writing, they have only raised $6,631, approximately one third of their goal.  I did pledge a few dollars, but due to my current work and financial situation, I wasn’t able to offer too much.  So I’ve been promoting the hell out of this, really hoping that others can also pitch in.  Here is the link to their page on Kickstarter where you can pledge funds:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jsacks/sabre-graphic-novel-by-don-mcgregor-and-trevor-von

And below is a preview of Trevor Von Eeden’s artwork for Sabre: the Early Future Years.  It features coloring by George Freeman, who previously worked with Von Eeden on his two volume graphic novel The Original Johnson.

sabre early future years preview

In addition to being a fan of Trevor’s art, I also greatly enjoy Don McGregor’s writing.  He has a very distinctive style of prose, narration, and dialogue, a real sophistication to his plots and scripts.  In the past, McGregor has worked on a number of critically lauded, groundbreaking stories.

In the 1970s, while at Marvel Comics, McGregor did well regarded work with the character of Black Panther in the pages of Jungle Action.  He also had an exception run on Amazing Adventures, chronicling the saga of Killraven, a freedom fighter struggling to overthrow Martian invaders in an apocalyptic future.  Debuting in Amazing Adventures #18, the Killraven / War of the Worlds feature was initially conceived by Roy Thomas & Neal Adams, inspired by the H.G. Wells’ novel.  However, with the character’s fourth appearance in issue #21, McGregor took over as the series’ writer.  He worked with several different artists over the next few issues.  And then an up-and-coming P. Craig Russell became the regular illustrator with #27, producing stunningly vibrant, bizarre artwork.  The two collaborated on Killraven until Amazing Adventures was cancelled at issue #39 in 1976.  McGregor and Russell reunited to craft a coda to their run which saw print as the Killraven: Warrior of the Worlds graphic novel in 1983.

Amazing Adventures 28 cover

It was in 1978 that McGregor teamed with artist Paul Gulacy to create the first Sabre graphic novel, which was released by up-and-coming independent company Eclipse Comics.  In the early 1980s, an ongoing Sabre series was also published by Eclipse, lasting 14 issues.  Comics Bulletin is currently running a multi-part interview with McGregor looking at the origins of Sabre.  Here’s a link to the first installment:

http://comicsbulletin.com/columns/6013/the-great-sabre-interview-part-one-characters-that-are-alive-in-an-alternate-universe/

While at Eclipse, McGregor also wrote a pair of noir mysteries, Detectives Inc.  The first graphic novel, A Remembrance of Threatening Green, was drawn by the talented Marshall Rogers, with the equally amazing Gene Colan illustrating A Terror of Dying Dreams.  McGregor and Colan later re-teamed on a mammoth 25-chapter Black Panther serial “Panther’s Quest” which ran in Marvel Comics Presents.  I’d like to see that one collected in a trade paperback.

Detectives Inc 1 cover

Those original Sabre and Detectives Inc. stories have subsequently been reprinted by other publishers such as Image and IDW.  Those collected editions are well worth seeking out.

So, having gone into all this detail about McGregor’s amazing writing, I really hope that I’ve piqued some interest, and that people will show their support for his latest project.  Separately, McGregor and Von Eeden have each rafted truly exception work in the past; together I expect that they make an amazing team.  I definitely hope that one day soon Sabre: The Early Future Years will be published.  I’ll keep you all updated on their progress.

September 10, 2013 Update: Unfortunately, the Kickstarter fundraiser did not meet its goal, only reaching $11,618 of the needed $17,000.  I was really looking forward to seeing the new Sabre graphic novel.  I am going to keep in touch with Don McGregor on Facebook, and see if he decided to attempt another Kickstarter campaign in the future, or perhaps go another route. Hopefully, one way or another, the book will make it into print in the near future.