I am excited to announce that I have written an article that is being published in issue #104 of Back Issue magazine, which ships on May 9, 2018.
Edited by Michael Eury and published by TwoMorrows Publishing, Back Issue has been running since 2003. As per the TwoMorrows website, “Back Issue celebrates comic books of the 1970s, 1980s, and today through a variety of recurring (and rotating) departments.”
I have been reading Back Issue since it first debuted. Over the past 15 years Eury has assembled a talented line-up of writers to examine numerous interesting and diverse topics concerning the comic book medium. It is a genuine honor to now be counted among their number.
Supplementing its informative articles, Back Issue also features a wonderful selection of rare and previously-unpublished artwork by numerous talented creators.
Here are the specifics regarding this upcoming issue…
BACK ISSUE #104 (84 FULL-COLOR pages, $8.95) is the FOURTH WORLD AFTER KIRBY issue, exploring the enduring legacy of JACK KIRBY’s DC characters! The Return(s) of the New Gods, Why Can’t Mister Miracle Escape Cancellation?, the Forever People, MIKE MIGNOLA’s unrealized New Gods animated movie, the Fourth World in Hollywood, and more. With an all-star lineup, including the work of JOHN BYRNE, PARIS CULLINS, J. M. DeMATTEIS, MARK EVANIER, MICHAEL GOLDEN, RICK HOBERG, WALTER SIMONSON, and more! Cover by STEVE RUDE, re-presenting his variant cover for 2015’s Convergence #6. Edited by MICHAEL EURY.
The article I have written for Back Issue #104 is “Return To Forever: The Forever People Miniseries” which examines the six issue Forever People revival that DC Comics published in 1987. For this piece I have interviewed writer J.M. DeMatteis, penciler Paris Cullins, inker Karl Kesel, and editor Karen Berger.
I am a long-time fan of Jack Kirby groundbreaking work on the “Fourth World” titles in the early 1970s, as well as the various revivals that have been attempted over the subsequent decades. The return of the Forever People to print in the late 1980s is one that has not, as far as I am aware, been previously examined to any significant degree. I found it an enjoyable assignment to delve into the origins of this miniseries, and to offer an examination of the ways in which the changes in American society since the early 1970s were explored by DeMatteis through his writing in this series.
In addition to my article, within the pages of Back Issue #104 you will find “Forever Your Girl: A Beautiful Dreamer Art Gallery.” This will feature several of the wonderful pieces that I have obtained in my Beautiful Dreamer theme sketchbook from some of the top artists in the comic book biz.
Back Issue #104 can be previewed and ordered on the TwoMorrows website. The magazine is available in both print and digital editions.
I was originally not planning to go to New York Comic Con this year. Then about a week before the show my old friend Mitchell Lampert contacted me to let me know he had two extra tickets for Sunday. Thanks to Mitchell’s very kind and generous gift, my girlfriend Michele and I were able to attend the show.
As usual, I was on a limited budget, although I did manage to raise a little extra money at the last minute. Even so, seeing all of the amazing creators who had tables in Artists Alley, I did wish that I could have afforded a few more sketches. Well, there’s always the future.
When we arrived at the Javits Center on Sunday morning, I immediately headed over to Erik Larsen’s table in Artists Alley. Larsen is the creator of Savage Dragon from Image Comics. I’ve been following it from the very beginning, over two decades ago, and for the last few years it has been my favorite ongoing series. Larsen has been a guest at NYCC several times before, but somehow I’ve always missed him. I did meet him quite a few years ago, but he had a long line then, so I really did not have the opportunity to talk with him.
Fortunately on Sunday, while there was steady traffic at Larsen’s table, it never got very crowded, and so I was able to spend a few minutes talking to him, asking him questions and telling him how much I enjoyed his work. Larsen is definitely a friendly, cool guy.
I was able to obtain a couple of sketches by Larsen. He did a quick free sketch of Malcolm Dragon, and then I paid for him to do a detailed Beautiful Dreamer in my theme sketchbook. Larsen is a huge fan of Jack Kirby, so for a while now I’d hoped to have him contribute to the sketchbook. I’m happy I finally had the opportunity.
Next I headed over to see Russ Braun, a very talented artist who has worked on such series as Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Battlefields, The Boys and Where Monsters Dwell. I met Russ at a signing at JHU Comic Books a few months ago, where he did a nice drawing of Beautiful Dreamer for me. Since then we’ve corresponded on Facebook. Russ is definitely a class act, one of the nicest comic book pros I’ve ever met. It’s always a pleasure to see the new artwork he’s posting on FB.
I picked up a copy of Russ’ 2015 NYCC Sketchbook, which contains some amazing illustrations. A lot of these are pieces he’s shared on Facebook in the last few months, and it was nice to see them complied together. Russ drew a sketch for me in my Avengers Assemble book. He drew a pretty obscure character named Masque, who you might recall if you were reading the Avengers comics in the mid-1990s. I will be the first to admit that “The Crossing” storyline was a huge mess. However, there were certain characters and elements to it that I thought had potential, and Masque was one of those. Anyway, Russ did a great job sketching the character.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet Christopher Ivy, an artist I know from Facebook. He is an extremely prolific inker who has been working in comic books since 1988. Ivy had some original pages for sale. I was just browsing through them out of curiosity when I came across one of his pages from Sovereign Seven penciled by Dwayne Turner. As I’ve written before, S7 was an interesting series. This one leaped out at me because of the beautiful drawing of Lucy the cat by Turner & Ivy.
Yes, as regular readers of this blog will know, I am definitely a huge cat lover. So I immediately knew that I had to buy this page. Fortunately it fell within my budget. Michele thought it was a nice page, as well.
Chris Claremont, the writer of Sovereign Seven, had a table in Artists Alley. I brought the page over to get his autograph. Claremont was pleasantly surprised by this, and he appeared genuinely happy to see it. I always thought the series had a great deal of potential. Even though it was published by DC Comics, the characters were owned by Claremont. I told him that I would enjoy seeing him write them again, if not in comic books then perhaps in a prose novel. I get the feeling that given the opportunity Claremont would like to revisit his creations.
I spent most of the day in Artists Alley, mostly because it looked like the main floor was very crowded. Around 3:00 Michele and I decided to give it a try. And, yep, it was completely packed! It was almost impossible to move in places. I felt like we were on the NYC subway during rush hour.
After elbowing out way through the crowd and making our way from one end of the floor to another, we finally arrived at the Action Labs booth. Unfortunately by that time the creators of the Hero Cats series had left for the day. Well, maybe next year!
Inching our way back the other was, Michele and I came to the Papercutz booth. Paris Cullins was there to promote The Zodiac Legacy, the new series he’s working on with writer Stuart Moore. Cullins asked if I would like a sketch. He then proceeded to draw Michele and myself! I think that I look sort of weird, but the drawing of Michele was of course beautiful. It was a very nice gesture on Cullins’ part.
I met a number of other creators at NYCC. Among them were Joe Staton, Bret Blevins, Jan Duursema, Tom Mandrake, Joyce Chin, Mike Lilly, Bob McLeod, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Joe Prado, Fernando Ruiz, Jamal Igle, Jim Chambers and Joe Martino. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone.
There were, of course, some really amazing cosplayers at NYCC. Michele took a whole bunch of pictures. Here are a few of my favorites…
I really admire many of these cosplayers. They obviously possess a great deal of talent to be able to create such amazing costumes, as well as the self-confidence to wear them at huge gatherings of fandom.
I’m happy that Michele and I were able to go to New York Comic Con this year. It was fun. At the same time, I’m glad that I only went one day. Any more than that and I would have been completely worn out!
I made a last-minute decision to attend this year’s New York Comic Book Marketplace show organized by Mike Carbonaro & Allen Rosenberg. I wish I had decided a few days earlier when I could have bought an advance ticket cheaper, but what are you going to do? I also wish I’d been able to take photos while I was there, but my camera went kaput a few months ago.
In any case, my main reason for going was that George Perez was the guest of honor. I have an Avengers theme sketchbook that I’ve had going since 2007, and I’ve always hoped I’d be able to get a piece by Perez in it. Well, I got to the show at a little after 10:00 AM, and already the line was really long. It was also moving very slowly, because everyone else was also getting sketches from Perez. I decided I’d try and get something from him some other time, because I really did not want to spend a couple of hours waiting.
The other guest I really wanted to see was Chris Claremont, one of my all time favorite writers. I’ve met Claremont a few times before, but it’s always nice to see him again, because he has written so many great stories over the years. In addition to having him autograph a few X-Men trade paperbacks, I asked him to sign a pair of issues of Uncanny X-Men, specifically #s 204 & 205, which are favorites of mine. They came out in early 1986, when I was nine years old, and were some of the first issues of that series I ever read. Uncanny X-Men #204 features Nightcrawler, one of my favorite X-Men, and it was penciled by Power Pack co-creator June Brigman, whose artwork I love. Issue #205 is a spotlight on Wolverine in a dark story illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. What I really like about this one is that Claremont tells this very gritty, violent story from the point of view of five year old Katie Power, aka Energizer from Power Pack (yep, them again) and he really makes it work. It enables Claremont to so effectively explore the very disparate aspects of Wolverine, how he is this extremely nasty berserker warrior, yet also have the capacity to be a kind, paternal figure to Katie.
It is a real shame that Marvel does not want to give Claremont any work nowadays. I mean, he wrote Uncanny X-Men and most of its spin-off titles for a period of 17 years, playing a significant role in building a gigantic franchise (and I certainly don’t mean to overlook the parts that Len Wein, Dave Cockrum or John Byrne also played). When Claremont returned to Marvel a decade ago, he did very solid, entertaining work on X-Treme X-Men and X-Men Forever (the later was my favorite Marvel title during the time it was being published). Marvel is very happy to endlessly reprint Claremont’s old stories and to have their newer writers base their stories on the classic arcs he co-created. But the company seems uninterested in giving him any new writing gigs.
Anyway, Claremont is currently working on prose fiction, and I definitely wish him the very best of luck with his new efforts. I’m looking forward to picking up his novels.
Getting back to the show, I did not buy too many comic books, because I already have so much stuff. In fact, I’m looking to get rid of a lot of comic books in the near future. One of the few books I did pick up was the hardcover collection of Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff. That’s one of Peter David’s early works. I’ve wanted to read that one for a while now. Also, Rich Buckler, who penciled that storyline, was a guest at the show. I went over to his table, and he remembered me from our e-mail correspondence. When I gave Buckler the book to autograph, he was genuinely surprised to see it, because he had no idea it had been published. Which means that, yep, Marvel did not bother to send him a copy. Again with the lack of respect by Marvel! In any case, it was a good read, with nice artwork by both Bucker and another favorite of mine, Sal Buscema.
One artist I was very surprised to see at the show was Paris Cullins. I’ve wanted to meet him for years. I like his work a lot. Back in 1988, Cullins penciled a six issue Forever People miniseries written by J.M. DeMatteis and inked by Karl Kesel. He did really nice art for it, and so for some time I had been hoping to get a drawing by him in my Beautiful Dreamer theme sketchbook. I even corresponded with him about it on Facebook in the recent past. So there he was, and this was his first appearance at a NYC show in quite a number of years. Only one problem: his coming was a last minute decision, so I had no idea he was going to be there, and I hadn’t brought along the Beautiful Dreamer book. I was mentally kicking myself. Cullins really wanted to do a piece for me, and suggested that he could draw it on a loose piece of paper to paste into my book. But I felt it just would not have been the same. So I left the show feeling pretty disappointed. No Avengers sketch by Perez, and no Beautiful Dreamer drawing by Cullins.
About an hour later I got back it Queens, and I told Michele what happened. Her suggestion was that I should take my sketchbook and go back to the convention. At first I thought that was a crazy idea, but then I realized I had nothing to do all day, so I shrugged and rushed back into Manhattan. As soon as I got there, I went directly to Cullins’ table and half out of breath said something like “Good, you’re still here. If you had left, I’d be feeling very silly right about now.” Cullins ended up working on my sketch right away, which was good for me but probably didn’t especially thrill everyone else waiting for a sketch! I think he could tell from my Beautiful Dreamer tattoo that I was a huge fan of the character, and that I’d really appreciate what he was drawing.
In addition to the piece by Paris Cullins, I also got some very nice sketches from Dave Fox, Jim Salicrup, and Billy Tucci in my Avengers book. I’ve posted scans on Comic Art Fans:
It was a pretty good show but, between this and Mocca Fest, I’m pretty worn out when it comes to comic book conventions. Think I’ll wait until the New York Comic Con rolls around in October before I go to another one.