AHOY Comics is on a tear. The second issue of their debut series, The Wrong Earth, sold out and went back for a second printing. Comic shops increased their orders for issue #3. The quantities ordered were more than those for the first issue, which ‘never happens’ with new series in today’s comics market.
After reading The Wrong Earth #3, It’s easy to see why.
The main story picks up the pace in this adventure. This issue brings secondary characters to the forefront and, surprisingly, shuffles other characters offstage. The premise of this story is both traditional and cutting edge at the same time: the adventures of the gritty Dragonfly and the campy Dragonflyman as they switch places. Each character must navigate the absurdity of their doppelganger’s setting. Conventions are skewered on both sides of the narrative.
The Wrong Earth is a judgement-free zone. Readers aren’t scolded or lectured. For every “the old days were better”, bit, there’s a counterpoint example of how today’s fiction makes the vintage stuff look dated. Instead, readers are invited on an adventurous romp that highlights the absurdity of it all.
The series also embraces a sense of urgency and surprise. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, writer Tom Peyer pulls the rug out. Peyer is a master of zigging when you thought the only option was zagging.
Jamal Igle’s artistic talent pushes the story along at a frantic pace. His solid artwork is almost humble. There are no showy, “look at me” scenes. But at the same time, his thoughtful page layout, unexpected camera angles and detailed backgrounds leave the reader wanting more.
As with every AHOY series, there’s more to the comic than just the main story. Paul Constant and Frank Cammuso offer up another fun Stinger “Golden Age adventure”. This time, the young hero investigates mysterious hijinks at the Sidekick Museum.
As with all AHOY Comics, this issue is rounded out with clever short text pieces. The real magic of them, for me, is how they prolong the reader’s time with the comic. Like the signature articles in a Brubaker/Phillips crime comic, these short stories ensure every fan feels as if they are getting their money’s worth.
It’s all fresh and fun. Longtime comic fans seldom have that “I can’t wait to find out what happens next” feeling, but that’s exactly where The Wrong Earth #3 will leave them.
A few years back, the idea was that every new comic publisher would establish a cohesive interconnected universe. Every one of their comic series would be just one part of a larger grand tapestry.
Times have changed.
Since it burst onto the scene, AHOY Comics has boldly said they want to make every comic different and surprising. They certainly deliver on that promise with Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror #1, available today in stores right on time for Halloween.
This comic is witty, creepy, gross …and so much fun. It’s packed full of content that, like a rotting corpse, it seems a little bloated. But in a good way.
The first story- and adaptation of Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” – is grim stuff. Tom Peyer opens the story with Poe serving as our horror host. But there’s so much fear and self-loathing. Just when you think it’s too far over the top, it goes over the top again. This chilling story is also an excellent tool for those dieting and seeking appetite suppression tools.
And no sooner is it finished that Edgar Allen Poe again takes center stage to introduce, again in a very unpleasant manner, the second story.
This is the one that really shines for me. At first glance, “Dark Chocolate” looks like a straightforward vampire story. But in reality, it’s a satirical farce of everything that’s near and dear to every kid who grew up watching Hammer monster movies and eating cereal for breakfast.
Mark Russell, who’s recent Flintstones series for DC Comics has been an unexpected, breakout hit, delivers a story that’s sweetly surprising on so many levels at the same time. It’s been too long since I’ve read a comic story by artist Peter Snejbjerg, and I worry I’ve forgotten just how talented he is.
The comics are rounded out by other features. Included is a short gag comic featuring Poe and a humorous Interview with Mark Russell. However, the poem “The Scallop and the Barnacle” by Celia Madrid is the one not be missed. It’s a grisly tale told with a dash of gallows humor and inappropriate language. Not what I was expecting, but so happy to have read it.
Next issue looks great too. The cover is very much in the lines of the “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”, but starring Edgar Allen Poe in that iconic pose, of course. It’s nutty, silly and kooky – so it makes all the sense of the world for this comic.
I think every reviewer has a high-spirited streak inside, where they want something to fail just because there’s a great headline for it. I remember when the Green Lantern movie was coming out, and there was a negative buzz preceding it, we came up with a list of reviewer headlines like “Oa No! Lights out for Green Lantern!” Looking back, it was pretty mean-spirited.
But thankfully, AHOY Comics’ High Heaven is so good there’s no need for a cheesy headline. If you really want one or need one, just cut and “OMG! High Heaven’s Divine!” or “TGIHH: Thank God its High Heaven” and put it at the top of this review. This comic, the second venture from Ahoy Comics, is subversively, wicked fun. High Heaven is fresh, witty and couldn’t be more different from the first AHOY title, The Wrong Earth.
Writer Tom Peyer and artist Greg Scott introduce us to a jerk named Weathers who suddenly dies and finds himself in the afterlife. Navigating it isn’t easy, and is especially difficult for a whiner like Weathers. The concept of Heaven is a well-traveled fictional road, but somehow Peyer creates a new take on it that leaves you eager to learn more.
Greg Scott keeps his foot on the gas with his gritty edged renderings. I liked his style in Archie’s recent Black Hood series, and it works surprisingly well here too.
And just like The Wrong Earth, AHOY has stuffed this issue with a plethora of diverse extra material. The back-up adventure is called Hashtag: Danger and is a humorous romp in that classic Challengers of the Unknown style. I’m not sure if the reason it works so well is because of the dinosaurs, the sly digs at social media, the unglamorizing of start-ups, or the wry commentary on reality show celebrities. A prose story by Grant Morrison, a Shannon Wheeler gag panel, a hilarious letters page and a clever editorial leave the reader with that “Wow! What a bargain!” feeling.
Heaven Can’t Wait! I’m impatient for issue #2. Ooops- that pun just slipped out. Sorry!
It’s exciting to be at the start of something. It’s especially exciting to be at the start of a new line of comics. Somehow comics, more than other forms of entertainment, have that feel of immediacy combined with a substantial tapestry of creative team-work. There’s always lots of dedicated people involved, and when they work together and make something new and exciting happen, it’s pretty special.
Ahoy Comic’s first new series, The Wrong Earth, is pretty special. And you can be at the start of it when issue #1 drops in stores tomorrow.
The new series offers readers a double-fish out-of-water story, as a classic Silver Age crime fighter changes places with a gritty “modern” hero. For superhero fans, there’s a lot to compare and contrast. And it’s done without any judgement on what type of storytelling is better. Writer Tom Peyer serves up clever new versions of old favorites, gently acknowledging the collective comic’s history that rattles around in collectors’ and/or fanboys’ heads. But he’s such an out-of-the box thinker that he will keep even the most jaded fans on their toes.
On the other hand, folks who aren’t overly well-versed in the nuances of fifty years of comic book heroes can enjoy this too. Anyone who’s seen one Marvel movie or one episode of a WB Superhero show is good to go.
Jamal Igle and inker Juan Castro provide solid art, often so smooth and skillful that you don’t even realize how good it is. Igle, as always, takes complicated scenes and makes them readable and engaging. He resists the urge to overdo it as he toggles between worlds, and what could have been jarring or tiresome is engaging.
One of the mantra’s for Ahoy is to provide a lot of material in each issue, and to ensure that it’s all diverse. The Wrong Earth #1 is overstuffed with creativity – including a prose story by Grant Morrison, a Too Much Coffee Man gag panel, a Q & A with Jamal Igle and a wonderful “lost” solo adventure of Stinger, the super hero sidekick.
Paul Constant teams with SU professor and artist Frank Cammuso on the Stinger short story called “The Fairgrounds Horror”. It has all the charm and fun of finding an old comic in your grandma’s attic. There’s an astounding level of detail, and the yellowed pages really look like they are from a 1940s comic.
Ahoy Comics’ first comic, The Wrong Earth, is a promising start to new publishing enterprise. I’m hopeful retailers will support this book, and if your retailer doesn’t carry it, ask him to snag you a copy. You will both be happier for it.
In the past I’ve mentioned some of what AfterShock Comics has been up to in my column here, but I haven’t talked about them as much as I should. I really haven’t been talking about the good work they’ve been doing. Having recently read World Reader #1, I decided I need to change that.
AfterShock Comics gets it.
I’ll explain. I was having lunch with Noah Sharma who writes over at Weekly Comic Book Review and AfterShock dominated the conversation. We talked about the different titles we’ve been enjoying like InSEXts, Animosity, Captain Kid, and World Reader. Well, the conversation actually started when I brought up how much I loved World Reader so let me backpedal a bit and talk about World Reader.
World Reader #1 hit the shelves on April 19th. It’s written by Jeff Loveness, drawn by Juan Doe and lettered by Rachel Deering. Jeff Loveness is best known for being a writer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! as well as writing Groot over at Marvel. This is his first creator owned comic. Juan Doe has worked on many comics over the years including American Monster and Animosity also at AfterShock. on Rachel Deering worked on the Womantholoy.
Basically, World Reader is about an astronaut, Sarah, who travels around the universe trying to help figure out what is seemingly killing it. She’s helped in this effort by her ability to commune with the dead, whether she wants to or not. We read on as Sarah is pushed to limits of her own mind in her quest to save us all.
For being the first creator-owned effort by Jeff Loveness, it’s fantastic. We really get sucked into this dangerous world and Jeff is humble enough to not overload the book with dialogue when it’s not necessary. He lets the art tell the story. And damn, it’s a good story.
This is a good story is because of Juan Doe’s artwork and colors. This book pops in a way that most books just don’t. I’d say that Jeff wrote a hell of a page turner, but the book is so gorgeous that turning the page might be the last thing you want to do.
What helps push you to turn the page is Rachel Deering’s excellent lettering. It’s not often that the lettering in a comic pops just like the art does, but Rachel makes it happen.
This team really feels like lightning in a bottle and I truly feel like they are onto something here. I haven’t felt this excited to pick up a second issue in a while. If I’m picking up a second issue of a comic then, yes, I’m at least somewhat excited, or curious, or trying to give it a chance to let the story unfold, but here I’m pretty damn excited.
I admit that I’m a science fiction fan so maybe the kind of story they’re setting up here appeals to me more than it might to someone else, but anyone that likes sci-fi comics needs to pick up World Reader. Don’t think about it, don’t add it to your list, don’t put it in your big stack of comics that’s months old now that you just don’t know when you’ll get to it, read it! If you’re afraid if you get home with it it’ll end up in a pile then read it outside the comic shop when you get a chance, or in your car before you drive away, or put aside the eight minutes when you buy it on ComiXology when you buy it to read it right then and there. If you don’t normally like sci-fi, but you like pretty books with fantastic colors, you should give this a shot too.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah! Lunch with Noah. So I talk about how I picked up World Reader #1 from Carmine Street Comics in Manhattan and after talking about how much I enjoyed it, we got talking about AfterShock in general. We talked about InSEXts and Marguerite Bennett and how that’s been absolutely fantastic, original, and one of the best books she’s writing. For me, it’s a flagship title for AfterShock, and a book they should be immensely proud of publishing. Animosity I haven’t gotten a chance to read, but it’s on my list. Yes, I’m being that person that I said you shouldn’t be about World Reader. I’m working on it, really!
One of the other books I really enjoyed that AfterShock puts out is Captain Kid. ComicMix’s own Ed Catto wrote about this book the end of last year, and I encourage you all to read it if you haven’t yet. Though it’s concluded as of April, it was a fantastic character driven story by creators Mark Waid and Tom Peyer, who oddly enough were both DC editors some years ago. The team includes artists Wilfredo Torres and Brent Peeples, colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, with A Larger World lettering. The book is about a character that’s a bit of a reverse Shazam (I wish I could call him Captain Marvel) and uses that as a device to create a very personal feeling character piece about aging and coming to terms with your life. It looks and feels like a comic from a time where the stories were a bit simpler, in a good way. If you love the Silver or Bronze Age of comics, or the kind of person who loves groups like DC In The 80s you should read Captain Kid. If you didn’t get a chance while it was coming out, the collected edition comes out in June.
Sorry. I keep getting off track. Lunch… that’s right. So Noah and I ended up talking about these different titles and we come to the conclusion that AfterShock really gets it. Though they’re working with quite a few established writers, they are trying to take some chances. They throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Sure, not every title is going to be the next The Walking Dead, and some titles are going to be duds; it happens, but it’s the drive and creativity they have that gives AfterShock Comics the feel that they could be revival Image Comics one day.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if you haven’t checked out AfterShock yet, there’s no time like the present.
Way back when, as I was growing up in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State, I enjoyed The Syracuse New Times. This funky weekly newspaper ran a cartoon by Tom Peyer that often skewered the politicians of the day with its clever, biting wit. It was creative, irreverent, smart and subversively fun.
And then, one day, Peyer worked in an “Earth One/Earth Two” reference. That was kind of like a geek dog whistle – perceptible only to comic fans. I knew I’d be a fan forever.
Tom Peyer went on to a robust career writing and editing comics, with impressive runs on the DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes and L.E.G.I.O.N. His fantastic Hourman series brought characters like Snapper Carr and Bethany Lee to life in such a credible way that, like long lost friends, I still miss them.
Like me, Tom has recently returned to the Central New York region, so it made sense to catch up with him. I knew it would be a lot of fun, but I also wanted to learn about his fascinating new series from Aftershock Comics, Captain Kid.
Captain Kid is the story of a middle-aged guy suffering all the discomforts and indignities of middle age. But he has a secret. And that secret is that he’s really the new teen superhero who’d just burst onto the scene.
Tom teamed-up with his longtime pal Mark Waid on the writing chores. Wilfredo Torres is providing strong covers and solid interior artwork.
Aftershock is a new publisher with a myriad of titles from talented creators.
Mark Waid urged Peyer to tell this story for years, and when the Aftershock opportunity came about, they jumped on it.
Peyer explained to me that the genesis of this comic series came from his observation that comics aren’t about wish fulfillment anymore. In the old days, characters like Jimmy Olsen, Captain Marvel or Robin were all about young boys wanting to hang out with, or become, their heroes. But today, many comics buyers read stories that are about heroes and protagonists who are younger than themselves. Thus, Captain Kid flips old time conventions upside down.
Peyer also took a fresh approach to the well-worn concept of time travel. It occurred to him that in a culture where time travel is commonplace, certain generally accepted norms would naturally arise. Maybe the norms wouldn’t always be right, but they would soon become baked into people’s behavior.
In the universe of Captain Kid, “obey your elders” is a mantra that the characters embrace. The thinking is that you will most likely, at one point or another, run into a future version of yourself. And it is assumed that they are wiser and should be respected.
As with so many of Peyer’s and Waid’s stories, the secondary characters are as rich and interesting as the lead. Helea, a female black superhero who mysteriously appears, is one such engaging character. Or maybe I should say “characters,” as Captain Kid features both a younger and an older version of this woman.
She serves the role of a mentor figure, Peyer explains, like Merlin or Obi-Won Kenobi. The story gets really interesting as the whole series is predicated on a mistake she made. Helea’s trying to make it right, but because time travel is imprecise, she’s fixing all the problems thirty years too late!
Wilfredo Torres’ art is crisp, clear and imbued with just a drop of nostalgia for sharp-eyed comic fans. Torres deftly conveys big ideas with a character’s expressive body language or simple brush strokes that denote the crinkle of an expression.
Peyer told me a little story about how Torres gave a supporting character an apple to hold. The character was supposed to be just sitting down in a certain part of the story and the apple was a surprise to the writers. Wilfredo explained to Peyer that even when people are sitting down they are never just sitting down.
Peyer just loves this straightforward art. “I used to call over-rendered, over- detailed, hyper-detailed comic art ‘incontinent,’” said Peyer. “But Torres art is just the opposite. I’d call it continent.”
Peyer told me about an insightful interview he had with Chris Simms. After the concept was explained, Simms summarized that Captain Kid was all about hope and fear. Or, more precisely, how we hope for a better future but fear that we can’t protect ourselves from the present.
Issue #3 just went on sale. I’m going to be sure to get a copy from local comic shop. You might want to snag one too!
Over the past year I have been working on raising awareness of Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol. She’s not only one of two trans women to ever write at DC Comics, she’s also the only woman to write Doom Patrol.
When I was given a slot here at ComicMix to be a weekly columnist, I used my second column to talk about Coagula. Once DC Comics announced its plans to launch the Young Animal imprint helmed by Gerard Way and how Doom Patrol would be the flagship title, I wrote about my excitement and made sure to discuss Rachel Pollack’s contributions again. Months later I took to Geeks OUT to praise the importance of Rachel’s run to queer comics history. Most recently, I wrote up a piece last week on how Rachel Pollack has been forgotten by the comics industry at [insertgeekhere].
After a year of writing pieces on the subject, I finally got the chance to interview Rachel Pollack this past Saturday on her career in comics. Here is the transcript of that interview.
Joe: What got you into reading comics and what stood out about Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well first I’ve read comics since I was a kid. So I’ve been reading comics all life, which is a very long time now! I’ve always loved comics. There have been these periods where I would grow out of it so to speak and then the comics would get better and I’d come back to it you know? And then with Doom Patrol I never read the original, and I forget how I came to read Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. I really don’t remember exactly how I came to read that except that it wasn’t Vertigo yet but it was associated with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman which started before Vertigo so I was aware of it as part of that group. When I read it I was completely knocked out by it. I loved it. This is so incredible. A work of genius. And that’s how I came to read Doom Patrol.
Joe: You had gotten started on Doom Patrol after Grant was off the book. How did that come to be?
Rachel – What happened was I went to a party with people from DC with my friend Neil Gaiman and he introduced me to Stuart Moore. I mentioned my appreciation for Doom Patrol to Stuart and he said Tom Peyer is here at the party I should talk to him. So I told Tom I love Doom Patrol. It was the only ongoing superhero comic I was interested in writing at the time, if it was ever available. Tom told me Grant is actually leaving so why don’t I do a sample script and send it to him. And so I did that. He liked it enough to hire me.
Then I did that prank where I sent a letter to the letters column of Doom Patrol. I had to wait ages for Tom to get around to reading it. I wrote in this voice as a young fan. It read something like, “Dear Mr. Peyer, Doom Patrol is great! Grant Morrison is the most fabulous writer in the world. He’s a super genius! If he ever dies or gets sick can I write it?” And Tom finally reads it and calls me and tells me he loves it and to write more of these. Then in Grant’s last issue we’ll announce that you’ve gotten the job. So I wrote more letters and in the second to last one I wrote, ”I really wanna write Doom Patrol! I’m getting kinda angry here! I have friends. Don’t think I’m just a kid. You wouldn’t wanna have your head shoved in the toilet would you? Or sugar in your gas tank.” And then in the last issue of Grant’s run I wrote, “Gee Mr. Peyer I’m really really sorry about that! I got kinda carried away. The thing is I already told my mom I would be writing it and she told all her friends already. And so then Tom responded with, “Well what can I do? She told her mom. I have no choice! Rachel Pollack is the new writer of Doom Patrol!”
In that same issue I wrote this essay praising Grant Morrison in my serious writer voice. It just seemed to me it was so obvious that it was a joke and yet all of these people thought it was real! Some were really angry thinking I got this job just by writing letters. Others thought if they wrote letters they could write a comic. I was shocked that people could be so silly, you know?
Then I went to some other party at DC and I met this group of people. One was from the New Yorker Magazine and one was from the Village Voice and they asked you didn’t get the job from writing letters? I was like oh my God you people are nuts! So if you never heard that story that’s how the letters came to be.
Joe: When you started writing on Doom Patrol Tom was still editor, Richard Case was still doing layout work, and Stan Woch was still on the book as well. So basically you were one of the only new elements to the book. How was stepping into the role of writer with so much of the prior team on board at first and how did you start making this run of Doom Patrol your own?
Rachel: I was actually really thrilled that Richard Case was staying on for my first story arc. I love his art. I guess they were hoping that the transition would be smooth. I kind of did my first story as a homage to Grant’s beginnings. His first story was Crawling Through The Wreckage and I called mine Sliding Through The Wreckage. Tom had said to me Grant wouldn’t give any information. I think Grant wanted the series to end after he left. I’ve never had this confirmed but it was always my impression. Like how Russell T. Davies believed the BBC should let him kill off Doctor Who. But they didn’t.
So Grant wouldn’t give much information. The only information Tom had for me was that Robotman would be left and Dorothy, there had to be somebody in bandages (that’s what Tom wanted), and the Chief would be a head without a body. This turned out to be a Grant Morrison joke. Because Grant did this one off issue of a dream where the Chief lost his body and was a literal talking head, but I just went with it. I gather, like I said I never got the information from Grant, that he thought it was absurd. I thought it was hilarious. Since Tom said we need someone in bandages I introduced George and Marion, a couple in bandages. Then I introduced Kate Godwin but that was seven issues in. My first issue was 64 and issue 70 was when Kate Godwin appeared.
Joe: How did you go about creating Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula?
Rachel: I was told that the current artist needed a break and I should do a one off story that could be done with a different artist. And I wasn’t pleased with the idea because I always tended to think in large story arcs. So I had to think of something and I came up with this ridiculous villain called Codpiece. And then somehow I just decided without even really thinking about it to introduce this transsexual lesbian superhero.
At the time I was involved in transgender activism and someone asked me if Kate Godwin was based on me and I said to answer the question, she’s based on a couple of friends of mine. But it wasn’t this big decision like I was trying to have this crusade. I just thought it was a cool thing to do.
The theme that had been emerging in my run was people having issues with their bodies and accepting their bodies. I always thought that was implied in Grant’s run. Dorothy was ugly, Cliff had a brain in a robot body, the Chief was in a wheelchair, Rebis was in bandages and so on and so on. I just made it more explicit. George and Marion were the first characters I had the idea of having accept themselves. And there’s a scene in that issue, the Codpiece issue, where George and Marion are heading to town and they ask Cliff and Dorothy if they want to come and they both make excuses. Dorothy says how can you stand it having people stare at you all the time? George and Marion say they have two choices: either they can go enjoy themselves and have people stare at them or they could stay home all the time and hide. George and Marion would rather go enjoy themselves and have people stare.
Codpiece himself was freaked out about people not liking him because he thought they would think he had a small penis which was all in his head. The first scene of that issue shows Codpiece’s origin. He’s in high school and he asks this girl why won’t you go out with me? She doesn’t want to say because you’re an asshole so she says because you’re too small. He’s wounded from this exchange and takes it as her implying he has a small penis. It becomes a fixation of his. And we see this over the years even though there is no evidence of this.
Then we get to present day where a prostitute says to him if you’re worried about being too small why don’t you wear something? He responds by developing this ridiculous codpiece costume. My idea was that it’s a parody of the ridiculous weapons in comics in the 50s and 60s. Like how Green Arrow would have a quiver on his back that would somehow contain boxing glove arrows and rocket arrows and so forth. So Codpiece had a boxing glove weapon and so on. Apparently some people thought I was attacking the fans. That I was somehow judging the fans as inadequate in the sense of their masculinity. Weird!
I guess it was in contrast to him and to some extent Dorothy and Cliff that I had this character come in, a transsexual lesbian. It was also because of a friend of mine, to go back to my earlier point. Her last name was Chelsea Godwin. She had asked me if she could be in the comic because she always wanted to be a superhero so I was sort of thinking of doing something for her. And Kate came from Kate Bornstein who was this brilliant transgender activist and performer. So I was paying homage to my friends.
Kate became a regular character. And a thoughtful character. A lot of people connected with her. Some people didn’t obviously. I didn’t get a lot of criticism that I was being too much of a trans activist, but rather that I was being too much of a feminist. That I was forcing feminism down their throats is what some people said. Some also said I was being too obscure. That was in the early issues. I was following Grant’s tendency to be obscure, but I perhaps took it a bit too far. As time went on there was more structure to the stories, but by that time we had already alienated some readers.
Joe: Do you have a favorite moment from working on Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well I just really loved doing it. I loved telling these stories that were so outrageous. I loved the characters. We came up with some interesting ideas. I liked the character False Memory which was another single issue story.
There was one thing that happened shortly after we introduced Kate. We got a letter from a young transsexual reader from England who stated that she was wanting to kill herself, but never dared and because of the character of Kate Godwin she was able to come out to her friends. She was finally able to tell people because what we were doing made her finally feel that it was possible to have a life being herself. It was very powerful. We may have saved someone’s life. It was amazing. I wonder how that she’s doing now. It was a long time ago. Hopefully she continued to move in a positive direction.
Joe: You also worked on other books at DC including New Gods. Can you tell us about that?
Rachel: Yes! I was really thrilled to write it! Tom Peyer had gotten the job to write that, but he wasn’t that wild about it, so he asked if I’d be interested in writing with him and I jumped at it. Jack Kirby’s New Gods I think about in the same way as Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. It’s a work of genius, you know? Even more, New Gods to me was so powerfully from Jack Kirby’s subconscious. You know, Kirby is known for his art primarily and New Gods was known to be kind of primitive in the writing, but actually it was so powerful on this raw level that it didn’t matter that the dialogue would be clumsy at times. An example was there was one issue with this character who was a revelationist, Glorious Godfrey, and at one point Darkseid appears and Godfrey says to Darkseid that they have to manipulate these people and Darkseid says he likes him because he’s brash but that he’s the revelationist, but “I am the revelation, the force at the core of all things.” You could tell Kirby meant it. It wasn’t just some throwaway comic book line.
So I was thrilled to work on that comic. Then Tom dropped out and I was writing it by myself. I was never thrilled by the artist though. With Vertigo I would always have some say in the artist but with the mainstream DC they insist on having these artists and he just did tits and ass all the time. It infuriated me. I used to joke with people that I would have quit if they didn’t fire me!
What happened with the comic was I got a letter from the editor saying the current artist was fired. I was happy. I really didn’t like him because of how sexist he was in his style of art. Then the next letter I got was you and I are fired too!
Apparently John Byrne had decided to take over New Gods and got rid of everybody. The same way he took over Doom Patrol after me, after a gap. With Doom Patrol too he wanted to sweep away everything previous and go back to what he perceived to be the true Doom Patrol before Grant Morrison.
Joe: How did you end up leaving comics?
Rachel: Well to be honest my stuff wasn’t selling that well, so things got cancelled. Doom Patrol got cancelled because sales went down below a certain point and the irony is not that long after that sales point would have been great because the sale of comics at the time were declining so rapidly. But compared to the previous sales from Grant’s books and Sandman, they cancelled it.
And actually my editor on Doom Patrol at the time, Lou Stathis, had died which was very sad. He was a wonderful man, and he had been my champion at DC. In fact, he said to me one time they wanted to cancel me and he told them, “Look, if Vertigo isn’t going to publish Rachel Pollack then what’s the point?” He thought I was doing daring things that no one else was doing and that’s what Vertigo needed.
When he had died Axel Alonso had been the assistant editor on Doom Patrol and of course now he’s the editor-in-chief of Marvel. He wasn’t interested in the kind of things I was doing. He was interested in war comics and other genres and didn’t want to continue Doom Patrol at that time as sales were below a certain point.
I had done some other things at DC too. I did a one off issue of The Geek with Mike Allred that I enjoyed a lot. I also did a one off issue of Tomahawk. It was funny, they enjoyed taking these older characters from the 50s or so and doing revisionist stories with them. I was asked what would I like to do and out of my subconscious came Tomahawk. It was never my favorite as a kid. I had read it though, and obviously in my subconscious I wanted to do a story about the whole European attitude to the forest and the Native Americans as the original idea was be frightened by the forest and be frightened by the savages.
Then Stuart Moore started the science fiction imprint Helix and I got to do Time Breakers which I had a real great time doing. I had wanted to do a time paradox story for a long long time and this was my chance to do one. It was so much fun!
Joe: Once Time Breakers was over was that it with you and comics?
Rachel: I forget if it was Time Breakers or New Gods. The stuff I was doing didn’t sell well enough and they were no longer interested in ideas from me. It was unfortunate. I loved doing comics. Hopefully there will be more. Some possibilities for doing something in comics again. There are one or two things I’m currently interested in doing.
Joe – Your whole run of Doom Patrol is on Comixology and has been for a couple of years. How does that work for you?
Rachel: It doesn’t. I know nothing about it. No one told me about it. I really don’t know. I have no idea how that happens. I assume that if DC was making some money on it that they would be paying royalties no matter how tiny to myself and the artists.
Joe: So you haven’t received any money from Comixology?
Rachel: I never even received official acknowledgement that my comics are there. So I know nothing about it. I would have thought that somebody would say something.
Joe: Does DC own the rights to all of your comics work?
Rachel – No. Time Breakers is owned by me and Chris Weston. I guess that’s the only one. Every other one I worked on was with existing characters and properties. It’s the only creator owned comic I had published.
Joe: Any plans on possibly reprinting it?
Rachel – Well there are some possibilities. Nothing definite yet. Chris and I are hoping to get it reprinted. Chris took it on himself to get the rights reverted from DC which didn’t cost him anything, it was just time consuming. They had to give over some files and other things to us. They were very nice about it, was just a matter of getting them to do it.
Joe: Looking back on your Doom Patrol run would you say it was ahead of its time?
Rachel: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Certainly afterwards Vertigo became less involved in superhero stuff. I do think it was too radical for some people. A lot of people found it hard to get. A lot of comics fans have this idea that the writer should disregard everything beforehand and write something new, which particularly male writers tend to do. Without really thinking about it I wanted to follow up on some of the things that Grant did.
Some people thought I wasn’t enough like Grant, and other people thought I was too much like Grant and then they’d say I wasn’t a good enough Grant. They thought I was imitating him, but I wasn’t good enough. In fact what I was doing was my own take on things, but inspired by what he did. A lot of people didn’t want that. They didn’t like the feminist positions I was taking. They felt it was weird for weird’s sake. Certainly Grant did the same thing. Invisibles was very weird. More so than Doom Patrol, but people still liked it. What can you do, you know?
Joe: Currently DC is relaunching Doom Patrol starting Wednesday September 14th with Gerard Way writing.
Rachel: Which is exciting! Just a few days!
Joe: You’re already a fan of Gerard Way?
Rachel: Yes. Without knowing it or remembering it was him at the time, I read Umbrella Academy. I really liked it a lot. Then you told me he would be writing Doom Patrol and planned on bringing back the weird, I reread the Umbrella Academy stories after that. I love them. I’m really excited he’s writing Doom Patrol. Then he got in touch with me which I was delighted about. E-mail exchanges. I really like his approach. Wanting to bring back the weird. Not just Grant in Doom Patrol, but all the British Invasion stuff, like Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man. I’m excited that Young Animal will be like the old Vertigo. I read the eight-page preview of Doom Patrol too and it’s great fun!
Joe: You mentioned a couple of comics projects you’re interested in before. Are you looking to get back into comics?
Rachel: Yes, yes. There’s an anthology project that I hope to do one or two stories in that I’m very excited about. I was also approached by someone I know who is launching a line of comics for women readers and I was asked about contributing to it. I’m planning on doing a story for it that I had in mind for a long long time so I’m hoping that it’ll work out.
Joe: Do you feel your contributions to comics like Kate Godwin are important to this generation of queer comics fans?
Rachel: I can tell you for a fact that they are. I went to a literary festival in Winnipeg recently kind of expecting that no one would know who I was since I haven’t written stuff on that subject since the 90s in my more activist years. It turned out that when I got there that to my surprise I was kind of a hero and one of the main reasons was Doom Patrol. A lot of young people doing webcomics were there and they were all Doom Patrol fans. They were all thrilled that someone had done this back in the 90s.
I recently did an interview for a website highlighting trans women and they included an article they had about trans characters in superhero comics. They had some previous attempts at trans characters on the list, but stated if you’re looking for a good example of a trans superhero look no further than Rachel Pollack. I was very honored. A new generation has been finding my work and viewing me as a role model. It’s been very exciting for me.
Joe: Before we wrap things up, anything else you’d like to add?
Rachel – I hope people read the new Doom Patrol coming out. Gerard has some great plans for the book and if you’re a fan of my run there will definitely be surprises in store for you. You’re gonna love it!
Oh, and one thing that I’d like to end with is that I’m glad I got to do some stories based in mythology for Doom Patrol. They were some of my favorites. There was the Teiresias story which I loved doing. And the last story I got to do involved Kabbalah which was something I had been interested in for some time and it turned out to be the perfect ending to my run. It’s interesting that things happened that way. I loved that I got to have a 15th century Kabbalist be one of the characters! I’m sure many Rabbis would be horrified.
Joe: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your comics work, and I hope we get to see new comics work from you see!
Rachel – Thank you for reaching out! It was very enjoyable. I had a good time.
This is going to be a slap-dash column, full of random thoughts (and, I hope, insights) because I’m having a slap-dash episode. The plumber is supposed to be here fixing my kitchen sink at some time in a four-hour period. I don’t know when he will arrive, but I’m pretty sure it will be when I’m in the middle of something really complicated.
The super in my building is supposed to come by to hang a picture for me that is too heavy for me to hang by myself. Again, that time thing makes it difficult to plan properly, or to think and act in an orderly manner.
My son and his girlfriend are coming to visit (hence the increased urgency for a working kitchen sink) and I have to make up the guest room, make sure there are snacks in the fridge, and explain to Salina the cat that she can’t sleep there at night.
So yes, I’m not thinking a lot about comic books, nor their spin-offs into other media. Except that super-speed and super-strength would be especially useful right now. Together, they would put my plumber and super out of business. Working people will have enough problems from Congress over the next two years without me wishing for extra abilities that make their lives more difficult.
Anyway, here are my random thoughts.
Convergence, the DC event that lets the corporate staff move to Burbank and get settled, sounds great to geek me. No, it won’t draw in new readers. No, I won’t like everything. But I’m psyched for Tom Peyer on The Atom, Larry Hama on Wonder Woman, Gail Simone on Nightwing/Oracle, Alisa Kwitney on Batgirl and Greg Rucka on Question.
That said, it seems that event-driven comics are not the guaranteed sales they once were and this is only good for comics. I mean, I’m fine with Spider-Man showing up in the third issue of every new Marvel series (god, I’m old), or a new DC character finding herself in Gotham, because that’s a way to introduce new readers to the book. Universe-spanning crossovers are the antithesis of this. Instead of using something familiar to make a new reader comfortable with taking a chance on a new title, crossovers tend to be so complicated (especially if one reads only a few titles consistently, not all of them) that it’s easier to skip the whole thing.
You know what would bring in new readers? Free comics. And, yes, Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I think we can take its success and use it to try to reach more targeted audiences. For example, if I, as a single woman living in Manhattan, could get a Groupon for a free first issue (or trade paperback) of Saga, redeemable at my local comic book shop, I might try it.
Yeah, it’s not cheap. Image would have to support the plan with co-op dollars. Still, I think it would draw in a bunch of people that comic book marketing doesn’t normally reach.
I’m liking Matt Ryan as the title character on Constantine. He seems to enjoy the hell out of all the snark he’s supposed to convey. The scripts aren’t terrible – a bit heavy on the exposition, but that’s what happens when there is a new universe to introduce to viewers. I like the way they use comic book art as Easter eggs.
His tie is always askew in exactly the same way. I just know there is someone on set whose job it is to wrangle the tie. It doesn’t look casual. It doesn’t look reckless. It doesn’t look like John Constantine, man of mystery, is caught in a world beyond his control.
It looks affected. More than anything, it reminds me of Miami Vice.
It’s a tie, John Constantine. If you don’t want to wear it, don’t wear it. If you put it on in a half-assed way, day after day, every day, I will think (and I’ll try to use words you’ll understand) you are a wanker.
Like a good geek, I get my comic books on Wednesday, usually in the morning because that’s how it fits into my round of errands. Often, I don’t actually sit down to read them until the weekend.
For the last few weeks, I have left-overs on Tuesday.
Are comics worse? Am I outgrowing them, finally, fifty years after all my childhood friends? Is it just a fluke of chance, that storylines aren’t appealing to me?
I take my own advice and try to pick up something new, from an independent publisher, on a regular basis. Lots of these comics (see Saga, above) become part of my regular list. So I don’t think it’s happening because I’m a slave to super-heroes. I still like them.
There is a new Stephen King book out this week. It’s titled Revival and I know almost nothing about it. I love Stephen King books. Reading one feels like getting into a warm bath, because I know that he can tell a story, and create characters I’ll care about. He cares about them, too.
And I’m probably not going to have the time to read it until the kids go home. And I like having them here and don’t look forward to their leaving.
Maybe I can stay up all night reading. When I finish reading my comics.