1992: Famous Comic Book Creators Trading Cards

Famous Comic Book Creators Trading Cards (1992) edited by cat yronwode.

I’ve written about several other “trading card” collections from Eclipse Comics in this blog series, but these are the first cards that are like actually trading cards. All the previous ones have been 36 cards in a box. Not much trading there.

But these came in 12-packs, so you perhaps had to actually do some trading to get them all? I think I saw an yronwode editorial where she said they’re doing the cards in this format because YOU DEMANDED IT. I guess it’s more fun this way.

Non-trading cards are just… cards…

Looks like a shiny foil pack. I’ve never seen any of these myself, so it’s all new to me.

The person I got these from (via ebay) has helpfully ordered them by serial number in these… er… card folders? Sorry for not being all courant up in your terminologies.

The first striking thing about these cards is that American comic book people apparently have little in the way of a sense of colour. And that whoever dropped in those halos and eye-gouging backgrounds made things a lot worse.

Oh, and that Bill Sienkiewicz looks broody enough to outweigh all the other people.

Some people look really great, though. Even if the saturation is like gonzo.

But we haven’t discussed the back of the cards! They have all sorts of stars. Birth day, birthplace, whether they’re left- or right-handed (!) and where they went to school. I’m guessing that this format is taken from sports cards? Perhaps?

After that we basically get a career recap, heavy on the bibliography.

Some of the pictures on these cards are just mind-bogglingly bad. Couldn’t they have gotten a better one of Al Williamson?

Anyway, I surmise (from my spelunking down ebay to buy these) that the main point of these cards was to have something you could ask these people to sign at conventions. I saw somebody sell a complete signed set, which I guess also means that everybody were alive at the time these cards were published?

The selection of creators is slanted towards people working in super-hero comics, with a selection of people working in more genre-y indie comics. We don’t get anybody from the art comics world or even famous people like the Hernandez brothers from the more alternative world. We do get a couple of more underground aligned people like Howard Cruse, though.

My set has 109 cards, and I don’t know whether that’s all the cards in existence or whether there were more.

The signed cards seem to go for around $10 a pop.

Some people were amused:

Eclipse Enterprises honored the industry in 1992 with their Famous Comic Book Creators trading card series and made such opportunities available to the general public. Some legends like Will Eisner and Jack Kirby appeared in more conservative attire, opting for sweaters, while some younger go-getters left less of their bodies to the imagination. I can only speculate about what circumstances might have led to Eclipse acquiring the photos for its more topless images, but the 110-card set spanned decades of fashion choices and mustache styles.

Rich Kreiner writes in The Comics Journal 155:

The texts are uniformly interesting. Length proves wholly indadequate for certain creators — Kirby, Schwartz — and far too long and indulgent for certain rookies. It’s good to see credits assembled — for Frank Springer, for instance, whose diverse Work includes Dell’s Brain Boy and DC’s “Dial H For Hero” as well as Evergreen Review’s “Phoebe Zeit-geist. ” There’s a mix of trivia (“Artists were so distracted by his work that Reed (Crandalll was told not to bring it into the Eisner-lger shop. “) and truth (Bill Sienkiewicz’s full name) in which no Eclipse project goes unmentioned. But when, as with Ron Frenz, did we begin dignifying shameless imitation (in this case in Thor) as ‘ ‘recapturing some of the grandeur and dynamism from Kirby’s run”?

Visually, the cards have their high points. Harvey Pekar’s downturned mouth, tilt of head, and wild hair embody that indomitable punk virtue of not giving a damn about what you think. Credit Todd McFarlane with a bit of calculated wit in his bare-chested, bat-swinging pose in honor of the famous Jose Canseco baseball card. Finally there is something haunting about seeing cards 95 and 96 back to back: the clear photographs of Bill Finger — casual, in white cap and tee-shirt — and Bill Everett — posed, pipe in mouth, hair tousled, lifting his gaze to you from what ought to be grand architectural plans of some sort.

Uniformly interesting? Sarcasm, man.

1992: Wilderness: The True Story of Simon Girty

Wilderness: The True Story of Simon Girty (1992) by Timothy Truman.

Ye gods! Another Truman book!

This seems to have a convoluted publishing history. This was apparently first self-published by Truman (under the 4Winds moniker) in 1989 in two volumes. Eclipse then allegedly published a collection edition in September 1992… but I can’t find any evidence that that actually happened. Eclipse had a tendency to announce that they would publish something, and even sell it via mail order, long before they actually did, and sometimes they dropped it silently from their schedule.

So comics.org and Amazon both claim that Eclipse did publish it, but neither include any pictures of the book, and the one seller on Amazon wants $1K for it. So perhaps it never existed.

The edition I have is from 1998 and is from ACG Books, which looks pretty much like a semi-facsimile edition: It has a lot of ads for other Eclipse comics in the back, but there are no Eclipse logos anywhere. So somebody has been using whiteout.

Aaaanyway! This is yet another one of Truman’s book about the late 1700s in the Trans-Allegheny region. He’d cover this from a different angle in Straight up to See the Sky, but this centres on one person only: Simon Girty, who was (is?) apparently a controversial figure. Jack Jackson, appropriately enough, since he’s done several historical comics, provides the introduction.

This book is very much a polemic, but Truman is arguing against things I’ve never heard about… because I know nothing about this part of history. But I can well believe that the common American take on a guy who went to fight for the British and the Native Americans as being, er, somewhat adversarial.

Truman explains his approach in this book: He quotes extensively from letters written at the time, and synthesises from wildly different accounts what he believes must have happened. And, also, that he’s done so much research, dude.

And the book gets underway in a very promising way. Truman would adapt Tecumseh! a year or two later (which touches on many of the same themes again), but the artwork there was rather uninspired.

But this book is obviously a passion project for Truman, and he doesn’t stint on his artwork.

And if only the entire book was like this: Moody, deadly serious, panoramic, intense, REMEMBER TO LOOK IN THE THESAURUS FOR SEVEN MORE OF THESE WORDS.

It’s not perfect. I mean, Truman has never really mastered the challenging, er, challenge of drawing children. He basically draws an adult head, but fatter and with fewer lines.

And Truman concentrates so hard on bringing mood that he doesn’t always focus on telling the story.

And sometimes he goes *so* *hard* in for *intensity* that we’re off to self parody town. I could help snickering a bit over that page. It’s just too… much.

But, I mean, nicely draw, man. Love Truman’s dirty, smudged line.

Well, that’s all very well and good, but once we get a bit further into the book, things get more complicated and Truman really lays the verbiage on. He also has sudden insights into Girty’s thoughts, and Girty’s thoughts are, strangely enough, as portentous as Truman’s captions: He’s “fascinated by the subtleties of their words and movements”. Sure!

“Girty felt useful, he felt needed.”

Girty participated in so many battles and wars, and it seems like we get a presentation of… way too many people in each of these. While this book started off well, the latter half of the first part is basically like reading an illustrated recap of too many history books. We also get captions that are thinly veiled critiques of… something?… that I’m not quite aware of what they other people say happened. It’s frustrating reading a polemic when you don’t know what the other side says.

The second original volume looks and reads somewhat differently again. Truman has suddenly discovered zip-a-tone (or something) and swathes all the pages in it. I mean, it looks great, but it’s weird shifting art styles like that. The lettering is also bigger, which made me wonder whether Truman had also started drawing in a smaller format, but I… don’t think so? Things look muddier here than in the first part, so, if anything, it looks even more reduced.

Nice parallel!

Much of the second part is unfortunately anecdotes like that. Girty’s story doesn’t have much of an arc after a while, but I guess life’s like that. But we get a lot of these things that don’t really make that much sense and aren’t that interesting. I’m guessing that a lot of stories about Girty exists, and Truman just wanted to put them all in and put his own slant on them to explain how they make sense after all.

In the afterword we get to know what happened to all the people…

… and a list of all the people Girty saved from being tortured to death by the Native Americans…

… and a very long bibliography.

I felt rather impatient reading parts of this book, but you can’t deny Truman’s passion for the subject, which can sometimes be infectious.

Here’s Truman in an interview:

The more research I did, the more I saw how unfairly he’d been treated by American history. So I became determined to tell a more truthful history about the man. As a result of the work I did, many other people began reexamining his reputation and his place in history. His relatives in Canada and the U.S.A. even made me an honorary “cousin.” So I’m very proud of the Wilderness graphic novels, to say the least.

Hm… I can’t find any real reviews of this, but here’s one from Amazon:

Nevertheless his artwork is good and I believe the history was sound. Nevertheless I was left with the impression that the story was not only choppy, it was incomplete. Perhaps the book was, in fact, geared toward younger readers and some of the more graphic incidents–incidents of torture and mutilations that Girty may have participated in–are largely skimmed over. Then again, the author may simply be meticulous in his interpretation of history and doesn’t want to speculate on things in which there are no living witnesses.

And another:

Like Truman’s “Straight Up To See The Sky” I have searched for a copy of this book for aprox 17 yrs! Also like the afore mentioned title I came just short of giving it a 5-star rating. The reason why I could not is, also like the other title, there is the episode with Joseph Brant where Brant supposedly sinks to his knees and begs Girty’s forgiveness for a past confrontation. I have long studied the life of Joseph Brant, and I even reenact with the recreated Brant’s Volunteers (so I might be a wee bit biased), basing my persona on of all people Simon Girty(!!), but in all that time I have not found one eyewitness report that validates this episode, nor have I seen it in the character of Brant. In fact the opposite is true. Brant even refused to bow to George III when he visited England in 1776.

Having said that however, I would indeed recommend this book to anyone interested in Simon Girty or the frontier of the 18th century.

So there you go. This book is unfair to Joseph Brant! He slashed Girty’s face in a drunken stupor, but he would never apologise for it.

1992: Allan W. Eckert’s Tecumseh!

Allan W. Eckert’s Tecumseh! (1992) by Timothy Truman adapted from a play by Allan W. Eckert.

What’s this then? Another Truman graphic novel?

Yes. We’re still in very much within Truman’s major area of interest: Frontiers life and Native American history, but this time it’s an adaptation of an outdoors play by Allan W. Eckert.

Eclipse has published so many overwritten adaptations of things that try to shoehorn as many words as possible onto each page, but Truman is more successful in creating a real comic.

The dialogue that he does keep isn’t… er… very good, though.

And aren’t we all just bored to death with having a really, really, really ugly person that’s going to turn out to being totally evil and mad? It’s positively Greek.

You gotta love that very-not-impressed expression of the woman in the last panel there, though.

There’s plenty of captions here telling us what would take too long to show, but they weirdly veer from third person to first person without any rhyme or reason.

And this isn’t Truman’s best artwork. Many of these pages I wouldn’t have been able to guess was Truman at all, as he often abandons his scratchy, dirty, visceral line for the one that looks like it’s from a 50s Classics Illustrated.

But some panels are more recognisably Trumanesqe. And, yes, surprise, it turns out that the ugly guy was evil.

Excellent foreshadowing!

I wondered whether this was based on a true story, and the page that explains how this graphic novel came to be doesn’t really explain. Semi-historical, perhaps?

Truman says that he’s done something called Wilderness “in a non-traditional format” before Tecumseh!, which makes me wonder just what format that is.

And since that was apparently published before this volume, perhaps I should just read that next. (My notes had it the other way around. Stupid notes!)

1991: Straight Up to See the Sky

Straight Up to See the Sky (1991) by Timothy Truman.

There’s a lot of Timothy Truman in these twilight Eclipse years…

And I think he said in The Spider that he was reserving the “Four Winds” designation to his most personal works.

We start off with an introduction by Phillip W. Hoffman called “POV”, where he tells us that, perhaps, people like George Washington might have had other motives for what he did other than the pure goodness of his heart.

Truman explains what this book is: A series of portraits of a bunch people on the frontiers in the Allegheny area.

There’s even a map.

So we get about four to eight pages per person. One full-page drawing and then a text that tells you what they did.

Truman is obviously passionate about this project, and taken one by one, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these… collections of extended anecdotes.

But being as uninterested as I am about this stuff, I didn’t find it much of a compelling read. At least not reading about one person after another after another. I mean, they’re all interesting characters, I guess, but…

The most befuddling thing is how little the textual description of the people doesn’t match up with the drawings. Anne Bailey here is supposed to be short, stocky, coarse in appearance, and usually wore breeches. That’s… not what that drawing seems to depict, is it?

A reviewer on Amazon really liked it:

I was thrown by how fantastic this book was. The illustrations, done by the author himself, were incredible. The stories themselves, were brought to life in a way that made you want to go back in time to learn more about the characters. Both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were treated with the same degree of research to make those black and white lines become a lot greyer, and a lot clearer at the same time. It was truly inspiring. Having read The Leatherstocking Tales, which by the way, were a real Snore-fest, Mr. Truman treats the reality of those times with so MUCH more vigor than his predecessor in the art – a boring Mr. James Fennimore Cooper.

1991: Pandemonium

Pandemonium (1991) edited by Michael Brown.

I enjoyed Clive Barker’s earlier, funnier work, but like most people, I lost track of him in the 90s after he went on to do… other… things.

This is from 1991, though, and most of the things he’d made so far had been successes. He was reeling from the failure of the Nightbreed movie, which is alluded to several times, but whatever happened (did the studio take away control from him or something?), it’s not made explicit.

But other than that, he’s still in his golden period here, before the Hellraiser series went into freefall with ever-more cheaply made films. How many are there now? Ten? With the last five going straight to DVD? Something like that.

This is not a very focused book. It’s basically a grab bag of everything Barker, so we get an essay or two from Barker himself, where he, as usual, bitches about being pegged as a genre writer.

Then an interview with Barker, where he makes deep and insightful comments about Cary Grant in the middle of an extended “what would you bring to a desert island I mean heaven” thing.

Which it’s a kind of boring list of books and stuff, he does list Krazy Kat, so he’s got that going for him.

Then we get interviews with several people he’s worked with…

… old and new artwork…

… really flattering photos…

… and an interview with his teacher, who is amazingly forthright about Barker for a book like this.

He seems to think that Barker has a very one track mind.

Then we get an analysis of Barker, and it turns out that he’s so great because he’s “a literate writer” making allusions to Faust, The Inferno, Peter Pan, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Old Testament (!), The Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein.

So literate! How can it be!

The thing about this book is… before reading it, I knew nothing about Barker. I assumed that he had to be a pretty cool guy, because he wrote some books that I liked when I was a teenager. The impression I have after reading it that Barker is totes jejune. At every point, the book points him as being kinda dull and not very well-read.

Ok, back to the contents… Eclipse! That’s the subject of this blog series, remember?

We’re informed that Barker was pleased with the Tapping the Vein series, so he gave Eclipse the rights to all the short stories in his Books of Blood, which is nice of him. Eclipse published six of these, which I’ll cover later in this blog series, because… I bought the first one, Son of Celluloid, from somebody on ebay, and it apparently got lost in the mail or something.

Finally, the last section of the book: The History of the Devil: Scenes From a Pretended Life, the manuscript for a theatre production.

So many fonts! The editor must enjoy playing around in InDesign or whatever was popular in 1991…

The play is one of those terribly witty British things where there are approx nine thousand characters that run around and pop on stage to deliver a devastating bon mot or two before exeunting again. “I beg your pardon?” “By all means beg it.” You see, he’s a demon.

It’s tedious as fuck.

Unless I miss something, we’re not actually told whether this play was ever staged, or when, or how long it ran. I think it probably ran… for three seemingly interminable hours.

It’s about the Devil being put to trial and it has an oh-so clever twist ending because of course it has.

I was snidely going to say “yeah right”, but it’s apparently been staged more than onceand the sci-fi channel made an audiobook out of it.

Here’s somebody who knows something about this book:

This glossy assembly of articles and interviews grew out of Michael Brown’s Dread newsletters and, after initial plans to produce the book with HarperCollins foundered, Eclipse became home for what was planned as the first in a series of ‘further explorations into the worlds of Clive Barker’ (a tagline that seemed oddly reminiscent of Coenobium’s ‘explorations in the further regions of Hellraiser…’).

There you go.

1991: One Mile Up

One Mile Up (1991) #1 by Fred Schiller and Shepherd Hendrix.

The in-house Eclipse ads touted this as being something for fans of Japanese comics.

And while the figures and artwork doesn’t really look very Japanese, there’s something about the layouts and the way the action happens (i.e., everything at the same time for maximum confusion and excitement) that suggests that the writer has been reading lots of Japanese children’s comics.

However, if you’re going to pull that shit off, you have to know the tricks, and these people don’t. Most of the pages verge on the unreadable and you have to backtrack to get what you missed to be able to interpret just the hell what’s going on. And for a reader to have that patience, there has to be something worth it in the story, and…

There almost is. It’s a pretty standard sci fi soldier setup, but it’s got charm. I feel that if they’d given the story a bit more room to breathe, this could have been a pretty fun read. I particularly liked the bar scene. It was almost coherent.

Ah, there’s the Japanese. Going into slightly super deformed mode when surprising things happen.

I know it’s meant to be funny, but having gundam suits that fall over when you tap them isn’t good engineering. I mean, it’s a badly engineered joke.

And then we get a preview for Mad Dogs, which we’ll cover later.

This was a projected five part series, but only one issue was published.

I haven’t read any of the comics Eclipse published over the next couple of years, but looking at the list, it’s like we’re back to 1986 with parody comics and cheap black and white comics from not very famous creators dominating. Eclipse had huge money problems at the time, which explains why they’re trying to get some cheap stuff out there, and I guess this is the first comic in that wave.

The story was never picked up by any other publisher, and nobody was much impressed:

You’ve got neophyte mecha-jockeys waging brutal war versus cartoony Bad Guys against a backdrop of intergalactic political conspiracies and the requisite lashings of personal melodrama and an adequate facimile of the boilerplate manga art style.

One Mile Up gives the impression of being a labor of love crafted by a pair of dedicate fans, and therein lies its fatal flaw. While it’s clear that the creators really, really cared about paying homage to the source material, they tragically forgot to give the audience its own reason to give a shit.

1989: Point Blank

Point Blank (1989) #1-2 edited by Cefn Ridout.

This anthology looks extremely similar to the Aces anthology Eclipse and Acme were co-publishing the year before.

And as usual with these Acme books, it says that it’s “released” by Eclipse Comics… But now there’s also John Brown Publishing in the mix. Is that why they relaunched under another name? “Point-Blank” doesn’t really seem like a more compelling name than “Aces”, really…

Point-Blank even carries one of the serials over from Aces: Dieter Lumpen by Jorge Zentner and Ruben Pellejero. Dieter Lumpen is the action/adventure strip that everybody tried to make happen, but it’s never going to. You’d see it pop up in basically all European anthologies at one point or another, and then disappear again.

It’s easy to see why the editors give it a try, because Pellejero’s artwork is 100% Hugo Pratt. But while Corto Maltese has wit and charm (so much charm), the Dieter Lumpen stories are tedious and contrived.

When they decided to continue Corto Maltese after Pratt’s death, Pellejero was chosen as the artist. Like, duh. And his artwork is impeccable in those Corto Maltese stories on a panel-by-panel, but they’re even more boring than Dieter Lumpen. I don’t think I managed to make it all the way through the first album, even after trying for weeks…

The other serial here is Marvin (!) by Giancarlo Berardi and Ivo Milazzo. The artwork is much sketchier than Pellejero’s, and isn’t er totally devoid on influence either, but it’s a pretty entertaining noir mystery they’re setting up.

Impressive storytelling, too. I love how Marvin slowly realises what his old friend is there to do (i.e., beat him up), and how they then don’t show that violence but cuts to a flashback to Marvin in the Great War.

It’s a shame that they only managed to publish two issues of Point-Blank before cancelling it, because I was getting kinda interested in the Marvin serial (which was left unfinished).

Hm… I see that in the second issue, Eclipse isn’t mentioned at all, so they’d already pulled out?

And after googling for this magazine for a few minutes, I can find out nothing about John Brown’s relationship with it, or why it was cancelled. But it was probably just low sales? European action anthologies are a difficult thing to sell in the UK.