Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins of Independence In Comics: First and Caliber Comics

These probably aren't going to be long posts, but this is going to be the first in a series. Before Image Comics and before creators like Robert Kirkman, there were independent comic publishers championing the cause of creator ownership in comics. Today we are going to talk about two of these publishers: First Comics and Caliber Comics. I'm going to start with these two because they were the companies that I was most familiar with back in the day because of their proximity to me at different points in my life. First Comics was a Chicago-based company best known for comics like Dreadstar, Nexus, Badger, Jon Sable, Grimjack and American Flagg, bringing us creators like Tim Truman, Howard Chaykin, Steve Rude, Mike Baron, John Ostrander and others. Detroit-based Caliber is known for publishing books like Deadworld, The Crow, and Baker Street, as well as starting the comic careers of creators like David Mack and Brian Bendis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mister X: The Little Comic That Could

I was rummaging through my trade paperback shelves the other day and came across my copy of the first volume of iBooks Mister X trade. Shamefully, this well-designed and thought out book has never found a large enough of an audience (despite the book being optioned for film back in the 80s with Patrick Stewart rumored to play the lead at the time). Besides this trade I have a couple of Vortex issues that I came across at the time, and a couple of issues of the attempted Caliber relaunch in the 90s (Caliber does still, to this day stand as one of my favorite small press comic publishers of that decade).

Part of the problem, I think, is just the hit or miss distribution of small press comics back then. Back in the 80s, and through part of the 90s, distribution for most media (comics and music chief among them) were still fairly regional to the point of what may have been popular in one part of the country never got seen in others.

What was Mister X you might ask? The very short Wikipedia article can be found here. Dean Motter, the creator of Mister X has a bit more information about him:

In the late 1970s, Dean Motter edited and art directed Andromeda, a Canadian comic book series which adapted the works of major science–fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and A.E. van Vogt. During that time Motter and collaborator Ken Steacy created The Sacred & The Profane (Star Reach), which Archie Goodwin referred to as "the first true graphic novel" in the contemporary comics medium.

Motter achieved recognition for his album cover design during his tenure as art director for CBS Records Canada, and later with his own studio, Modern Imageworks. His record jackets and promotional graphics (for acts such as The Nylons, Triumph, Loverboy, The Diodes, Liona Boyd and Jane Siberry) have won several awards. Motter has been nominated for a Juno Award six times, and won twice. He won a Juno Award in 1983 for "Best Album Graphics" for his work on the Anvil album Metal on Metal. The following year, he again won the "Best Album Graphics" award for his work on the Seamless album by The Nylons, along with Jeff Jackson and Deborah Samuel.

In 1988, he co-wrote and illustrated Shattered Visage for DC Comics based on Patrick McGoohan's 1960s British television series The Prisoner. The following year he created the logo and basic cover design for DC's Piranha Press imprint.

Mister X, at best, was a mystery. Who was Mister X? What was he doing? How did he find all those tunnels? For some, this strength was a great weakness. Many of the stories only had vague resolutions, as the enigma of the main character was central to the theme of the book and the stories.

The question remains: Why should we care? Well, I think the important reason why we should care about Mister X/Dean Motter is that he was a trailblazer. Books like Mister X, while obscure then and now, are important for the fact that they prepare audiences for what comes later, like the works of groundbreaking creators like Grant Morrison. Thematically I know that I can see similarities between the works of Motter and Morrison, even though I doubt that they were intentional. Both of these creators made books that were "essays" on their internal landscapes, using comic books as a media for bringing out these musing, and while Motter never did super-hero books, his Mister X or his Prisoner comics presage much that later comic creators would do, and at the same time he showed that the linear narrative of the comic book could be successfully usurped by the more non-traditional narrative styles of speculative fiction. For helping bring these sorts of depths of storytelling to comics alone, Motter is an important figure.

I suggest checking out the first trade of Mister X, if only for the incredible work of Los Bros Hernadez on the art of the first four issues. They really set the tone for the issues to follow. Amazon has some used copies listed here.