This is the “Secret Origin” of #AtomicAction comics (sort of).
First, a confession: I started this project solely for me.
In the Spring of 2018, I came to realize that after 30 years of getting my teeth kicked in by the comics industry, and failing to make much of a name for myself, I wasn’t going to get to write Batman or Conan or Flash Gordon. And even if some miracle occurred, and I did magically get one of those gigs, I wouldn’t be allowed to write it the way I wanted.
You see, I would want to write more in the style of the comics I grew up with; the DC, Marvel, Charlton, Gold Key (and quirky Atlas/Seaboard!) comics of the 1970s and early 80s. The kind of comics I wanted to make when I first realized I wanted to make comics! Comics that were aimed at general audiences, accessible to anyone, and crafted with skill, with a focus on entertainment. On fun.
Sadly those comics companies no longer exist; either completely out of business or reshaped into very different forms. Comics – despite many technological and cultural improvements – just don’t seem as accessible to new readers. And, from my point-of-view, not as much fun.
I’m not going to go into every way that I think mainstream comics have lost their “magic,” but I will say one thing: they take themselves way too seriously.
So… to recap: it had become evident that mainstream comics opportunities were unlikely to happen for me, and even if they weren’t, I really don’t have any interest in making mainstream comics the way they’re being made today.
But, it occurred to me one day that with my experience as an editor and graphic designer, plus the ease (and relative affordability) of print-on-demand publishing, I didn’t have to beg a publisher to “let me” write the comics I wanted to write; I could make them myself.
So I dusted off some public domain analogs to those aforementioned characters, came up with some plots (actually, not even plots, just some titles and vague ideas), and started recruiting artists, beginning with long-time collaborators Rick Burchett and Joe Staton. I asked my old colleague Paul Pelletier to draw a Black Owl cover, just ’cause I wanted to see one, and the ball started rolling.
I set my goals and expectations low: if I sold a few dozen copies thru IndyPlanet and at conventions, that would be a success. As I said, I was making these comics to please ME – I never thought that there would be much audience for such books.
Then, in my enthusiasm, I started sharing some of the art on Facebook. I wasn’t consciously promoting the damned things, just sharing my excitement and joy in their creation, but the “Likes” started coming and haven’t slowed down.
I didn’t expect much reward from these books, but it seems I’ve struck a chord with this project. I don’t know if it’s the concept of placing these particular characters in a Bronze Age setting, or the design aesthetic, or the appeal of my many talented (and generous) collaborators, but a surprising number of people seem interested in my little funnybooks.
If you’re one of those people, thanks for stopping by here at Ground Zero, and I hope you’ll check out the #AtomicAction comics. I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done, and my artistic collaborators are doing some of the finest work in their illustrious careers! Enjoy!
Publisher & EIC