There aren’t many artists like Mike Allred. He’s one of the few that has appeal to both mainstream and indy fans. I mean, just look at the wide range of creators Allred has roped in to produce Madman stories and pin-ups over the years—Jack Kirby, Alex Ross, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, to name a few. And Allred has successfully gone back and forth from gigs at Marvel and DC to his creator-owned work at Dark Horse, Image and Oni several times over the years, and also took a shot at self-publishing. Even at this early point in his career in 1993, he was well-suited for “Palmer’s Picks” in Wizard #21. Too bad my writing wasn’t up to the job.
As I mentioned last time, a lot of clumsy phrasing and lazy shortcuts were starting to crop up in “Picks,” probably due to the heavy workload during my freshman year of college. Instead of taking the time to examine what I found interesting about Allred and his comics, I chose to put together a glorified Wikipedia entry (even though the launch of that website was still years away) detailing the ins-and-outs of his publishing history. It would take many months before I realized that I could maybe try picking up a phone and calling these creators to get some information, or maybe even conduct a real interview and get some actual quotes and stuff.
While I was struggling to keep things together, the rest of Wizard was starting to inch its way to respectability. Issue 21 saw a radical design for the magazine overhaul that cleaned up a lot of the amateurish font choices and haphazard layouts of the past. If you look at the earlier issues of Wizard, there’s no unified design and it’s sometimes difficult to discern which pages are advertisements and which ones are articles. The new design emphasized readability with a nice use of white or light backgrounds behind all of the text. “Palmer’s Picks” even got a new look that made things nice and clear, and even left room for some fun graphics like the dancing Madman figures on the second page.
But all of these slick design choices couldn’t hide the fact that I really should have stepped up my game. Wizard was quickly gaining sales, which meant more and more eyes would be stumbling over my awkward phrasing. Or maybe they just flipped right past my column on the way to the price guide!
by Tom Palmer Jr.
One of the more original and exciting new artists to emerge in the past few years is Mike Allred. He debuted with the Dead Air graphic novel, and gained a following with his Grafik Muzik series. He recently won even more recognition with his Madman comics from Tundra. His comics appear to be fun and lighthearted on the surface, yet they contain deeper, more relevant meanings underneath.
Allred’s original work was published by Slave Labor Graphics. They brought out his debut, Dead Air, and published three issues of a book entitled Graphique Musique, both in black-and-white. Allred moved the book to Caliber, where he simplified the title to Grafik Muzik and switched to full color. His wife, Laura, did most of the beautiful coloring on the book, but it was only able to survive for two issues before reverting to black-and-white.
Graphique Musique was made up of two continuing stories, “It Was” and “Citizen Nocturne.” When the title changed, the second story was replaced with “Ghoulash.” These stories were a little hard to define, yet they combined certain elements of several genres, ranging from vampire stories to superheroes to detective stories.
At the same time that Grafik Muzik was being published, Allred completed several other side projects, some which haven’t seen print yet. The first of these was Creatures of the Id, a collaboration with writer Jeffrey Lang and The Jam artist Bernie Mireault. Mireault and Allred also collaborated on The Everyman, a story about a woman who is murdered, but who comes back to life for retribution in a body she has to share with other tormented souls. Both Mireault and Allred worked together on the artwork, but Mireault provided the color through a unique method usually used in animation. He painted the color for the comic on acetate, almost in the way animation cels are produced. The third of Allred’s side projects, Jaguar Stories, has yet to be published, since it was tied up when its publisher, Comico, went bankrupt.
When Grafik Muzik ended after four issues, Allred began working on Madman, a lighthearted take on superheroes. In the initial three-issue series, Allred left the identity of the title character a mystery, but readers of his previous work were able to figure out who he was. Madman has the ability to pick up on other people’s thoughts or feelings by touching them, much in the same way as Frank Einstein, one of Allred’s character’s from Grafik Muzik. Allred left other clues through the story but finally revealed the truth in the final issue.
Allred recently began work on an ongoing full-color Madman comic, continuing the light tone of the original series. Allred’s art has progressed in leaps and bounds from his debut work of just a few years ago, to a slick, polished, simple yet accurate style. His writing is superb as well, taking old comic-book routines like time travel and making them fresh and exciting. He is also able to subtly work deeper meanings into his stories, such as the importance of judging people not for their looks, but for their personality and soul.
The current issue of Madman, with guest inks by Xenozoic Tales creator Mark Schultz, should be out as you read this, but there are also some other comics you should take note of. Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo has moved to Mirage and will now be published in full color. The first issue also co-stars the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which should get this excellent comic a little more attention.
From Inside is a new full-color series by John Bergin, the editor behind Bone Saw, a little-seen anthology from Tundra. Bone Saw was an eclectic, unsettling mix of prose stories, art portfolios, and comic stories from Bergin, Crow creator J. O’Barr, and others. From Inside promises to be a thought-provoking and disturbing series that should be well worth waiting for.
Tundra is also publishing a collection of Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse’s BoJeffries Saga. The series is the humorous story of a family of monsters and freaks trying to fit into society, which appeared in various comics and anthologies over the past ten years. It is being collected here for the first time in full color.
Remember to bug your local comic shop owner if they are not carrying these titles. It doesn’t help if you order straight from the publishers, since that keeps these books from being placed on the racks where other people can find them. Also, you could try loaning your comics out to your friends to get them hooked on something you like. The more people a retailer has asking him about a certain comic, the better the chances are of him ordering it, and the better the chances are of your favorite alternative comic surviving among the larger companies.
To close things out, let me thank everyone who has written with comments and suggestions. While I’m not going to be able to get to everyone’s suggestions, I am going to try and cover some of the more popular requests in the next couple of months. But first, next month I’m going to profile one of my personal favorites, Larry Marder’s Tales of the Beanworld. Then I’m probably going to cover some of the smaller companies out there, like Tragedy Strikes Press, or Drawn and Quarterly. Remember to keep writing with whatever is on your mind to: Palmer’s Picks, c/o Wizard Press,
P.O. Box 5001, Monsey, NY 10952-8001.
Madman – The original three-issue, prestige format, two-color series was published in the spring of 1992 by Tundra. The full-color quarterly series debuted in December, and two issues should be out by now. Copies of all of these comics can be found in your local comic book store, or you can order from Tundra Publishing Ltd.
320 Riverside Dr., Northampton, MA 01060.
Grafik Muzik – Originally, this comic was published under the title Graphique Musique from Slave Labor. Three black-and-white issues were published before the book moved to Caliber Press, where the title was changed to Grafik Muzik and was published in color for the first two issues. Copies of the original series, as well as the Dead Air graphic novel, can be ordered from Slave Labor at
983 South Bascom Ave., San Jose, CA 95128. Copies of the second series, as well as the Creatures of the Id one-shot, can be ordered from Caliber at 621-B South Main St., Plymouth, MI 48170.
Everyman – This bookshelf comic was published at the end of 1991 in full color from Epic. Copies should still be available at your local comic book store.
The Jam – Bernie Mireault’s comic series was published by several companies. Most recently it was published in black-and-white by Slave Labor. Tundra reprinted the Slave Labor series in five full- color issues this past year. Mireault also worked on a few issues of Grendel, and his own Mackenzie Queen, which was collected in a graphic novel by Caliber Press.
Xenozoic Tales – Mark Schultz’s award-winning black-and-white comic is published quarterly by Kitchen Sink Press. Twelve issues, two collections (Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Shaman), a 3-D special, and a box of canny bars have been published. Contact Kitchen Sink at
No. 2 Swamp Rd., Princeton, WI 54968 for information.
Usagi Yojimbo – was originally published by Fantagraphics in black-and-while. Several of the original issues and trade paperback collections, as well as three color specials, are still available. Write to Fantagraphics at 7563 lake City Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98115 for ordering information.