Saturday, September 22, 2012

QUADRANT

The easiest thing for me to do here is to quote Steve Thompson ("Booksteve") from his "HORRAY FOR WALLY WOOD!" blog...

"Peter Hsu was one of the assistants who worked with Woody on the second (and possibly the unfinished third) WIZARD KING graphic novel toward the end of his life. Hsu went on to do a number of sexy sci-fi/fantasy comics including QUADRANT, seen here in its collected version. These were all distinguished by black and white painted art highlighting gorgeous Wood-like blondes, all of which had seemingly been copied from adult magazines. In fact, some of his work showed them in ridiculous poses but discretely covered up. Others, like this one, remove the obstacles. Even as he focused on naked women in high heels fighting monsters with swords, the rest of his work, as seen in the images below, always continued to show a distinct influence from his brief time with Wood.  If I recall correctly, Mr. Hsu went into software design later on."  

I first ran across Peter Hsu's work in the pages of Warren's 1984 / 1994 magazine, where it naturally caught my attention, considering how much awful, wretched hack-work was on display in that rag.  Once the Wally Wood, Richard Corben and Jose Gonzalez material was exhausted, later issues mainly had Frank Thorne to keep them afloat-- and, Peter Hsu.

I must have missed it (or else my comics shop wasn't getting them in), but QUADRANT was a series that ran 8 issues from 1983-86, and was reprinted as a "prestige format" (that's the same size as regular comics so it's easier to display in stores and file in your collections) TPB in 1990.

QUADRANT  /  art by PETER HSU   (1990)

I just finished reading this book. I'd say re-reading, since I've had it "forever", except I honestly didn't recall any of the plot details, which makes me wonder how it got filed away all those years ago.

I hadn't quite made the "Wally Wood" connection, but I can see it now. The whole thing with the elf who manages to befriend the normally man-hating lesbo warriors should have been a tip-off.

No doubt, Peter Hsu's a master when it comes to drawing NEKKED women, and his airbrush work is astonishing. I have to shake my head at the ridiculous "costumes" ("That's a nice outfit you're almost not wearing", I once said to a singer in a all-girl rock & roll band). And, frankly, high heels do NOTHING for me. But this isn't what's bothers me.

The concept is complex-- perhaps too much so. Tons of character bits slowly revealed, a bit at a time, keep you guessing in between "PENTHOUSE" and "HUSTLER"-style crotch-shots. I think I'm spoiled, though, after spending the last few years re-reading so many Jack Kirby comics.  Hell, I'd be spoiled after reading WALLY WOOD comics, and too many stupid fans accuse him of being "dull" or "static", and you never hear anyone (besides me) raving about what a damn good WRITER Wood was.

The checklist goes like this... Hsu's visual storytelling is barely there at all, his panel-to-panel continuity nearly non-existent. Too many of his women all look the same; apart from the faces, couldn't he at least have given them each a more distinctive hairstyle? The dialogue isn't bad, but the whole panel-to-panel storytelling problem gets in the way of the story being able to "flow" naturally.

And then there's the technical stuff. Like the later Warren magazines (where I first saw his work), all the lettering is done with a harsh, cold, mechanical typeface. The effect of this is to separate the words from the story being told. (There's this font called "WHIZ BANG", people!!!) WORSE, it's TOO SMALL on most pages, and inconsistent in size on others.  And then there's the printing (if that's what it is), which causes some text blocks to fade away into gray. I suppose we can blame Malibu Press for this.

I hate to sound so critical. I enjoyed the book (to a degree) and I get a kick out of the very idea of anyone doing a "fantasy-adventure" story where ALL the women are naked ALL the time. But what I see here is POTENTIAL. It also brings into focus, for me, just how bad so many "professional" comics out there really are. To tell the truth, I think reading a pile of Jack Kirby, or Wally Wood, or Gray Morrow comics, can REALLY point out to you just how bad MOST comics art and writing done by other people in the biz really are, by comparison. They're a high standard to live up to. Half the time, "the big two" aren't even trying.

Hey, the last decade or so, most of my favorite comics creators use "cartoony" styles. Which I suppose brings up an obvious question.  How come "cartoonists" like Phil Foglio, Sergio Aragones, Jeff Nicholson, and Paige Braddock, are MUCH better at visual storytelling than all these fancy-schmancy "illustators"?

Oh, and why is this called "QUADRANT" when the main character is called "The Gauntlet", and the main story is titled "HELLRAZOR"? Okay, the original magazine was called QUADRANT, and since it had various back-up stories, I suppose it qualifies (just barely) as an anthology. I'll go out on a limb and guess they used the same name here "to avoid confusion".  By the way, "Hellrazor" (which clocks in at 153 pages!!) was written by Tara Balance, and of the two (new?) back-ups, "Travesty" was written by Peter Hsu while "Goddess" was written by Timothy Moriarty, who did a lot of work near the end of Warren's output as a company.


Copies of some individual issues still available from Atomic Avenue.Com
See Paul G's gallery of Peter Hsu art at Comic Art Fans

Artwork (C) Quadrant Publications and Peter Hsu /
Scans by Henry R. Kujawa      

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MEATMEN, Pt 4

(Continued from Part 3)

John Blackburn's work appeared in every issue of MEATMEN from Vol.13-25 (1992-2002).  But it took until Vol.21 before he finally did the cover (and the back cover as well).

For more of his work, see the COLEY section of the blog!

MEATMEN Vol.21  /  cover by JOHN BLACKBURN   (November 1997)
MEATMEN Vol.21  /  back cover by JOHN BLACKBURN
MEATMEN Vol.22  /  cover by "ZACK"   (November 1998)
MEATMEN Vol.22  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.23  /  cover by "ZACK"   (June 1999)
MEATMEN Vol.23  /  back cover by "JOE"
MEATMEN Vol.24  /  cover by "ZACK"   (June 2000)
MEATMEN Vol.24  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.25  /  cover by "ZACK"   (June 2002)
MEATMEN Vol.25  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.26  /  cover by "STEPAN ZUBINSKI"   (2004)
MEATMEN Vol.26  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN

Art (C) Leyland Publications and the various artists.

Scans & restorations by Henry Kujawa.

Many of these books are available direct from LEYLAND PUBLICATIONS.

Monday, August 20, 2012

MEATMEN, Pt 3

(Continued from Part 2)

MEATMEN Vol.16  /  cover by "OSZE"   (August 1994)
MEATMEN Vol.16  /  back cover by "OSZE"
MEATMEN Vol.17  /  cover by GERALD DONELAN   (September 1995)
MEATMEN Vol.17  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.18  /  cover by "OSZE"   (January 1996)
MEATMEN Vol.18  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.19  /  cover by "JOE"   (November 1996)
MEATMEN Vol.19  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN
MEATMEN Vol.20  /  cover by GERALD DONELAN   (June 1997)
MEATMEN Vol.20  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN

(Continued in Part 4)

Art (C) Leyland Publications and the various artists.

Scans & restorations by Henry Kujawa.

Many of these books are available direct from LEYLAND PUBLICATIONS

MEATMEN, Pt 2

(Continued from Part 1)

MEATMEN Vol.10  /  cover by STEPHEN LOWTHER   (December 1991)
MEATMEN Vol.10  /  back cover by STEPHEN LOWTHER
MEATMEN Vol.11  /  cover by ETIENNE   (December 1991)
MEATMEN Vol.11  /  back cover by ETIENNE
MEATMEN Vol.12  /  cover by STEPHEN LOWTHER   (December 1991)
MEATMEN Vol.12  /  back cover by STEPHEN LOWTHER

MEATMEN Vol.13  /  cover by ??   (1992)
MEATMEN Vol.14  /  cover by OSZE   (December 1992)
MEATMEN Vol.14  /  back cover by OSZE
MEATMEN Vol.15  /  cover by GERALD DONELAN   (October 1993)
MEATMEN Vol.15  /  back cover by GERALD DONELAN

(Continued in Part 3)

Art (C) Leyland Publications and the various artists.

Scans from my collection.
Scan of MEATMEN #13 from Amazon.com.
Restorations by Henry Kujawa.

Many of these books are available direct from LEYLAND PUBLICATIONS.

MEATMEN

Winston Leyland's MEATMEN anthology collected gay comics, new and old, explicit and humorous, from a wide variety of sources.  The content and quality varied greatly, which at times could be a sore point to some potential fans, as amateurish efforts were often displayed side-by-side with stunning brilliance.

MEATMEN Vol.1  /  cover by NECO   (1986)
MEATMEN Vol.1  /  back cover by NECO
MEATMEN Vol.2  /  cover by NECO   (1987)
MEATMEN Vol.3  /  cover by NECO   (??)
MEATMEN Vol.4  /  cover by NECO   (1988)
MEATMEN Vol.5  /  cover by NECO   (November 1989)
MEATMEN Vol.6  /  cover by CELIO BRAGA   (December 1989)
MEATMEN Vol.7  /  cover by ??   (June 1990)
MEATMEN Vol.8  /  cover by ??   (??)
MEATMEN Vol.9  /  cover by STEPHEN LOWTHAR   (??)

(Continued in Part 2)

Art (C) Leyland Publications and the various artists.

Scans from my collection.
Scans of MEATMEN #3-5 & 7-9 from Amazon.com.
Restorations by Henry Kujawa.

Many of these books are available direct from LEYLAND PUBLICATIONS.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

COLEY, Part 5

(Continued from Part 4)

DAGGER OF BLOOD  3   (Inside-front cover)
One of the few inside-front cover illustrations not over-loaded with descriptive text!
The final installment of DAGGER OF BLOOD may be the wildest, most shocking, most insane thing John Blackburn ever wrote.  What a charge! I really regret that we never got to see a sequel follow up on the events of the story, especially after what hapened to Lon & Kit.  While more Coley stories were yet to come, this turned out to be the final appearance of most of the supporting cast.

DAGGER OF BLOOD  3   (May 1997)

Among those hiding out in the South American Amazon jungle temple of an ancient supernatural cult was a scientist who was an escaped Nazi war criminal.  He decided to use both Lon & Kit as subjects of a bizarre (and seemingly pointless) experiment which coupled medical and occult knowledge, allowing him to perform "Frankenstein"-like surgery which healed instantly while leaving NO scars.  Which led up to the following scene...
Pretending to have gone mad and switched allegiences, Kit gains a "new look" in addition to the changes worked on her by the mad scientist.
The back cover; one of my favorite Coley pin-ups!
In between publication of THE DEATHSNAKE and HARD THROB, Eros Comics put out the first of their Coley reprint collections.   John Blackburn told me he preferred the better paper and larger-sized format, though I think both of us were annoyed at Eros' design choices, in which all of their "graphic novels" were part of a single set of books with a single numbering, regardless of their contents (much like the Marvel Masterworks series, which began in late 1987).  The first book contained RETURN FROM VOODOO ISLAND and IDOL OF FLESH, with a few extra pin-ups, but oddly, several other pages missing.  It seems a shame for them to have once again passed up a chance to reprint the earlier stories, which most Blackburn fans have probably still never seen to this day.

COLEY RUNNING WILD Book One:  THE BLADE AND THE WHIP
(April 1995)

The 2nd collection came out 3 months after DAGGER OF BLOOD #3.  This one featured both WEB OF EVIL and THE DEATHSNAKE.  Considering the two minis formed one extended storyline, this made for much better reading, as some of the nuances of the story may have been too subtle in the original serialization.  This includes a hot scene between Coley & a friend of his in Part 1, which turned up in the reprint, after being missing in the original comic!

COLEY RUNNING WILD Book Two:  CAGED HEAT   (August 1997)
Soon after, several more Coley short stories appeared
in the MEATMEN anthologies:

Vol.20  (September 1997)  "Bayou Boy"
Vol.21  (December 1997)  "Body Heat"
Vol.22  (November 1998)  "Coley On The Lost Coast")

Although there is no definite chronology or continuity, I suspect most of these may have taken place during the "6 months" Coley went missing at the end of THE DEATHSNAKE #3.

John Blackburn finally got to do both covers for MEATMEN Vol.21.

The back cover; another of my favorite Coley pin-ups!

Close-up detail...
The 3rd collection contained both HARD THROB and DAGGER OF BLOOD.  One oddity is that, across 2 different printings, the descriptive cover text changes, and neither manages to accurately describe the contents of the book! 

COLEY RUNNING WILD Book Three:  HARD THROB   (April 2003)
COLEY RUNNING WILD Book Three:  HARD THROB   (2nd edition / date unknown)
Oddly enough, the 3rd reprint collection was the 4th of the Eros Coley "graphic novels", as the 4th volume as far as the series chronology was concerned was not a reprint, but an ALL-NEW 167-page graphic novel, "DESTINY COAST".  After droping hints for years, John Blackburn finally had Coley go home, and readers got to meet his mother and his younger brother, and find out the circumstances that led to his being on his own for so long.  It was a true stylistic follow-up to the earlier "BREATHLESS", the main difference being that Blackburn's art had developed quite a lot, and the tentative drawing style had given way to a more confident beauty. In short, it could be seen as his masterpiece.  (Now if only Eros hadn't somehow prnted 2 of the pages in the wrong order... OY!)

COLEY RUNNING WILD Book Four:  DESTINY COAST   (May 1999)

3 more short stories followed in the pages of Winston Leyland's MEATMEN series...

Vol.23  (June 1999)  "Voodoo Swamp Angel"
Vol.24  (June 2000)  "Baitbucket"
Vol.25  (June 2002)  "Stagecoach"

Although Vol.24 was done as an "S&M Special", somehow, something in Blackburn's "Baitbucket" apparently rubbed the editor the wrong way, and the story was cut short at only 12 pages, the last 8 full pages left unpublished! What, I wonder, could have been that "offensive", in an "S&M Special"?

Surprisingly, Coley's financial patron, Quincey Quartermain, turned up in "Stagecoach", his 1st appearance since "BREATHLESS".  This probably went right over the heads of most readers, as "BREATHLESS" remains a limited-edition book that has never been reprinted, and so "Stagecoach" would have been the first time most readers ever saw the character.

At least one more Coley story, "Coley In The French Quarter", was finished, and apparently scheduled for MEATMEN Vol.26, but when the book appeared, Coley was nowhere to be seen-- the first time since Vol.12 that the anthology had contained no work from John Blackburn.  WHA' HOPPEN??? Not long after, Leyland Publications went out of business, which brought MEATMEN to a halt.  Around the same time, it seems, I got a shock when I learned that John Blackburn had passed away, following a short illness.

Blackburn's work had come to mean so much to me.  I often think if not for his Coley stories, I might never have been inspired to do "grown up" stories about my own character, Stormboy, which contained X-rated material.  A good friend of mine at the time told me he felt my own character, rock singer "Jay Love", was clearly "a nicer, sweeter version of Coley Cochran".  I wound up writing a short "memorial" to honor his passing, which I sent around to various comics news sites, and which can probably still be found around the internet.  I've included a link to the Prism Comics site, where I found it still posted.

As I write this, I've once again found myself spending many months looking for a job, and hoping I don't just fall off the map.  But in the back of my mind, the thought remains, that if I ever find myself settled job-wise and money-wise, that I'd love to re-publish the early Coley stories myself, as well as put out a collection of all the short stories from MEATMEN in a single volume.  That is, if nobody else beats me to it and does it first...!!

"Coley In The French Quarter"  (splash page)
"Coley In The French Quarter"  (alternate splash page)
"Windjammer Slaveboy"  (splash page)
Coley, Lon & Kit make a cameo appearance outside the nightclub where
"Jay Love" is performing, in my short story, "After The Show".
Another Coley pin-up  (thanks to Steve Bissette for posting this one!)
Incredibly, some time back I found a website where you can read all 4 of Eros' COLEY RUNNING WILD collections in their entirety, for free.  (Considering only 2 of them are still available from Eros, I have to figure they've allowed them to go out-of-print.)  Go to Ziki.com.

Sadly, the 3 earlier self-published books are not there as well...

See my detailed indexes of DAGGER OF BLOOD at the GCD site
See my detailed indexes of COLEY RUNNING WILD at the GCD site 
See the John Blackburn memorial at Prism Comics

Art (C) JOHN BLACKBURN
"After The Show" excerpt story & art (C) HENRY KUJAWA
All prominent characters are Trademarks of JOHN BLACKBURN

Find John Blackburn & other creators' work at the EROS COMIX site.