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.   

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