As I mentioned in part 3 of this so far “pre history” of Big Bang Comics, my Megaton Publishing ended in 1987. I really needed a break and didn’t even think about comics for a while. While a number of Megaton alumni went on to Marvel, DC, First Comics and more, I was happy to remodel my house and add a dormer to the upstairs.
In 1988, I got my feet back in the water to assist my buddy Chris Ecker on his Battle Axe – the Magazine of Savage Adventure, published in January 1989 by David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview Group. I helped edit the main feature, Thorrn: Cursed Warrior which was written by Ed DeGeorge, and I provided a Berzerker story that was pencilled by Angel Medina and inked by Aubrey Bradford, one of the last stories intended for Megaton’s expansion before it imploded.
Sadly, Battle Axe #2 was never published. Times were still tough for b&w independents, and even tougher for independent magazines.
Unfortunately, this also scuttled Chris’ plans for Prime Comics, which was to feature my Vanguard: Outpost Earth (two complete issues still unpublished to this day), Chris’ Ringmasters International, Anna-May, and The Evolutionaries. I had licensed the character Elak of Atlantis from the estate of author Henry Kuttner, and with the demise of Battle-Axe and Prime Comics, I resumed my hiatus.
In 1992, Image Comics was starting up, and Megaton had its 15 minutes of fame as “ground zero” for Savage Dragon and Youngblood, two of Images’ inaugural books. I was back in the business.
Chris, Ed and I met Gary Reed of Caliber Press at the Motor City Con in Detroit. I imagine we pitched the properties from Battle-Axe and Prime Comics, as well as the retro Knight Watchman series Chris and I had recently created.
The idea of doing “new” old comics didn’t make sense to people we spoke with, so we walked away with a deal to create an ongoing Berzerker comic book and the Dr. Weird Special reprinting the Jim Starlin/George R.R. Martin stories from the early 1970s. (Ed and I had recently purchased the rights to the character from creator Howard Keltner).
Caliber had a brand new imprint – Gauntlet Comics, and Berzerker was the best fit for the action-based line. Angel Medina had long since gone on to fame and fortune on Dreadstar at First Comics and then Incredible Hulk, Warlock and the Infinity Watch, Blackwulf and more at Marvel Comics.
Steve Adams had penciled the Vanguard: Outpost Earth issues stepped in to replace Angel, who graciously agreed to provide new covers for the series. Berzerker #1 got a boost in comic shop sales with the inclusion of some unpublished pin-ups by Erik Larsen and Rob Liefeld during their Megaton days.
Berzerker only lasted for 6 issues. I was later told by a few comic shop workers that the readers who bought the books for Angel’s violent covers thought the inside stories were too traditional and tame, and that those who may have been interested in the stories were put off by the covers.
It really didn’t matter, because right from the moment Berzerker #1 went on sale, it was the response to the back-up story that was amazing. That was what readers wrote in about, and asked us about in person. The back-up? It was tame and very traditional.
It was the Knight Watchman in “The Time Crimes of Grandfather Clock.” Here’s the splash page to the story – – featuring KW’s original chest emblem.
More on that next time!
Meanwhile, I covered the Knight Watchman in some of my earlier BANG! Blogs. Feel free to peruse them until next time.
March 18, 2016