Tuesday, November 5, 2013

1984: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Part 2)

A scene from Rex Havoc
Today's post is part 2 in a multi-part series about 1984/1994. Find the previous part here.

Issues 5 through 8 of 1984 continues many of the themes of the first 4 issues of the magazine, while also taking it in new directions (sometimes good, sometimes bad). It should be noted that as a whole these next 4 issues are nowhere as controversial or offensive as the first 4 issues, with no story even close to the racism of issue 3's "The Harvest" (although racism would return later on to the pages of the magazine), and no plagiarism scandals either. The nudity and sex, as well as a general misogynist attitude is present as usual however. That said, in general I'd say the quality of these 4 issues is slightly down in comparison to the first 4.

I'll begin with the continuing series, which start to gain a larger presence in these issues. The Rex Havoc series, which premiered in issue 4, continues with several entries in these next 4 issues. The first story in the series, from issue 4, was terrific, and the first story here, issue 5's "The Spud from another World!" is a good one, parodying the movie "The Thing From Another World". By issue 6 however, the drawn out nature of the stories (which are generally around 20 pages each) becomes quite apparent and the series continues to dip precipitously in its final appearance later on (which will be in my next entry). Speaking of disappointing series, Idi Amin has two additional stories here. They are much like those from the first 4 issues; gorgeous artwork but an aimless story with idiotic dialogue. The series ends with Idi and Dogmeat finding a man even crazier than Idi, with multiple personalities, and Dogmeat runs off, being unable to take it anymore. I felt like doing the same as this series drew to a close! I'll miss the beautiful Esteban Maroto artwork, but not the story. Unfortunately Maroto goes on quite a long hiatus from 1984 after this, possibly as mentioned in the previous article because many of these stories may not have been intended for the magazine in the first place and they ran out of them.

On the other hand, Richard Corben and Jan Strnad provide 4 more fine installments of Mutant World. While its never the most in depth and thought provoking series, this series continues to be a blast to read and has typical quality color artwork from Corben. Unfortunately the final segment would be the last interior comic art Corben ever did for Warren. While I've never been a fan of Rudy Nebres' art style, Twilight's End, for which he provides the art and Jim Stenstrum provides the story is a fairly good one, with a rather apocalyptic and unexpected ending in its final part. Certain Warren series, particularly in the latter years could go on a bit too long, but they did a good job here in keeping the series relatively short and to the point.

The final part of Mutant World

Issue 7 premieres "Ghita of Alizarr", with story and art by Frank Thorne. Thorne had worked on Red Sonja for Marvel and produced the similar Ghita for Warren, albeit with an increased level of nudity and sex. While the sexual themes of the series can be a bit over the top at times (Ghita is a whore and is raped by a reanimated corpse in the first story, for starters), it is generally an entertaining series and a fine addition to the Warren line, appearing in the majority of the remaining issues of 1984/1994. Thorne's artwork is also quite good and a nice contrast to the styles of the Warren regulars.

Also beginning in this run, with issue 8 is "Herma", with art by Jose Gonzalez and story by Bill Dubay. This series was originally published in the publication Cunado El Comic es Arte: Pepe Gonzalez, which came out in Spain the same year as this issue of 1984, although the art had actually been done around 5 years earlier. For this appearance, the color was removed, the panels re sized and Dubay almost certainly rewrote the script. A rather light-hearted comedic series, that similar to Twilight's End is thankfully kept short enough such that it ends before it really goes down in quality. Gonzalez's artwork here is absolutely gorgeous and rereading these stories, this is easily the sexiest artwork to ever appear in a Warren magazine. I'm generally partial to Esteban Maroto's women, but Gonzalez outdoes even him here (and Maroto appears to have swiped several panels from both this initial story and the stories that appear in future issues). Along with the story "Lullaby", mentioned in the previous entry, and some of the latter Vampirella stories, this is the best Jose Gonzalez artwork you'll see in a Warren magazine.

If there's a highlight to these issues, aside from Mutant World, its the Alex Nino stories, of which there are 6 here. Nino's art is ultimately the best thing to come out of the 1984/1994 series as a whole, and he does a good job in all of the stories here. "Teleport 2010" and "Painter's Mountain" are 2 very strong efforts happily lacking the sex-antics that perpetuate throughout much of 1984's stories. "Timothy Sternbach & the Multi-Colored Sunrise!", "Once Upon a Holocaust" and "Zincor and the Fempire" are good efforts as well though, with really only "Liaison Aboard a Skylab" being a weak story where the sex-antics (among aliens in this case) are a bit over the top.

Issue 5's "I Wonder Who's Squeezing Her Now" is unique for having no science fiction or supernatural related themes in any fashion, rather focusing on how a man's life falls apart when his wife starts having an affair and he decides to do the same. The story was originally intended for the never realized magazine "POW" and sat on the shelves for several years before seeing print in 1984. It featured the last Wally Wood art to appear in a Warren magazine, as well as the first work from Ernie Colon to appear in a Warren magazine since Warren's dark ages.
Frank Thorne's Ghita of Alizarr
Frank Thorne's Ghita of Alizarr

Among the remaining stories, issue 7's "Freeze A Jolly Good Fellow!" is the highlight, with an unexpected yet funny ending. Issue 5's "The Box" was another interesting story, although criticized a bit in the letter pages. Many of the remaining stand-alone stories come off as filler, and uninteresting filler at that. Issue 6's "The Warhawks" lampoons DC's The Blackhawks, yet is way too long and drawn out. "Issue 8's "Madmen and Messiahs", featuring a future where Ted Kennedy is a crazed President and his own nephew fights against him in a revolution is quite ridiculous. Other stories like "Luke the Nuke Brings It In!" "Kaiser Warduke and the Indispensable Jasper Gemstone" come off as boring drivel, there's little to get interested in with these stories.

Overall, there's definitely some interesting aspects to these issues, even with the controversy and general quality down a bit in comparison to the first 4 issues. We'll see both areas heading in different directions as we enter the next phase of issues, to be covered in my next entry.


Diego Cordoba said...

The Idi Amin story by Maroto and DuBay, was in fact, a totally different story Maroto did outside of Warren, concerning Egyptian gods and goddesses coming back from the dead. DuBay had this thing of buying material from the Spaniards, and then getting his writers or himself to re-write the whole thing again, even with a totally different storyline, as is the case with these Maroto stories that have nothing to do with either Idi Amin or Tricky Dick Nixon.

DuBay's practice would go even into material done by the Americans, as was the case with Corben's series, such as Mutant World, which was also re-written by him (he actually re-wrote most of the stories in 1984/94, which is why they all seem to be written by the same person). I think the only series he didn't touch was Frank Thorne's Ghita, probably because nobody can understand what the hell's going on there...

Diego Cordoba said...

Hi again, Brian. Actually the Idi Amin story was part of Maroto's original series titled Tomb of the Gods, and a couple of the stories had previously appeared in Eerie, but not all. DuBay took the remaining stories from the series and changed the text completely, creating a totally new story about Idi Amin reincarnated as a woman (and not making much sense either).

It seems all the material done by the Spanish artists for 1984, wasn't done for it specifically, but rather done at an earlier time and never used before. Since DuBay needed material for his sci-fi magazine, he used many of these "unused stories". Case in point with Gonzalez's Lullaby done in 1974 (fragments of it appear in the book Cuando el Comic es Arte devoted to Gonzalez). The same goes for The last of the red hot lovers drawn by Ortiz (again in 1974, fragments also appearing in the Cuando el Comic es Arte devoted to his work) and written originally by Toutain, the director of the art agaency in Barcelona. The story was done as a showcase of Ortiz's work for Warren (Ortiz didn't work for the Barcelona art agency), and since it dealt with vikings fighting for a piece of land probably didn't fit for the horror mags Warren published back then. It was later picked by DuBay, and the story completely changed into one of infertile homosexuals fighting to obtain the last remaining virgin, if my memory serves me right (the DuBay version is so convoluted as to make little sense). And The Harvest by Ortiz was originally done for Creepy but never used for obvious reasons, and later appearing in 1984.

So my guess is that all the material done by the Spanish for 1984 came from other sources and weren't done particularly for that magazine.

DuBay not only changed the Spaniard's stories, he changed all the other stories as well. Wally Wood's King of the Wolrd became something else altogether, DuBay adding new panels he drew on top of it, which drove Woody mad, and he vowed never to work for Warren again. The same thing happened to Corben's Mutant World, which DuBay also re-wrote, and might explain why Corben didn't work for them again, though by that time Toutain was representing Corben in Europe, and his work was selling like hotcakes over there, so Corben had no need for Warren anymore.

Hope this might be of help to understanding some of the things that went behind 1984/94.

Quiddity said...

Thanks for the info Diego, its greatly appreciated.

Regarding Tomb of the Gods, I thought that was an older series of Maroto's? I recall when the stories had appeared in Vampirella earlier on, they were a a couple of years old, as made obvious by the fact that Maroto's art for new stories he was doing for Warren were far superior than the artwork on the Tomb of the Gods stories. The Idi Amin stories have arguably the best art of Maroto's that ever appeared in a Warren magazine. Were these done years later?

Diego Cordoba said...

Maroto's Tomb of the Gods began in the early 70's (in Vampi as you say) but wasn't finished until Maroto retook it again at the end of the 70's (which form part of the Idi Amin series later appearing in 1984). So in fact it's a long continuing series interrupted for a couple of years.