Author Archives: Paul O'Connor
It’s only taken two decades, but the publicity campaign for the two issues of Rune that I wrote is finally hotting up!
That’s right! Two issues of Rune (that I blogged about writing, HERE) were recently the subject of not one; and not TWO; but THREE podcasts by the illustrious Professor Alan!
You can listen to Prof Alan’s assessment of Rune #4 HERE.
And you can listen to Prof Alan’s review of Rune #5 HERE.
And then you can listen to Prof Alan interview ME about both those books (and other comics stuff, besides) HERE!
And for a really deep dive, be sure to check out my original comic scripts for these issues of Rune!
There you have it … all the Rune you can stand … and a blast from the past in the form of a contemporary interview about work I did in the 1990s. Gotta love the internet! And you gotta love Prof Alan for exhuming my stuff from the Quarter Bin.
It’s July 4th around the world, but it’s only The Fourth of July here in the United States!
Since Longbox Graveyard is perpetually stuck in 1978 … and since I had this calendar on my wall when I was a patriotic lad of fourteen summers … it seems only appropriate to celebrate with the Marvel Comics fife and drum corps from Marvel’s 1976 Bicentennial Calendar!
Have a happy day, wherever you may be. Go blow something up!
Welcome to the Dollar Box, where I look at classic comics with an original cover price of a dollar or less!
This month, my subject is the historic first teaming of the classic comics team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Terry Austin, and Tom Orzechowski.
Am I writing about Uncanny X-Men? Or maybe an issue of Iron Fist?
The very first time this team worked together on the same book was … Star-Lord?
Published in 1977 in the pages of Marvel Preview #11, Marvel’s black-and-white anthology magazine, “Windhoelme” was the second outing for Star-Lord, a science fiction adventure character who debuted in issue #4 of that same mag. The original Star-Lord, by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, was an ill-tempered, borderline-psychopath who stole his superpowers as part of his quest to avenge his mother’s death at the hands of space aliens.
This Star-Lord … was something different.
It was characteristic that Star-Lord’s second outing was a “reboot” — additional reboots would follow, seemingly every-other issue in the character’s brief career, culminating in a near-total rewrite that saw Star-Lord enter the Marvel Universe in the pages of Thanos #8-12 – and now, as the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Lord is fast-tracked for pop culture stardom in next month’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
the Star Lord you probably know
I like the new Star Lord, but he really has little to do with this Star-Lord, who headlined this little jewel of a science fiction adventure in Marvel Preview #11. What with all the space empires, swashbuckling sword-fights, and humanoid aliens running around this story, you could be forgiven for thinking Star-Lord was a fast-follower of Star Wars … but Marvel Preview #11 was conceived and created months before Star Wars hit the theaters. The similarity is down to common origins, with the Robert A. Heinlein “juveniles” that Claremont cited as his inspiration providing a rich portion of the pulp science fiction tradition that Lucas drew upon for Star Wars.
It’s also kismet, of the negative sort, in that Star-Lord was just … that … much ahead of its time. If release of this issue had been able to take better advantage of Star Wars mania, maybe Star-Lord would have gone on to become a superstar comic book character. As it was, Star-Lord came and went, and while the character would have additional outings under various creative teams prior to fading into obscurity for a decade or two, he would never be better than in this rollicking, two-fisted space opera.
Displaying the fast-paced, catch-you-up-while-we’re-on-the-run storytelling that would characterize his X-Men work, Claremont drops us in the deep end of his story, with a peaceful planet conquered by slavers, and a pair of young adventurers eager to fight back. Kip and Sandy are fairly stock supporting characters, but they’re not without spirit, and Sandy is sort of hot, in that square-jawed, big-eyed John Byrne kind of way …
With the population of a planet hanging in the balance, we’re introduced to Star-Lord, who makes a confident and understated entrance (despite the characteristic internal self-doubt Claremont’s script would display later in the issue). It’s never really made clear who our hero is, or where he came from, but that’s actually a strength of this story. It’s more entertaining to try to piece together the details of our hero’s powers and origin as we go along (and besides, it was all on display in the character’s inaugural appearance in Marvel Preview #4 for those who simply had to know).
In the pages that follow, we learn that Star-Lord can breathe in outer space, that he can handle himself in a fight, and that he takes a dim view of slavers. But freeing Kip, Sarah, and everyone else on the slave ship is just the start of our adventure.
In short order we are winging across the galaxy with our little crew, exactly in the fast-paced manner that we’d learn to love when Han Solo settled behind the controls of his Millennium Falcon.
Star-Lord’s spaceship isn’t quite so cool as Han’s legendary ride, but “Ship” has secrets of her own. For one thing, she can change shape. For another, she’s sentient … and she may also be in love with our hero. Certainly Star-Lord and “Ship” have a long and unexplained history between them — just another of a score of intriguing story hooks Claremont drops into this story.
So far we’ve checked off most of the compulsory boxes for a good space opera. A virtuous hero, young people in distress, spaceships and starfaring adventure, enigmas and mysteries at every turn.
But there are also hissable bad guys, who torment our innocent supporting characters …
… cruel lizardmen who get exactly what they deserve …
… and in the finest sword-and-planet tradition, our hero locks steel with a corrupt galactic nobleman to determine the fate of a stellar empire. Looking back on this sequence from a post-Star Wars perspective, it’s impossible not to hear lightsabers humming and crackling.
“Windhoelme” is a brilliant bit of comic book space pulp, fast-paced, imaginative, heartfelt, and fun. It (re)introduces a great science fiction hero in Star-Lord and follows him on an arc that sees him liberate the throne of a far-flung star empire, and then toss it all aside for a life of adventure roaming the stars …
Original copies of Marvel Preview #11 aren’t all that easy to find, but if you want to read this superior comic story, here’s a Dollar Box pro tip. If you’ll allow me to exceed my brief by recommending a book with an original cover price of more than a dollar (gasp!), then I’ve got just the thing for you …
Star-Lord The Special Edition #1 (the one and only issue in the line) reprinted Marvel Preview #11 in 1982. This is a standard-sized comic book, and the tale is slightly altered here (with a new introduction and a postscript by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden), but the meat of the tale is as Claremont, Byrne, and Austin created it in 1977 … with the added bonus of color! Purists will want the original tale, but I’ve grown fond of the colorized version as well, and it also has the advantage of being readily and cheaply available on the back-issue market.
Star-Lord in color!
But whether you experience this tale in color or glorious black & white, “Windhoelme” from Marvel Preview #11 is well worth tracking down. It is a relentlessly entertaining space opera comic that is presently lost to the mists of time, but may shortly loom large in our pop culture, pending Star-Lord’s big screen debut in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I strongly suggest you score your copy of this best of the early Star-Lord adventures before the Imperial scum start jacking up the prices on eBay!
This article was originally published at Stash My Comics.
NEXT MONTH: #135 All This And World War Too!
Mars sent birthday wishes via good ol’ fashioned snail mail:
The “Unholy Sarcophagus!” I like the sound of that.
And who wouldn’t want a jetpack alien to carry them away to adventure?
That girl is going to get windburn!
Thanks for the kind thoughts, Mars!
(And if you haven’t visited in awhile, be sure to mouse over to Mars Will Send No More for an eclectic mixture of comics, fine art, and surprises!)
Longbox Graveyard is firmly rooted in the past, but I do sometimes read current comics — even better, I have friends who are making current comics! My secret identity as a video game creator and comic book writer has brought me into contact with dozens of talented artists and writers through the years, and I am at loss to explain why I haven’t interviewed one before now!
To inaugurate my new, semi-irregular Longbox Graveyard “Interviews” category, I’m delighted to introduce artist Billy King. I’ve known Billy for a decade, and we worked together on video games like Darkwatch and The Bourne Conspiracy. More recently, Billy has been a frequent reader and supporter of Longbox Graveyard, and he and I have even been cooking up a special project for the blog, about which more at the end of Billy’s interview!
it’s Billy King!
LBG: Give us your thumbnail history, Billy!
BILLY: I have been a Visual Development/Concept Artist for the last fourteen years, working in the video game industry exclusively. I was the former Concept Lead for High Moon Studios under Activision on their last two projects: Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Marvel’s Deadpool.
Billy’s concept art for recent Deadpool video game
Currently, I am a freelance visual development artist, illustrator and graphic designer for several clients. Since this is a comics blog, I suppose it’s most interesting that I am the cover artist on Airwolf for Lion Forge Comics.
LBG: How did you first get into comics?
BILLY: My first comic I ever read was Web of Spiderman #8. I was eight years old and just moved to Boston from a small town in New York. On a bonding trip, my Step-Dad brought me to a comic store in Cambridge around 1988. He told me I could pick anything in the store and, of course, pointed to the 50 cent bin. I went straight for the black-suit Spiderman taped to the front of the longbox. I got bit by my own radioactive ‘comic bug’ that day. However, until I read Uncanny X-Men #234 (the brood story line with Marc Silvestri), I was all over the place with collecting. X-Men became my comic of choice and where I started collecting comics as a serious hobby. Thank goodness for lunch money … sorry Mom.
LBG: Did any of those comics influence your own development as an artist?
BILLY: I’m a product of late ‘80s-‘90s comics, so I was all about the art. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would go back and read Alan Moore, Frank Miller, etc. to really appreciate the writers and the medium as a whole. Some artists that inspired me at the time were Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, John Byrne; during the Image days J. Scott Campbell, Joe Mad, Greg Capullo, and Todd McFarlane snuck in as influences. As I got older, though, Dave Cockrum and Neil Adams as well as Bernie Wrightson and countless other greats (Charles Vess and Frank Miller) moved to the top of the lists … but I’m still a huge fan of Marc Silvestri and Greg Capullo.
Airwolf by Billy King!
LBG: Let’s talk a bit about your comics work. How do you go about creating a cover?
BILLY: On Airwolf, I receive an email from my editor with what the story line is for that book or arc. Sometimes he gives me the whole comic, but even when that isn’t possible, I can usually break down from his synopsis what’s important for a cool cover. It’s usually Airwolf running away from or attacking a baddie aircraft, which is an awesome challenge. In recent issues, I have been looking at paintings of WWII planes and battles to get inspired. I’m now trying to get that kind of feel into the covers.
Next I will do some quick layouts (either on paper or right in Photoshop) and mail them off to my editor, Shannon Denton. Once they are approved, I’ll take the thumbnail and blow it up and start drawing/painting right over it using Photoshop.
I start differently on each cover though. Sometimes I draw the whole thing out — sometimes I just start painting with color and big strokes. Sometimes the foreground aircraft goes first, sometimes I start with the background. Shannon gives me a lot of room to explore, which I appreciate. I’m still perfecting the most productive and efficient process. It’s definitely different than the studio work I’ve done over the last ten-plus years.
LBG: Any special challenges in working on a digital-only comic?
BILLY: Airwolf is (at the moment) a Kindle only digital-comic. The challenge was making a Kindle spec’d composition also work with a standard comic size (for the Amazon thumbnail and potential print). I didn’t want to have key elements cropped out of the Kindle version (which was the important section of the cover).
A potential pitfall would be missiles and gun fire coming from off screen. Which is what happened on Airwolf #1 (below). The bottom half of the image looks like a solid composed piece but the top added looks like an after thought and disjointed. My Bad.
I decided to keep designing the covers to primarily work for the Kindle, of course. I’d use the Kindle section as the center for the full image and just extend the ‘plate’ up and down. To fill in the space, I’d add interesting yet superfluous extras to either the top or the bottom of the piece. They could be cropped to the Kindle specs without hurting the standard-comic composition. Easy, right? Took me four issues to figure it out! (See above).
LBG: What’s coming up for you next?
My time is pretty jammed packed at the moment with all sorts of work that I can’t get into right now (like some games concept work) — lots of cool stuff. I look forward to scratching my comic itch with Airwolf covers for the foreseeable future. Shannon Denton, my editor, is awesome and I enjoy working with him.
Speaking of Shannon, he also has his own imprint called Actionopolis, and I’ve done a couple covers for him over there as well. The most recent one is for a book named Battery: The Arrival. I had a lot of fun on this one and, of course, he gave me a lot of room to play.
I’m also working on an experimental web-comic called WarChief for … (drumroll) … Longbox Graveyard! The editor for that one though … huge pain. I take six months to paint nine panels and he’s supper supportive? How dare he. We thought it would be fun to start some creator-owned web comics under the Longbox Graveyard header. Apparently, I take forever … but it is coming! I have one panel finished and the rest laid out!
WarChief sneak preview, by Billy King and Paul O’Connor!
LBG: I’m sure it will be worth the wait, Billy! And I’d never expect you to work on our little experiment when paying work is demanding your time. That you’ve been too busy for WarChief is a happy problem to have!
Thanks to Billy for his candid answers and awesome art! For more of Billy’s work, be sure to check his site, and follow his Twitter and Instagram feeds, too … and in the fullness of time, you’ll see the fruit of his WarChief labors on this very blog!