I remember buying this at Newbury Comics, back when Newbury Comics sold
comics. It ran eight issues from '84 to '86 - there was quite a long gap between issues 7 and 8 - and was the product of Stephen Perry and Tom Yeates for the Epic Imprint of Marvel Comics. I've mentioned Epic before, but it was Marvel's effort at a creator-owned imprint. Very
different time in comics, back when Marvel's logo meant increased access to distributors, and when you could put out a non-superhero comic and it would sell over 100k in supermarkets and comic shops. It was the reign of G. I. Joe
, American Flagg
, Conan the Barbarian
and Groo the Wanderer
, Strawberry Shortcake
I never tracked down the full skinny on Epic, although I knew that it was a creator-owned imprint spun off of Epic Illustrated
, a largely creator-owned, adult-oriented magazine designed to circumvent the Comics Code Authority and compete with Heavy Metal
; I mainly know it because of Groo the Wanderer
by Sergio Argones and Mark Evanier, who jumped ship from Pacific and did a legendary run before they had to make the shift to Image. Epic comics were, even by the standards of the Iron Age, edgy - I remember Spyke
was another one that I really enjoyed - but by and large they were just indie comics being put out by Marvel,s ort of a dabbling experiment in seeing if any of this art stuff could be profitable - or maybe just trying to compete with DC's Vertigo, I'm not sure. I don't remember many of the Epic titles except Groo
and maybe Jim Starlin's Dreadstar
being stand-out hits, but there was some really solid stuff in there - Elfquest
, the manga Akira
in English, a bunch of titles from French comics genius Moebius, an adaptation of Samurai Cat
, Sam and Max
, a really superior adaption of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser
by Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola - any of these are worthy of a retrospective. Strange times indeed - and this was a very strange comic.Timespirits
starts out in the New World, when the English are colonizing, but the Native peoples haven't completely died off yet - and young Doot of the Wawenock runs across Cusick the Tuscarora, a time-traveling sorcerer - sort of a low-rent Doctor Who, if he caused more problems than he solved and couldn't pull a sonic screwdriver out of his keister whenever he needed it. By the end of the issue Cusick has discovered that Doot is a timespirit
too (this meaning, basically, someone that can naturally travel through time), Doot's brother has been possessed by an alien parasite called the Bloodless Gheebe, Cusick takes Doot on as an apprentice and Doot hasn't gotten laid.
That pretty much sets the tone of the series, really. This comic was insane
and I loved it. They travel back and forth through time, from the far future where Doot resurrects Jimi Hendrix from a hologram to the distant past where Doot befriends a young dinosaur humanoid that's the last of its tribe; from battles in space to the Himalayas where a talking fish convinces a cannibalistic yeti to steal the powers of the Dalai Lama. One of my favorite bits is issue #4, where Cusick travels back to the birth of Christ as the fourth
wiseman to give a Crystal Skull to the baby Jesus...and runs afoul of Varnae, Lord of Vampires.Yes, this guy. The place of this story in Marvel continuity was pretty dodgy even before they started screwing with the timeline, and now I don't even want to guess.
Nowadays you mainly hear about Timespirits because on one of their jaunts through time and space, Cusick and Doot pick up a blue-furred alien catgirl.
Naturally, people started complaining that Avatar
plagiarized a fairly obscure 80s comic...I reserve judgment. Hell, if someone bet me $100 that there was another blue-furred alien cat girl in Marvel comics, I wouldn't take it. There's just too much stuff in there. Probably a member of the Shi'ar Guard, back when they didn't get worf'd in every appearance.
As you can sort of tell from those panels, a lot of the coloring on Timespirits
was a cut above the average Marvel monthly title in terms of shading - more paint, less tone-paper and whatnot - and young me really dug it. The writing was so-so - the writers were kitchen sinking a lot of the comic, dealing with things like Doot trying to get laid and have fun, Bohemian Grove as the starting point for the New World Order by way of George H. W. Bush, the extinction of dinosaurs, Jimi Hendrix' mystical musical ability to free the soul, the complicated relationship between white people and Native Americans, the Dalai Lama in tennis shoes, a talking fish, the Great Deluge and an alien terraforming device, the aforementioned First Vampire and the baby Jesus... The dialogue was not always great, but the jokes were fun (at one point, Cusick learns how to swat flies with invisible tentacles emanating from his navel, and learns that it makes a mess), and there were bare breasts in pretty much every issue, which was a big plus for young me. It was a fun comic, but like a lot of miniseries that involve life, the universe, timetravel, and everything, it has a strongly cyclical nature to it, where the last issue ties back into the first issue. Kind of like the end of Mighty Max
.Dating myself badly here
(By the way, don't let me doing this stop anybody else that wants to try their hand at a retrospective. I normally stick to series over 10 years old, but there's not hard and fast rules. I'm thinking of doing The Winter Men
next, because that series was awesome.)