Tony is a former Spider-Man for Marvel Comics live character appearances!
Tony Wolf is an actor, voice-over artist, and illustrator in New York City. He co-hosts a pop-culture podcast (theactionroom.com) and will be drawing an upcoming webcomic written by Flash Gordon and Casper writer Brendan Deneen. Tony talks in-depth about his introduction to comics during the Bronze Age, and then his nostalgia for really getting into collecting during the Copper Age…
Tony: My mother would get me some digest comics to keep me occupied while she drove me all around town with her on various shopping trips, running errands, etc. I remember lots of little Archie digests and a few of the early ‘70s DC Comics digests where they reprinted old All-Star Comics, Justice Society stuff, and one digest in particular which reprinted a bunch of DC’s Super Friends comic books (which contained both Super Friends stories and some ‘60s and ‘70s Justice League stories).
I also remember some Legion of Super-Heroes digests from way back then, as well as some reprints of classic Joe Kubert Hawkman stories. This was when I was anywhere from 5 to 10 years-old, I think. I loved these books and devoured ‘em. I also remember getting those odd reprints of the first thirty or so issues of Ditko’s Spider-Man (I say “odd” because they were digest-sized, but yet much more shaped like a regular small paperback book than the typical “square” digest format). Those first Spider-Man stories were a revelation.
DC's oversized Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, from 1978.
I remember Marvel’s over-sized books. I had a bunch of those before I got into real comics collecting — I remember Herb Trimpe Hulk stories being reprinted in those, DC “Heroes vs. Villains” collection (complete with classic cover of all the heroes lined up on the left side and villains on the right), and I think I had the Superman / Muhammad Ali treasury edition too.
I also was an artist as a kid, and was constantly drawing comic book and cartoon characters, just drawing non-stop. My older brother was a talented artist and I may have started emulating him a bit. But all these little reprints and digests were before I went real hardcore into comics.
Another thing that contributed to my interest in comics and superheroes was the endless stream of (new and rerun) cartoons available to a kid in the mid to late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, Speed Racer, Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse(!), Popeye, the Plastic Man cartoon, Herculoids, Thundarr the Barbarian, the Tarzan cartoon, Robotech, Star Blazers (LOVED that show intensely), Super Friends (which later became Super Powers), those old Filmation Aquaman, The Atom, Hawkman and Flash cartoons (instrumental in introducing kids to DC’s B- and C-list characters), the wonderful and bizarre Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man cartoons made in the late ‘60s, and the Marvel cartoons that were those overly simplistic Jack Kirby drawings which had an arm or leg move here or there (jokingly referred to here as “the first motion comics”).
Cartoons like Super Friends were instrumental in introducing kids to DC's "B and C List" heroes and villains.
Also, the great Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four cartoons — which featured pretty literal retellings of early Lee / Kirby FF stories, like Dr. Doom in the pirate era, something like Kang in ancient Egypt, if I recall correctly, etc. The early ‘80s FF cartoon with Herbie the Robot in lieu of the Human Torch was also fun.
I think any kid who was remotely into fun genre entertainment like I’ve listed above would also have been into the Godzilla movies, which played over and over in local NYC and Long Island TV stations. Add to that anything remotely sci-fi or monster-related.
And then, of course, the phenomenon that hit countless young kids in 1977 — a little thing called “Star Wars”. Although not (initially) a comic book, of course, the adventure / pulp / comic sensibility was undeniable, and any child who was into that sort of stuff was going to fall in love with Star Wars.
Continue reading VF / NM Fan Interview: Tony Wolf
First issue of the second Alien Legion series, from 1987. Cover by Larry Stroman and Frank Cirocco.
Carl Potts is most known to comic fans for Alien Legion, as well as his creative and editorial work on dozens of prominent Marvel and Epic titles during the ’80s and ’90s. We interviewed him about working in the industry (focusing on the Copper Age of Comics), and the future of Alien Legion…
Carl: I began freelancing for Marvel in the summer of ’75, mostly doing splash pages and pin-ups for the British reprint department. I joined the Marvel editorial staff in early ’83, replacing Al Milgrom who was leaving to go freelance. I was promoted to Exec. Editor in ’89. I was one of the five Editors-in-Chief during the period of Sept. ’94 to Jan. ’96 when editorial was divided into six groups. I left in 1996 and became Creative Director at an online gaming company in Boulder, CO.
VF / NM: Was there a real energy at Marvel during the “Copper Age” era of ’84 – ’91…that it was a real growth time of the industry, with both major comic companies (and some independents) really raising the bar?
Carl: I imagine that everyone who has ever worked at Marvel feels that their period at the company was special, including those who are there now. That said, the ‘80s to early ‘90s was indeed extra special for a number of reasons.
Except for the latter part of the Shooter period, the corporate culture, and the culture in the editorial department in particular, was very positive. We worked in a fun but productive environment. Most of us grew up as comics fans, loved our work and tried to turn out great comics. With rare exceptions, most of those on the editorial staff got along well with each other and many of us socialized after hours. There were some exceptional personalities during that time including Mark Gruenwald and Archie Goodwin.
Before the company was sold to Ron Perelman, Marvel’s executive ranks included many intelligent and good people including Jim Galton and Mike Hobson. Because they were not writers, artists or editors, most fans didn’t know these people existed — but they were the people who ran the company and made it possible for the editors and freelancers to do their thing.
During that ‘80s to mid ‘90s period, the comics market consistently grew, ignoring the ups and downs of the rest of the economy. New genres, concepts and formats were being tried. New companies sprang up, further diversifying the field.
The package design aesthetics of comics, graphic novels and collections began to evolve in the early ‘80s, getting more sophisticated. In the early ‘90s, digital production techniques slowly began to appear.
VF / NM: Can you talk a little about working with Mike Mignola in the mid-’80s…Rocket Raccoon, Alpha Flight, etc.?
Carl: Mike and I were both from the East Bay area (near Oakland, CA). Vincent Perez was my “anatomy for artists” teacher at UC Berkeley. Several years after I took Vincent’s class, he taught Mike at the Calif. College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. A few years before I joined Marvel’s editorial staff, I ran into Vincent at a convention in San Francisco and he introduced me to Mike.
Soon after we met, Mike moved to NY and broke into comics as an inker.
1985's Rocket Raccoon, Mike Mignola's first series assignment as a penciller.
When I became an editor, Mike had just penciled his first story, a Sub-Mariner job for Marvel Fanfare. We renewed our acquaintance and I assigned him his first series as a penciller, Rocket Raccoon. Writer Bill Mantlo was a fan of Mike’s drawing and originally suggested Mike for the job. Unfortunately, the manufacturing department picked Rocket Raccoon to be the first book printed with the “Flexography” process. All of Mike’s beautiful stark black areas were turned to washed out greys while the colors were garish. I felt very bad for Mike. After that, I assigned Mike to the Hulk, Alpha Flight and other projects where he continued to hone his skills.
When I took over the Epic imprint, one of the first projects I put together was a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series that Howard Chaykin wrote (adapting Fritz Lieber’s stories) and Mike penciled. Al Williamson did the inks. It was a beautiful project, a real labor of love that was finally collected a few years ago by Dark Horse.
Mike was always a pleasure to work with. He was sometimes lacking (needlessly) in self confidence about his artistic skills.
(Interview continues, just click below!)
Continue reading VF / NM Industry Interview: Carl Potts
Overstreet's Price Update issue 16, from February 1991. Marvel's Deathlok was featured on the cover.
From 1982 to 1993, Overstreet — who publish THE annual price guide of the industry — also published their Overstreet Price Update (aka, the OPU), as a supplement.
Initially, the OPU came out once or twice a year, but then was published more frequently; by 1989 it was coming out five times a year, in February, June, August, October, and December. Color covers, with newsprint black and white interiors.
If you were a collector during the Copper Age (like I was), the OPU was almost essential to pick-up; revised back issue pricing, “What’s Hot & What’s Not” reports, etc.
And if you were a retailer and / or sold comics at local conventions (as I did as well), of huge interest were the detailed regional market reports, as contributed by retailers around the country, and then a handful in Canada and the UK.
Still have some issues of the OPU, and I often refer back to them when writing this blog. I’m in the process of buying back issues of it as well, to have even more reference on hand.
I do have the issue pictured, published in February 1991…however, the actual market reports within it were written in early January 1991, coming right off of the 1990 holiday shopping season. Thought it’d be interesting to post some select short excerpts (by far not complete) from some of those early ’91 market reports, to show some parallels of what is currently going on in the world…
From THE FUNNY PAPERS, in San Francisco, CA:
“This past winter was a good one for us, helped a great deal by DC’s strong marketing of Robin and the Superman titles. Everyone seemed to forget the R-word long enough to make this a prosperous holiday season, BUT – the spring is uncertain and we are approaching it cautiously and conservatively. Epiphany has yet to arrive and the economic mood is uncertain, at best. We are optimistic, however, that the industry is strong enough to withstand whatever is coming. Good luck, happy 1991, and see you next time.”
From ALL ABOUT BOOKS & COMICS, in Phoenix, AZ:
“1991! It’s almost a frightening thought that we’ve been in the retail end of the comic business for ten years now. It’s had its ups and downs; mostly ups. But unfortunately, 1990 was definitely on the downside for disposable income.
We don’t want to expound on too much doom and gloom, for the Christmas season, albeit late, did kick in full force about December 20th. And what a rush it was!
John Q. Public was a much more cautious buyer last year, avoiding high ticket items and instead investing his hard earned dollars on new comics and select (read: items under $100) back issues.”
From CRYSTAL TALISMAN COMICS, LTD., in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada:
“In the next ten year period, the truly good investments will be the books that everybody missed, not the books that everybody bought.”
Continue reading Overstreet’s Price Update 16