Back Issue #16

I’ve seen comic magazines cover toys before, usually one that tie into comics (superhero action figures, for instance) or those that are expected to sell to the same young male audience. Back Issue #16 takes a different approach, and as a result, I was a bit more interested.

Back Issue #16

This issue covers toy-related comics. To start, editor Michael Eury interviews Arthur Adams about his work on Gumby. Even though I’ve never read the comics (or knew they existed), I learned why so many people wish Adams would do more comic work. The art was well-chosen to illustrate the points made in the article. (Too often with these kinds of magazines, the interview discusses a particular page or effect, and it’s nowhere to be seen, giving the impression that you have to have already read the comics discussed to be qualified to read the interview.)

There’s a historical overview of 1980s Transformers comics; a lengthy piece on GI Joe comics that mentions how many kids started reading because of them; a He-Man article with comments by Paul Levitz, Paul Kupperberg, and George Tuska; a short item on Kirby’s work on Super Powers; and a joint interview with Sal Buscema (Rom) and Jackson Guice (Micronauts). Beyond the toys, the Rough Stuff sketchbook section focuses on Mike Zeck.

I admit, while I appreciated the different take on the topic, I wound up skimming most of the content. I haven’t read the comics discussed, and what I saw flipping through didn’t draw me in. Then came the last big piece, and that one was much cooler. Andy Mangels covers the Wonder Woman and the Star Raiders project, a planned cartoon series and tie-in toys.

Wonder Woman, Dolphin, Ice, Solara (a version of Fire renamed to protect the kiddies), and new black character Starlily (“whose touch makes deserts blossom”) made up the team. There was a cat-based villainness called Purrsia. The assumption is that then-DC President Jenette Kahn approached Mattel about doing toys for girls. José Luis Garc&iacute:a-Lopéz did the gorgeous (as always) presentation art that Mattel used to create prototype dolls. He had this interesting quote:

I think the overall costume alteration [for the characters] was to make their bodies a little more ‘covered up’. I get the impression Marvel was a little more than turned off at the wardrobe size of the average DC heroine.

He’s not the only one. The costumes shown in the sketches are really cute, with short skirts over tights, capes for everyone finished in their themes (Ice’s is trimmed in fur, Starlily’s looks like petals, etc.), and long sleeves for most with decorative collars on the tops.

The project was going to be big. Mattel’s 1993 catalogue featured ten pages on the project, including a two-page comic. The dolls’ jewel-centered belts could also serve as kids’ rings. Plus, there were pets. Wonder Woman had a flying unicorn (of course she did), and Purrsia had a purple tiger. (Both of these were slightly altered from similar characters in the She-Ra line.)

The article is full of odd quotes. Here’s one from the Wall Street Journal at the time:

A Mattel spokeswoman adds that the new Wonder Woman super heroine will be nonviolent and have lots of hair to comb.

GAAHHH!!! Not much is known or remembered about the minicomics. There was going to be one with each doll, and there was an earlier promotional one that was part of an offer with Cinnamon Mini Buns cereal. The cartoon is then discussed, and producer Boyd Kirkland recalls

I ran out of variations of pink, color-keying this show. [laughs] That was all at Mattel’s request. You know, they’d done all the focus-group testing with the little girls and decided that pink was the color for a lot of this stuff.

So what happened? Retailers weren’t all that interested. They didn’t want female action-oriented product. Plus, the DCU editors were upset that it didn’t match THEIR Wonder Woman, regardless of whether it could have been successful. Mattel pulled the plug on the cartoon, and the toys were cancelled.

But wait, there’s more. One of the many reasons I love my husband: “Honey, I just read this article about the Star Raiders.” He responded, “oh, did they talk about the minicomic? Because I have that.” Of course, we have to find it… he’s looking for it so I can cover it here.

9 Responses to “Back Issue #16”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I remember reading about these, either on a My Little Pony site or in a book about Wonder Woman. I would have loved them. They came out around the time that I glommed onto Sailor Moon. Too bad for everyone involved that it was aborted so early.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Sorry, would have come out. They never were released. Somewhere, those prototypes still exist. *drool*

  3. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    Back Issue is actually my favorite comics magazine. Each issue has is nicely focused on a particular theme and Eury does a good job of pulling together a nice range of content, including solid interviews that often have great little historical nuggets and insights from creators today’s average fan has either long forgotten or never heard of.

  4. Alan Coil Says:

    Your hubby is such a geek. (Please don’t ask me what geeky things I have.)


  5. Johanna Says:

    Sailor Moon is a great comparison, Rachel.

    Guy, Back Issue often has good content, but I wish the layout was stronger.

    Alan, I know, that’s why I love him! :)

  6. Nat Gertler Says:

    Lucky for you, the Adams Gumbies will soon be available again with more on the way (I assume that the article noted that). Delightful nonsense.

  7. James Schee Says:

    You do know that by the time he finds it in the mountain of comic boxes you guys have, that you’ll go “Did I want this for some reason?” right?:)

    I should look for this issue, given that I’m one of those “G.I. Joe got me reading comics” fans.

  8. Bill Doughty Says:

    I remember reading a huge article about the Wonder Woman thing that Sarah Dyer put together for her Action Girl’s Guide to Toys page. I’d imagine you could still get to it through her and Evan Dorkin’s site,

  9. Johanna Says:

    I found the link here, Bill, but unfortunately, it throws a 404.

    James, you’re probably right, I’ll forget about it before we find it. :)




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