Executioner Comes to Comics

Executioner #1 cover
Executioner #1 cover
Art by Rebecca A. Wrigley

Back when I was teaching popular culture, the examples of gendered genres that most resonated with students were Harlequin romance novels for women. When someone would ask “what about guys?”, the corresponding choice was the Executioner novel series featuring Mack Bolan. I didn’t realize that the Executioner books are currently put out by Gold Eagle Books, which is an imprint of Harlequin. Obviously, they know their addictive formula popcorn entertainment, whichever gender they’re writing for.

So why am I talking about them here? Because in April, IDW Publishing will be releasing the five-issue miniseries The Executioner: The Devil’s Tools. It’s written by Douglas Wojtowicz, one of the novel series’ authors, with interiors by SL Gallant. Gold Eagle has published some preview art. That seems like a great cross-marketing effort, with audiences for the property and IDW comics having lots in common (by assumption).

Rogue Angel #1 cover
Rogue Angel #1 cover
Art by Rebecca A. Wrigley

Before then, the two companies will be putting out Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales, another five-issue miniseries (with a collection to follow in September 2008) based on the series of novels. The heroine is Annja Creed, “a world-traveling archaeologist who also happens to be the heir to Joan of Arc’s mystic sword.”

Rogue Angel #1 alternate cover
Rogue Angel #1 alternate cover
Art by Tim Bradstreet

In this story, described as “Tomb Raider goes American literature”, she’s hunting a lost Mark Twain manuscript. It’s written by Barbara Randall Kesel (yay!) with art by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon. The novel series began in 2006. (See what Buffy hath wrought? Serialized globe-trotting adventure fiction starring a chick with a sword! Cool!)

IDW Editor Tom Waltz was interviewed about the two projects at Newsarama. By the way, this isn’t the first time the Executioner has come to comics; Innovation published three issues in 1993. (I believe there was supposed to be a fourth issue, but it never came out.)

11 Responses to “Executioner Comes to Comics”

  1. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Back when you taught pop culture? When was this?

  2. Johanna Says:

    When I was getting my MA in Popular Culture, I was a teaching assistant. That was the early 90s in Bowling Green, Ohio.

  3. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    as long as you go in understanding that they are series fiction (and just about anybody reading comics can accept that, i think), the Rogue Angel books are fun. Gold Eagle apparently began the series in response to losing the Destroyer franchise to another publisher. Given how badly they’d mishandled the Destroyer the last few years, it was a very fair trade (Jim Mullaney is now not only co-writing the Destroyer books again, but he’s even credited on the covers).

    The main character is very definitely in the Buffy mode, but also has some Lara Croft in her as well. The books tie in well with the sort of Dan Brown/Steve Berry/Clive Cussler “mix in a little history and a conspiracy with the action” style of storytelling that’s always done rather well if it finds its audience. Add in the supernatural element of Joan of Arc’s sword and you get another cross-market to the supernatural romance field that’s so hot right now. Comics fans might make fun of Dabel/Marvel’s Anita Blake books, but those novels have sold well for a long time now. (I liked them just fine until the author got more interested in her characters’ sex lives than their adventures)

    I have read and enjoyed the original Pinnacle Executioner books by Don Pendleton, but never did like what Gold Eagle turned the character into. They took the original war against the Mafia and turned it into paramilitary porn.

    Given that The Punisher was a blatant ripoff of the Executioner, it’s worth pointing out that the Executioner books from Gold Eagle have been, for the past 15 years or so, just like what the Punisher was at the height of his late 80’s glory — over-exposed and tiredly formulaic. Maybe they’ve gotten better recently, but I stopped even trying the various Bolan books a long time ago (and I like Men’s Action books for my popcorn reading — Lee Child, F. Paul Wilson, Matthew Reilly, Douglas Preston, Steven Hunter, etc.)

    what has always interested me in terms of the pop culture element with these books is that female readers tend not to mind that it’s formula — in fact, they tend to be very open about the familiarity and selling point of the formula. But male readers deny, deny, deny the formula in their reading material. or they deny that they read it. they would never be seen reading a Gold Eagle book, but they gladly read each Richard Marcinko book, which can’t be formula fiction because it’s from a hardcover publisher! But then again, I’m probably generalizing again —

    anyway, the Rogue Angel should be worth at least trying — and I’d suggest trying at least one of the novels if you have any interest at all in this sort of action/adventure/pulp-style fiction.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Wow, knowledgeable review! Much appreciated, thank you.

    I’ve also run into people who consider “formula” or “genre” insults, even when they’re purely descriptive.

  5. Justin Says:

    Looking through my Previews I didn’t see the co-artist credit to Ray Dillon. I did see a colorist credit to Rebecca A. Wagner. A female lead story with an all-female creative team was inticing to me. A friend and I have a challenge going of supporting female creators on a book (or books) of interest.

    Now the co-artist in no way changes that I will buy it, however it does dampen my enthusiasm of having found a bit of a golden goose as it were. All the same, I enjoyed the post, and I agree a knowledgable and welcome review.

  6. Johanna Says:

    He was credited as inker in the PR I got. I admire your interest in supporting female creators, and I hope you’ve checked out my Comics by Women page.

  7. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Hey, if you were in BG in the early 90’s, we may have almost crossed paths. I left ABD in 92 after spending 5 years there. I was English, with strong emphasis in American Culture and as many Pop Culture classes as I could fit into my schedule. Great school, nice program.

  8. Johanna Says:

    I was there from September 1992-August 1993. Looks like my two favorite professors, Jack Nachbar and Chris Geist, have retired now. Ah, memories.

  9. Alex de Campi Says:

    I was asked to adapt the first Rogue Angel book to comics by IDW – working with Renae was really appealing, as she’s a great artist – and I did breakdowns for them for a 5-issue mini.

    But then they changed concept to having a stand-alone series starring Annja Creed, which – although being a much better idea – caused enough of a schedule shift that by that point my music video directing commitments meant I didn’t have time to re-pitch and I had to drop out.

    I’m really glad IDW worked to find another female writer, especially with such a cool-sounding pitch. Also, Twain is actually my great great grand uncle (or something) so at least the story’s staying in the family.

  10. Advance Slush: Rogue Angel, Hazed, Noble Causes » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Creed is Tomb Raider with a more realistic wardrobe, Buffy as an archaeologist, star of a novel series by the folks who put out the Executioner books. In this story, she’s come to Virginia City to […]

  11. insider Says:

    Just a note to Jim- his info on Rogue Angel is incorrect- the series was planned long before GE decided to pull out of The Destroyer. A new slot was created for Rogue Angel.

    The slot that the Destroyer had held was replaced by 4 reprints of Jake Strait before the first book of their new series, Room 59, came out in Jan 08.

    The new covers for the Destroyer novels actually remind me of Bolan and Outlander covers, to be honest.




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