- Posted by Johanna on September 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm
- Category: Books and Prose, KC
- CREDITS: David Anthony Kraft (editor/original publisher); Bill Cucinotta & Gerry Giovinco (compilers)
- PUBLISHER: CO2 Comics; $34.99 each, softcover; $54.99 each, hardcover
Review by KC Carlson
Well, here’s an interesting idea…
One of the 1980’s best fanzines (prozines, if you’re picky) was David Anthony Kraft’s Comics Interview. CI began in 1983 and ultimately ran for 150 regularly published issues, ending in 1995.
Kraft, better known by his initials DAK, started out writing rock and roll journalism. In 1976, he became the editor of Marvel Comics’ official fan magazine FOOM (Friends of Ol’ Marvel), beginning with issue #15 and ending with its last issue (#22). This led to a writing career at Marvel, most notably on The Defenders, which was filled with references to rock music, especially about the band Blue Öyster Cult. Kraft’s plots also wrestled with large philosophical issues. (I think you would have to, following Steve Gerber’s acclaimed run on the series.)
He also wrote the entire original Savage She-Hulk series (save the first issue, which was written by Stan Lee) and had runs on Captain America, World’s Finest Comics, and Man Wolf in Creatures on the Loose, as well as lots of licensing work for Marvel Comics. Notably, he was the writer of artist John Byrne’s first story for Marvel in Giant-Size Dracula #5 (June 1975).
In 1983, DAK teamed with another ex-Marvelite — long-time editor Jim Salicrup (credited as “conceived by” and editorial and design consultant for the project) — to create Comics Interview. Besides his 20 years at Marvel, editing most of their top titles, as well as Marvel Age, Salicrup also edited for Topps Comics and is current editor-in-chief at Papercutz. I’m guessing his favorite writing credit is The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk toilet paper.
Talk, Talk, Talk…
Over its 12-year run, Comics Interview interviewed practically everyone in comics who wanted to be interviewed. Even I was interviewed for the magazine (with Mike Carlin, on the eve of the publication of DC crossover event Zero Hour). Over time, CI garnered Eisner and Eagle Award nominations and the respect of the comics industry. I constantly see references to CI in scholarly works about comics and comics history.
Several issues broke (or elaborated) on major news and issues of the day, such as George Pérez’s frustrations with the original JLA/Avengers project (in issue #6) and Dick Giordano on violence in comics (#5). The 1987 debates on comics ratings and labeling are covered by Frank Miller, John Byrne, Last Gasp’s Ron Turner, and Steve Bissette, taking up all of issue #43. Byrne returned in issue #86 to answer his most vocal critics, with a cover memorably blurbed “John Byrne: Threat or Menace?”
And you have major talents talking about big projects, including Frank Miller on Ronin (#2), Walter Simonson on Thor (#9), Jim Shooter on Secret Wars (#14), and Jack Kirby on everything (#41)!. The entire issue #25 was given over to a huge career interview with John Byrne and included 30 pages of then-unpublished Fantastic Four penciled pages by Byrne. The double-sized #50 contained an issue-length interview with George Pérez. Issue #31 was an all-Batman issue with interviews with Frank Miller, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger’s son, and Burt Ward! Peanuts’ Charles Schulz was interviewed in #47.
The Return of Comics Interview (sorta)
Now, in a very ambitious plan, CO2 Comics is undertaking the reprinting of every single issue of Comics Interview (sans ads) in 11 huge volumes.
Two volumes exist so far — Volume One collects issues #1-14, and Volume Two collects issues #15-28. These books are massive, printed on white paper and larger than the originals. The original magazines were comic book-sized — these books have magazine-like dimensions (8″ x 11″) and are super-thick. Each is close to 700 pages! Quality-wise, the books are very good. They’re being reproduced from the original newsprint pages, so there are occasional imperfections, but all the text is very readable — especially at the slightly larger size.
The biggest problem is with the photographs. The originals are long gone, so they can’t be redone, so, not to get too technical, the original screens of the old photographs don’t always mesh with the current reproduction, meaning that the screen patterns are visible in most of the photographs. However, the line art (including comic book panels) is generally crisp and clear. A few things were originally shot from pencils only and were rough back then, and they’re still a little rough. I’m guessing the costs of fixing all those screened photographs would have been astronomical.
Which leads to my other concern about the project — the price. I don’t think the books are excessively overpriced for what they are (at least for the softcovers). It’s only when you get to thinking about getting all 11 projected volumes that it starts to add up. Plus, 11 volumes are going to require some serious bookshelf space!
I’m very happy that these wonderful issues are back in print and available to anyone that wants them, but I can’t help think that a project of this size and magnitude would do better as digital downloads. It seems like perfect content for e-readers, although the lack of color might not be “sexy” enough (or, more properly, “too retro”) for younger fans and readers. Although it would be great to be able to search the files electronically.
If you’re interested in what happened in comics and what people were talking about during the 1980s and 90s — one of the most exciting times for growth and upheaval in comics — these Comics Interview “archives” are one of the best places to start! (The publisher provided review copies.)