The 21st Century can be a bit weird sometimes.
This week, I’m interviewing my editor from BACK ISSUE magazine, Michael Eury. Over the last five years, I’ve written over a dozen articles for him, consulted with him on the BI Facebook page we admin, exchanged several hundred emails and FB messages with him, and gotten to know him pretty well. I consider him a friend, but we’ve never met face-to-face. Heck, we didn’t have our first phone conversation until yesterday. I mean, it’s understandable when you consider that he’s in North Carolina, I’m in New Jersey, and you can do most things remotely these days, but still… It’s kind of weird when you think about it.
Michael, If you’re not familiar with his work, has had a long career in comics. He’s been a writer and editor for Comico, DC, and Dark Horse, working on such characters as Ambush Bug, The MAZE Agency, and The Legion of Super-Heroes. He’s also the guy who came up with the cool looseleaf format for DC’s Who’s Who. Since 2002, he’s been working for TwoMorrows Publishing, editing BACK ISSUE and writing books about Superman, Captain Action, the Justice League, and his mentor Dick Giordano. My personal favorite of the bunch is The Batcave Companion, co-written with Michael Kronenberg, which is, as far as I’m concerned, THE definitive book on Batman in the 60s and 70s.
Michael’s new book is Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters & Culture of the Swinging Sixties, and it’s all about the Camp Craze of the 1960s, when EVERYONE, thanks to Batman and James Bond, was a superhero, a swinging secret agent, or BOTH. Here’s what Michael had to say about the project…
JOHN TRUMBULL: What inspired you to write a book about the comic book culture of the 1960s?
MICHAEL EURY: Mark Voger’s book Monster Mash, released a couple of years ago from TwoMorrows, made me think, “Gee, I’d like to do a similar exploration of the Camp movement in comics and pop culture.”
Since I was a child when all that goofy, fun, POW! CRUNCH! ZOWIE! stuff was going on in the mid-Sixties, this book quickly became a celebration of my childhood.
TRUMBULL: This book covers a LOT of ground – the 1960s Batman TV show, near-forgotten shows like Captain Nice, the “split!” Captain Marvel, Captain Action, the Superman musical of the 1960s, and more. Was it tough to keep the book focused? Was there stuff you were dying to include that you just couldn’t fit in?
EURY: The chapters helped provide editorial focus and allowed me to zero in on certain aspects of the Camp craze, from the superhero explosion to the influence of pop music (mainly, the Beatles and the Monkees) upon the culture.
The only material I had intended to write about but opted against was Archie Comics’ Mighty Crusaders and Sixties superhero material. It was pretty silly and attempted to milk the Camp craze, mainly with Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel doing his best to write with the hipness of Stan Lee. But since TwoMorrows was publishing the MLJ Companion, an in-depth guide to the various permutations of the Archie Comics superheroes, I realized those characters were getting a major spotlight from the publisher and opted not include them in my book outside of a mention in my section on Sixties superhero paperbacks.
The book weighs in at 272 full-color pages. There WAS material that didn’t make it in, excised during layouts to keep the page count manageable. But it was all supplemental material: a “One-Shot Wonders” cover gallery of Archie Comics covers featuring superhero gags, a cover gallery of comics featuring or inspired by the Beatles, a gallery of covers featuring comics characters surfing, and song lyrics from Saturday morning cartoons (although a few lyrics made it into the inside back cover via a wacky layout from book designer Scott Saavedra).
TRUMBULL: I first heard about Hero-A-Go-Go back in 2015, when a friend of mine helped put you in touch with It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman actor Bob Holiday, but I got the impression that you had already been working on it for a while. How long did it take you to assemble the book?
EURY: A year, maybe a little longer. I read hundreds of comics stories, but first had to find many of them, so I did a lot of back issue shopping at conventions and on eBay. My publisher, John Morrow, loaned me a box of campy Sixties comics I didn’t have so I could read these stories.
TRUMBULL: What were you most surprised to learn while writing this book?
EURY: I was surprised to discover from Ralph Bakshi the behind-the-scenes issues with Krantz Films’ Rocket Robin Hood. Also, before my research I didn’t know that the King Kong cartoon had two movie connections!
TRUMBULL: I know that your all-time favorite comic book is The Brave and The Bold, as written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo. When did you first discover their work, and what is it about the Haney/Aparo run that makes it your favorite?
EURY: I discovered Haney before I did Aparo, but probably wasn’t aware of it because I was so young at the time. But Bob Haney was writing two comics I enjoyed during the mid-Sixties, when I was a grade-school kid: Brave and Bold and Teen Titans.
Aparo, I discovered on some late-Sixties Aquamans once he replaced Nick Cardy there.
But their first collaboration was on Brave and Bold #98, a Batman/Phantom Stranger team-up, which I bought right when it was released. Aparo was drawing Batman in the style of Neal Adams, but with his own nuances, which I quickly grew to appreciate.
What I like about the Haney/Aparo B&Bs is their diversity and accessibility. Haney’s Batman didn’t act the way Batman acted elsewhere–his temper was mercurial, he was very chummy with Commissioner Gordon, and, oddly, had (non-super) friends! One of this friends, in that aforementioned issue #98, on his deathbed made Batman pledge to watch over his son…who happened to be Batman’s godson! How weird! But cool! You never knew what to expect from Haney, but Aparo, in his prime at that time, always delivered superior artwork.
TRUMBULL: WHY no go-go checks on the cover? I don’t think Irwin Donenfeld would mind…
EURY: Actually, Donenfeld’s ghost appeared to me and moaned, “Nooooo go-gooooo checks! Beware!”
Seriously, I had envisioned go-go checks, but book designer Scott Saavedra had other ideas — and they were great! He evoked the style of the Camp Age without using go-go checks which, I now realize in retrospect, would’ve been the easy way out. There have been no shortage of Sixties-inspired retro comics top-lining their covers with go-go-checks.
TRUMBULL: You’re also the editor of BACK ISSUE magazine from TwoMorrows, a magazine I’ve been writing for for about five years now. What can you tell us about what’s coming up there? Issue #100 is right around the corner…
EURY: Yeah, BI‘s been going strong since late 2003!
It’s an exciting summer of issues, starting with the just-released BI #96, which examines the venerated anthology title from the ’80s, Marvel Fanfare.
[I have a couple of short articles in this issue, covering MF #s 18 (Captain America) and #40 (Angel & Storm), with quotes from Roger Stern, Terry Austin, Ann Nocenti, David Mazzucchelli, and Craig Hamilton. – JT]
June’s BI #97 is themed “Bird People” (Hawkman, Hawkworld, Hawk and Dove, Penguin, Nightwing, etc.), with a Hawkman cover by George Pérez (get well soon, George).
[I’m in this issue as well, with a Pro2Pro interview with Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel, all about their 1990s Nightwing run. And I second Michael’s well wishes to GP. – JT]
July’s BI #98 is themed “DC in the ’80s” (Secret Origins, DC Challenge, Action Comics Weekly, etc.), with a Nightwing cover by Romeo Tanghal.
[I’m not in this issue. Obviously there was some sort of catastrophic screw-up in the system somewhere. – JT]
August’s BI #99 is themed “Batman: The Animated Series 25th Anniversary” (BTAS oral history and episode guide, The Batman Adventures comic, the animated DC universe in comics, a Harley Quinn history, and a Mike Parobeck tribute). You, of course, contributed a lot to this issue. It’s got a Bruce Timm (classic) Harley Quinn cover.
[I talked about this one here a couple of weeks ago. The BTAS oral history, episode guide, and the Harley history are all mine. – JT]
September’s BI #100 is themed “Bronze Age Fanzines and Fandom” (the evolution of fandom news-zines, an interview with Price Guide creator Bob Overstreet, Alan Light’s narrative about creating The Buyer’s Guide, FOOM, Amazing World of DC Comics. Super DC Con ’76, etc.). And it’s 100 pages!
[I’m not in this one, either, but I’m really looking forward to it! BI‘s own Robert Greenberger will be interviewing Michael all about BI. – JT]
TRUMBULL: Any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?
EURY: I’m creating a new bimonthly magazine for TwoMorrows (but will continue to edit BACK ISSUE). I can’t say anything else about it at this time other that fans of both Hero-A-Go-Go and BACK ISSUE should enjoy it…
TRUMBULL: Thanks for the interview, Michael! We’ll be sure to pick up your book!
EURY: You’re welcome. Thank you!
Hero A-Go-Go is available from the TwoMorrows website, along with many other of the books and magazines mentioned here. Check them out, you won’t be sorry!
See you next week!