Inside HERO-A-GO-GO with Michael Eury!

The 21st Century can be a bit weird sometimes.

Michael EuryThis 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.

Batcave Companion Eury Kronenberg
Seriously, if you’re any kind of Batman fan and you DON’T own this book… Get off your ass.

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…

Hero-A-Go-Go cover

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.

Hero-A-Go-Go Dell Monsters

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!

Brave and Bold 98 Batman Haney Aparo

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.

Brave and the Bold 98 cover Nick CardyBut 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!”

DC Go-Go Checks

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!

BACK ISSUE 96 coverIt’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]

BACK ISSUE 97 coverJune’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]

BACK ISSUE 98 coverJuly’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]

 

BACK ISSUE 99August’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]

BACK ISSUE 100 coverSeptember’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!

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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!

7 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    Aparo was drawing Batman in the style of Neal Adams

    *Phew!* When I looked at that picture, I thought it really looked like Neal Adams. It’s not just me. 🙂

    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).

    Yes, get well soon, George.

    I don’t know Blue Falcon, and I don’t know who publishes Condorman (Disney? Did he even have a comic or just that movie?), but is this a DC Bird People issue?
    I can think of Nighthawk and Starhawk from Marvel, and…

    Hey, maybe you can do an all Hawks issue!

    1. *Phew!* When I looked at that picture, I thought it really looked like Neal Adams. It’s not just me.

      Yes, Aparo’s early Batman stuff really looks like Adams. (In a good way, not in a “I’m tracing another guy’s stuff” way.)

      …is this a DC Bird People issue?

      There does seem to be a larger-than-average amount of DC characters in this issue. I think it’s probably just because they have more bird-themed characters than Marvel does. (I don’t think the Angel had enough solo appearances to make a decent-length article, and I can’t remember right now if the Falcon has been featured in BI before or not. He’d be a good topic for an article, if not.)

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      Western did 3 issues of Condoman, under the Whitman banner. They had the Disney license. The first two adapt the movie and the third has an original adventure or two.

      Blue Falcon was Hanna-Barbera, which is now owned by Warner, who owns DC; so, theoretically, DC can use him in comics, depending on how Warner handles these things these days. Joe Straczynski had to go to DC, himself, to get a Babylon 5 comic. There was a Dyno-Mutt comic book (since he was technically the star of the cartoon); but, it was published by Marvel, who had some H-B licenses in the mid-late 70s. If you include H-B characters, you can add Birdman and the Harvey Birdman iteration; and, internationally, Gatchaman, aka Battle of the Planets, aka G-Force, Guardians of Space (which also spawned the Japanese Super Sentai shows, which spawned the Power Rangers).

    1. That’s the biggest problem I have with BI – There’s so much great content in any given issue, it’s tough to find the time to read it all.

      Judging from a recent conversation we had on the BI FB page, it’s a not-uncommon problem among the readership. I thought it was just me (I have considerably less time to read BI now that I write for it).

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