Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

I’ve known comics creator and illustrator Mark Wheatley since he emerged from the pupae stage. We were handed a proposal for a project called Mars – “we” being the late and lamented real First Comics. Said proposal was given to art director Joe Staton and production manager Bruce Patterson. Joe and Bruce were raving; this, in and of itself, was nothing new but they were raving about this specific project. So I read the proposal, and as the kids say, I immediately green-lighted it.

Mars was the work of Mister Wheatley and his studio-mate Marc Hempel and they were advocating a story that was unlike anything I could remember in American comics, and they were telling that story in a manner that was equally unique. Silly businessman that I am, that’s exactly the sort of venture that I find most appealing. No, I have never thought about being wealthy enough to retire. As work progressed and we started to promote Mars, the head of one of the largest comic book distributors (there were many back then) asked me, quite politely, if I were out of my mind.

Well, if I wasn’t sufficiently excited before that moment…

A couple years later, Mark and Marc pitched a project called Breathtaker. By then I was at DC Comics, still ignoring my savings account. My feelings about Breathtaker were like those I had about Mars, and I pitched it to DC. They agreed, but “they” did not include the publisher who was not part of that approval process. She thought we were somehow making fun of concentration camp inmates. Decades later, I’m still scratching my head over that one, but I was comforted in the knowledge I was still upsetting apple carts. And I maintained those feelings some time later at the premiere of the first graphic novels exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, where Mark, Marc and Breathtaker commanded the real estate of an entire wall – and sundry staff curators came out with copies for us to autograph. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of comics guys.

I’ve worked with Mark on various projects ever since, and we’ve maintained a friendship that no one can rend asunder, unless that person is disgusted by puns. Mark and I can flip them back and forth with a fervor that could empty out Camden Yards.

I’m not involved in Mark’s current project. Perhaps it was something I said. Or didn’t say. You can ask us April 12 – 14 at the Windy City Pulp show in Lombard Illinois; we’ll both be there, but the part you’ll enjoy is gawking at Mark’s massive… exhibit.

So… what, you might ask, is this brand-new project of Mark’s? How can you become part of it? And why did I bury the lead so deeply?

Mark has just launched a new Kickstarter called Song Of Giants: The Poetry of Pulp – Illustrated. It’s got 72 pages of “mind-blowing illustrations by all of Fame artist Mark Wheatley,” as the back cover so intriguingly states. He’s limited himself to three such giants: Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, yeah, them again!

Of course there’s a website in addition to the Kickstarter page. Grow up! It’s 2019! It’s like gravity! Check it out for more info and even more pretty pictures.

Mark’s also coming out with an audio book, and he’s teamed up with noted producer / voice actor and all-around swell guy Mark Redfield. What can I say? He’s got a thing for guys named Mark. Or Marc. Yup, this is an audio book of a book of illustrations. Mark is still boldly going, I see… In these difficult times, it’s nice to see that somethings do not change – abruptly.

Check out the Kickstarter. Help make it happen. Tell ‘em Groucho sent you, particularly if you’re happening by a DeSoto dealership.

Norm Breyfogle, 1960 – 2018

Norm Breyfogle, 1960 – 2018

Several decades ago, my friend Rick Obadiah and I founded a little publishing company called First Comics. During our tenure together we printed some pretty decent work. Part of my business plan for editorial was to foster and employ new talent – priming the pump, as I told our investors. I knew exactly when and where I wanted to build this door, and if you’ll permit me to drop a few names I think that also worked out pretty good: John Ostrander, Timothy Truman, Julia Lacquement, Mark Wheatley, Linda Lessmann, Marc Hempel, Bill Reinhold and about a dozen others went through that door.

And then there was this guy Norm Breyfogle.

We were working on a creation of Steven Grant’s called Whisper. Eventually, as it must to most comic book series, it came time to bring in a new artist. Every editor in every medium gets more submissions than he, she, and they could possibly evaluate. Usually, the really good stuff gets noticed and the really great stuff gets remembered.

Norm Breyfogle was easily remembered. He was brought in on First’s fourth issue, and Whisper’s future was set. So was Norm’s, to nobody’s surprise. He went on to such projects as Prime (one of my favorites), Bloodshot, Life With Archie, and a very lengthy run on some guy called “The Batman.” In fact, it was his work on Whisper that got him the Bat-gig, and he stayed on Blue Longears for eight years. By that point I was in New York working for DC Comics and somehow lucky enough to share a large office with Batman editor Denny O’Neil. Synchronicity makes the world go ‘round.

Drawing Batman brought Norm’s life at the time full-circle. His first published art – a fan drawing – made it into Batman Family #13, when he was a mere 17-year-old.

Norm suffered a stroke in late 2014 that left him paralyzed on his left side – worse, he was left-handed. This ended his career, but he did seem to be improving, communicating with friends and collaborators and trying to develop his creator-owned properties. When the word came down on Wednesday, well, we certainly would have been shocked anyway, but we all had hoped for the day when he could get back a little to the convention circuit and receive the proper respect his brilliant work deserved.

Batman has attracted many an A+ lister artist, pretty much since day one, and Norm Breyfogle was on that hallowed list. Batman’s 80th birthday just won’t be the same.