By Beau Smith

Here we are in the new year of 2009 and it’s nice to know that there are still obscure comic book facts that can be uncovered.

You’d think that they’d all been discovered by now after a good ten years of heavy internet play, but yet, some things still pop up. That’s a good thing. When I’m doing research or just have a little extra time, I enjoy going through the boxes and boxes of what I guess you could call my “lifetime comic book collection.” It never fails that I trip across some story, character, comic book, or piece of material that I hadn’t thought about in years or now has a new sheen of importance.

Recently I came across a few comic books that I had a part in and I thought I’d share a slice of their back-story with you.

Total Eclipse #4
Eclipse Comics, 1988.
52 pages, Deluxe Format.
Written By Marv Wolfman.
Art by Bo Hampton. (Feature story)
NOTE: Secondary story is written by Neil Gaiman and his FIRST time writing Miracleman.

When I was the VP of Sales and Marketing for Eclipse Comics in the 1980s and 1990s, we did one of the first multi-character crossover events for independent publishers in the 5 issue series Total Eclipse. We hired noted Marvel and DC Comics writer, Marv Wolfman and one of the very talented Hampton Brothers, Bo, to draw it. Other creators of note were also had their hands in the series as well. Once such creator was Neil Gaiman. Issue #4 of Total Eclipse has very special comic book historic meaning because it’s the first time that Neil Gaiman wrote the most popular and controversial super hero of the last 25 years, Miracleman.

The series was filled with all the Eclipse Universe characters from the most popular such as Airboy, Black Terror, The Heap to the more obscure such as The Liberty Project and Beanworld. It was a beautifully done series by A-List talent. Today issue #4 is quite the hidden gem collector’s item because of the debut Miracleman story by Gaiman, now layered with all kinds of historic meaning. On an average you can find this in the back issue bin for around $2.50. Quite a steal considering the fairly low print run.

Total Eclipse One
Image Comics, 1998.
One Shot Retail Incentive Book.
Written by Beau Smith and Ted Adams.
Art by Terry Dodson, Greg Capullo, Kelly Jones, Brian Stelfreeze, Dwayne Turner, Alex Garner, Danny Miki, John K. Snyder III, Flint Henry, Richard Johnson, Chance Wolf, Aron Wiesenfeld, Richard Bennett and more.

In 1998 while VP of Publishing/Marketing for Todd McFarlane Productions and Image Comics, I also had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of a “Sorta” revival of the Eclipse Comics characters that I once worked on. When Eclipse Comics went bankrupt in 1994, Todd McFarlane stepped in and bought the company in the auction. His intent was to bring all the characters back at some point and add them to the Spawn publishing empire.

Things happened, only bits and pieces of the Eclipse characters surfaced and not always in the forms readers remembered. Total Eclipse One was the new “Bible” for most of those Eclipse characters, Airboy, Skywolf, The Black Terror, The Heap, Valkyrie, Misery and others. Ted Adams, who was then VP of Entertainment of TMP and now-IDW Publishing President, and I, worked up a rather large publishing business plan for not only the Eclipse characters, but the Spawn characters as well. Under Todd’s suggestions, we revamped the Eclipse characters for this new character bible. We then offered this book as a limited, direct market retail incentive (one of the first) for retailers. We published roughly 3,000 copies BUT, only 1,000 got stapled and produced as comic books. The other 2,000 were “guts”, interior pages that we were going to eventually produce into comics and or use as company manuals for creators once the new publishing banner was established. That didn’t happen. Todd’s mind changed on producing more characters as well as some lawsuits that are now pretty common knowledge. Stuff happens.

It doesn’t change the fact that there were only 1,000 copies of Total Eclipse One produced and put into circulation. Most of the “guts issues” were thrown away, destroyed or are laying around in a box somewhere. As a side note, Total Eclipse One had a Miracleman “Easter Egg” placed in it. Besides the comic book being very rare, this also adds a little more rarity to its air. When you do find a copy of Total Eclipse One, you’ll usually find it pretty cheap at around $2.50. This is because most folks don’t realize what they have.

The Black Terror #1 through #3.
Eclipse Comics 1989. Prestige Format.
Created and Written By Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon. Painted Art By Dan Brereton.

Again, during my time at Eclipse Comics, I was fortunate enough to make one of my dad’s dreams and my childhood dreams come to life. Growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s, my dad’s two favorite comic book characters were Blackhawk and The Black Terror. He even gave me a couple of the Golden Age issues of each that managed to survive his childhood. I must have read those books a million times just as my dad did. I always dreamed of one day getting to read new adventures of The Black Terror. By the time I was an adult it still hadn’t happened. In 1989 I decided that it was up to me to make it happen.

I did.

The Black Terror, along with other characters from Better Publications/Standard Comics all were and still are public domain. I worked up a pitch and story for The Black Terror as a modern, hard-boiled crime story in a politically alternative universe. One where the Kennedy family were the Capones and the Capones were basically the Kennedys. After this three issues series I planned to bring in the other characters from the public domain limbo where they were all living.

I told Chuck Dixon of my plans and asked him if he wanted in. Chuck and I had always wanted to write together and this seemed like the perfect project. Dean Mullaney, the publisher of Eclipse Comics really liked the pitch and gave us the green light. The light got greener when the book’s editor, Fred Burke found painter/Illustrator, Dan Brereton fresh out of art school and signed him on to pain this prestige format series. Both Chuck and I knew Dan was perfect after we saw his pitch art. Needless to say, Dan went on to win the Russ Manning Award after his stint on The Black Terror. He was/is THAT good!

The book sold very well and if I remember right the first issue sold around 18,800 copies. (I still have tons of old Distributor purchase orders.) That was pretty good for a prestige format Indy book with a $4.95 cover price. The series was a critic’s favorite. As I’ve mentioned before with lots of self-esteem, I think the book was way ahead of its time and still holds up today to anything you want to throw at it. Because it was never collected into a trade paperback, its chances to be read by a wider and new audience has been denied. These are bold words, but I believe the series should be and could be grouped in the same league as Sin City, Miracleman and even Watchmen. I’m not saying this comic is better than those ones, but it’s right up there with them. No brag, just personal belief. If you’ve read it, you might agree with me. If not, give it a chance.

The series, when you can find it, will cost you about $5.00 a book. Basically it goes for cover price even today, but that’s if you can find it. As far as I know, Todd McFarlane still has the rights to reprint the series as a trade paperback. There is standing problem of film. Todd doesn’t have it and in fact, I don’t know where it ended up either. Even so, with today’s technology, it could still be collected. Those are my hopes.

Hellspawn #6
Image Comics. 2001.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve Niles. Art by Ashley Wood.

Why is this issue of Hellspawn listed here? Well, because it is another hidden gem in the history of the Miracleman mythos. This fairly obscure issue written and drawn by today’s very bankable A-Listers, has the controversial cameo of Miracleman in his alter ego of Mike Moran. A great last page surprise that still has Miracleman collectors scurrying to find this issue in back issue bins and on EBay. The good news is that you can usually find it for around $3.00 or less. When all the murky ownership waters are finally clear again, this will be one of the sought after issues for any fan of Miracleman.

I hope you check out some of these issues and remember that there are all kinds of collector’s items out there, some for less than the cover price of a brand new comic. With the economy like it is, it might be a good thing to look for some fun issues with back stories that may just be tomorrow’s big investment payoffs.

The Balls To The Wall Blog Of “Concrete” Chuck Dixon

I’ve got a new bookmark for your web surfing. It’s my friend and sometimes co-writer, Chuck Dixon website. For well over 20 years, Chuck has entertained you with his writing on Conan, Batman, the Punisher, The Simpsons and currently G.I. Joe. Recently Chuck has added his own must read blog to his site. Chuck has never been one to cut corners and he proves that with his informative, entertaining and sometimes controversial new Blog. His opinion may not always be your opinion, but I promise you will always learn something from it. Check it out today. Make sure you tell him that Beau shoved you that way.

Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week
Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks is an actress with a lot of range. She can play the girl next door, a vixen (Where did that word come from?), a smart, go for the throat type and she can do some great comedy. You know her from such films as Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Spider-Man 3, W. , The 40 Year Old Virgin and, my favorite, Silther. Thing is, you must check her out in the new horror film The Uninvited. There she really shows what she can do. I’d love to see her in a flat out action role. I hope you enjoy her as this week’s Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week.

Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week
Art By Earl Norem.

One of my favorite manly man painters and artists is the immortal Earl Norem. Every cover and painting that he has done is filled with no-nonsense testosterone. Like Nick Cardy, Norem has a natural flair for all things manly. Anytime you see one of his Hulk Magazine or Planet Of The Apes covers, you will automatically feel the hair on your chest sprout up. This He-Man and the Masters of the Universe painting is a true eye-popper. I hope you enjoy. Click the image for a larger version.

The Roundup

Things have been a little crazy here at the ranch. We had an ice/snow storm hit us last Tuesday the 27th, and over 71,000 homes in this area lost power. Some still don’t have any. We went 48 hours without it and it sure put me behind. It also made me appreciate what others in disaster areas go through. I only had a small taste of what others have gone through with storms, floods and such. I hope I don’t have to experience any more. I sure admire those that go through it and come out okay. A lot of folks really step up to the plate and help others when this happens. The best part is that the really good folks don’t ask if you’re left wing, right wing, gay, straight, or not as handsome of me, they just step up and extend their hand. I saw people do that in the last week. It was a good thing to see.

My friends on The Weather Channel tell me that we may have another ice/snow storm hit this coming Tuesday. Needless to say, I’m gonna be out looking to buy a portable propane heater and maybe a camping stove. I need to be a little better prepared in case there is a next time. Here is a photo my wife, Beth, took of me and my dog Blue during the outage. (My other dog, Chubb, was attending the call of nature.) Yeah, there’s a smile on my face, but know that as soon as she finished taking the photo I crawled into the fetal position and cried like a baby. Blue snorted, hiked his leg and pissed at me in disgust. Mother Nature 1, Beau 0.

Stay warm and dry, amigos.

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin