Can you give me a rundown of
all the Red Circle/Archie Adventure books you were a part of?
Original Shield 1-4
Mighty Crusaders 4-6 (Original Shield stories)
Blue Ribbon (the two Thunderbunny appearances)
Mighty Crusaders 10*
The Fly 9
Pep 393 (Thunderbunny story)
I was not aware that there
was a Tunderbunny Appearance in Pep.
There was a problem with this story though. Archie brass
wanted to try an inker on Brian Buniak's pencils. Much to my
dislike they chose Jon D'Agostino. He ruined the art.
Like all the Thunderbunny stories they were researched and
when you saw an area, that area existed. This story took
place in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the background was the
famed Mayflower II. I had taken a lot of photos of this
ship, as well as a collector of comic art and collectibles who
lived in that area. Both were in this story. I saw the
pencils and they were fantastic. Brian had captured the look of
said collector and the Mayflower II looked fantastic.
Now the book comes out. What looked like the real
Mayflower II now looked like a garbage scow and the collector
looked flat and hardly anything like the real guy. I had
Brian draw up a special piece of art to give to the collector as
an apology for how Archie butchered the art. I never let
D'Agostino near Thunderbunny again.
I am missing some issues of
the Fly, including the one you worked on. Care to describe it?
In The Fly issue, I had to undo all that Steve Ditko had
done. I had to make Tommy Troy a lawyer again and establish
him as a hero. I did this and laid groundwork for upcoming
stories that my friend Bob Cosgrove and I were going to
write. Bob and I got paid for two stories beyond that
issue, but they never saw print. The line folded.
Can you elaborate on having
"to undo all that Steve Ditko had done" to the series?
Steve Ditko's Fly had Tommy Troy disbarred and a hunted
man. I turned that whole concept around and laid the base
for a great new series. I even had an artist that Archie
seemed high on to work on it. Gary Kato was an old friend
of mine and his stile is as much like Ditko as Ditko's is.
You'll have to read the issue in order to find out how I fixed
The series had some great Steranko covers and Ditko interior
art that was great. It was really Steve's last really good
It was a stroke of genius to
bring back Corporal Collins and Sergeant Boyle in the stories,
although I doubt many people caught the historical significance
of their appearance.
I liked the idea of using them. And if I could have
continued on the series the readers would have know more about
The only problem I had with the story that had both Boyle and
Collins in it was with Dick Ayers. In the flashback I
wanted Boyle in his blue '40's uniform. Ayers insisted on
making him look like Nick Fury. I was going to have that
uniform used, though. I had done a story, that never saw print,
where Ayers would have to draw the original outfit.
I gave him references by the way.
What did you think when you
discovered the difference in uniforms?
When Dick Ayers made Sgt. Boyle look like Sgt. Fury I was not
pleased at all, but since I had little control over the way he
drew things there wasn't much I could do after the fact.
However, as I mentioned before, I was determined to have Boyle
wear the uniform he had in the Golden Age. I devised a
story based on that uniform, so Dick would then have to adhere to
the reference I supplied him.
He also changed the character I came up with for the first
story in The Shield. The character was Boroff. Boroff, the
way Ayers drew him looked like a freak. I had drawn a
detailed head shot of the way I wanted him to look. I was
still drawing at this point in time and I had a definite idea on
what he should look like. However, what's done is done and
Boroff looked like a jerk.
On the good side, Ayers followed my layouts perfectly.
When I write, I do a full script and do thumbnail layouts, so the
story will flow. I was pleased as punch, when I saw the
preview stats of the first story. I did have to make a
quick phone call to edit dialogue that was spelled wrong.
The only thing I didn't get to see, because Buckler didn't
send it to me, was the splash page. The title of the first story
was supposed to be "America's Shield!" not
"American Shield." It still worked and in fact I
have that splash hanging on my wall to this day. I also have some
other key pages from my Shield run.
I know I commented on how Dick Ayers didn't always follow
instructions, but that aside, he often surprised the heck out of
Once case in particular was in a story of The Shield where I
had Joe Higgins racing up a flight of stairs and changing into
The Shield. This part of the story was a two page set
up. The next page I asked that The Shield leap off the roof
toward the top of the page, grabbing for a helicopter's landing
rungs. This was to be, what is called in the trade, a
worm's eye view shot and was to be a full page. The
dynamics of the page was to be on The Shield.
Well, Ayers did the running up the stairs and changing into
The Shield fine. The next page blew me away. He changed my
idea from a worm's eye view to a bird's eye view. You were now
looking down at The Shield and a lot of buildings and street
traffic below him. The man put in a ton more detail than I
had asked for.
Those two pages (that I now own) are two of the best that
Ayers ever did in his career. When he was into something,
he did his best work. He was into The Shield.
The only art he was nervous about was the T-shirt I asked him
to create art for. He thought that Archie would be upset. I
explained that it was basically for the Archie staff and for
distribution at a few comic conventions. He rendered the
idea, but The Shield's face was not up to snuff, so I did a paste
over on it. After I did that I had some of the T-shirts
made up and gave them out at Archie. The staff loved them
and they did very well at the several conventions I attended that
year. I still have the design art in one of my art
I have a lot of art still in my collection. Dick Ayers is a
top notch pro and when his heart is in a project, he's
How did the finished product
of Mighty Crusaders 10 differ from the story you turned in?
I did not submit the Mighty Crusader story in issue #10 that
way. It was a disaster!!! The basic plot was there and some
of the dialogue, but very little else.
Buckler had left and that was a shame. The radio
personality in that Crusader story was to be Immus (spelling?)
who worked out of New York and loved comics. Buckler was going to
draw him from photos and we were going to have Immus advertise
the book just before it came out.
I had the same line up of heroes in that story that had been
in place from the first issue. Buckler didn't want the
Lancelot Strong character killed off and I used him in that
story. However, as I said before, Buckler had left and now
all bets were off.
When I saw the story in print I was devastated. Not only
had they put the worst inker possible on it (Vince Colletta) they
put super heroes into the story that had no place in it.
I had the story rigged so it read like a Justice Society story
from the '40's. The Crusaders split up into teams and each had an
event that worked well with their special powers. One of
the side events going on in this story was their problem with
their communicators. A punch line at the end of the story
was to be delivered by THE FLY and ONLY THE FLY! I emphasized
that several times in my script. The Fly was to say that
they had to work the "bugs" out of their
communicators. This line was to be humorous and would have
been if The Fly had delivered it. However Archie's editors
had The Shield deliver the line and it now made no sense
Who changed it? Any
I believe Victor Gorelick was responsible for that
disaster. He was now editor in charge.
Victor is very good at what he does with the Archie
characters, but he couldn't write a super hero comic if his life
depended on it. He told me that I had to "write down"
in my stories. That is to kids with minds of 3 year olds. I
refused to do that. He wasn't giving the readers enough
credit. The books weren't aimed at 3 year olds. Victor
bases his story concepts on the fact that once a month he visits
a local grammar school and talks to the 3rd grade kids. He
gets his ideas for Archie that way. You don't do super hero
comics that way.
The script for the Crusaders after I left was his. The
dialogue made me laugh out loud and it shouldn't have. The story
was changed because they had no idea what to do with it.
Poor judgment on Archie's part.
So, what you're saying is
that the stories ended up being "dumbed-down" and the
series lost its readership in the process, causing the
cancellation of the line?
None of the stories I worked on were "dumbed down".
However, check out the later Mighty Crusader stories and the
"She Fox" story that appeared as a back up. She Fox was
originally named "Vixen" until I called Victor and
explained to him that DC owned the name and character of The
Vixen. Vic, using his great powers of imagination, came up with
"She Fox" to take the place of Vixen.
I don't think dumbing down caused the cancellation of the
line. It was already on its way out before any dumbing down took
What was in store for the
Shield after issue 4 of his own series? Were there stories
I had several stories ready to go for The Shield. Two of
them were paid for, but (let's say it together again) "never
One neat one involved Sgt. Boyle, who was now Joe Higgins boss
at the F.B.I. and the other was about a high security prison
called Ten Down. Major super villains were housed there and
was located 10 building stories underground. Hence the name
The stories that "never
saw print". Were they already drawn, or just written?
One of the stories, "Ten Down" for The Shield, had
been penciled and sample pages for The Fly were submitted.
I had to guarantee that Gary would be on time with The Fly art,
because he lived in Hawaii.
On a visit to Dick's I saw the pencils for "Ten
Down" and they were beautiful.Especially the villain of that
story. Darn I wish that story had seen print!
The Mysterious disappearance
of Dusty. What did you have planned to explain it?
Dusty was to play a major roll in my Archie work. It would not
be a time travel story either. The Dusty that DC killed
off, was not the MLJ hero, just their world's hero.
Rich Buckler as an
editor. How was he?
Rich Buckler was a good editor in that he knew who to get on
what book. He brought in some real talent. If he had been
left alone and had a two year window to make the line a success,
the line would probably be with us today.
I liked Rich. Still do. In fact, every time he comes up
with a publishing idea, he calls me. He likes the way I
write and the ideas I come up with.
Rich basically screwed himself at Archie. Still, while Rich
was there the line had a direction and most of the good stuff
produced, mine included, was due to him.
Where you planning anything
with the Comet?
I was going to do something to make The Comet a better hero
and you can see the ground work being laid in the Shield issue
that had Sgt. Boyle and Corp. Collins in it.
Who was in charge of
continuity? (who could have missed the death of the Hangman
in Comet #2, but still have him appear in Mighty Crusaders 9?)
Continuity was in the hands of the editors of each book, or in
my case me. Since I knew more about the Archie super heroes than
the present people there, I made sure my stuff was right or as
right as I could make it without moving to New York to oversee
the job. That was never, never, never going to
You mentioned The Hangman. Well, if I had been able to do what
I planned, the event you described could have happened. I
had another Hangman in the wings and this one would have had
readers asking for more and wondering who he really was.
You had another Hangman in
the wings? Steve Dickering (Hangman's son) perhaps?
Steve Dickering was not going to be my Hangman. The Hangman
was going to be in a lot of the stories I was producing. In each
story I'd leave a clue to who he was. I began doing that in one
of the later Shield stories. I won't elaborate, because why give
away a good idea.
Did you have (or anyone else
for that matter) any plans to explain the Hangman going bad in
the Fly-Man and Mighty Comics Presents books from the 60's?
I'd have come up with something to explain The Hangman going
bad, but it didn't matter really, because my Hangman wasn't that
Hangman. It was another MLJ hero though.
While we're on the subject,
were there any plans to bring back the Wizard who also went bad?
Oh yes! I had great plans for The Wizard. Again, Gary
Kato was going to do the art. I had color model sheets and
everything done. The Wizard was going to stay bad. The
Wizard I had created was going to battle him. I hung on to the
model sheets. Since I had a slightly different name for the hero
in The Wizard stories, I could use the concept somewhere else if
I chose to.
The Future of the Crusaders
(in the 80's, so I guess it'd actually be the past by now, but
anyway).. I've read that you had plans for the Crusaders...care
A year or so after Red Circle folded, I had a proposal drawn
up for a new run on those heroes, but when DC got them and
ruined them, I figured why bother?
I can only assume by your
comments that you despised the Impact line? (and a shame, too...I
liked them, maybe because when I first read them, I had never
heard of MLJ or Red Circle.)
Yep I despised the Impact line. To my way of thinking those
stories never, ever happened. Since you never knew the history of
the MLJ heroes, I suppose the Impact line made sense to
you. Most of the older fans barfed when they read the DC
What do you think would be
the best way to re-introduce the characters?
I had designed a whole group of stories on how to re-introduce
the MLJ heroes. It would work beautifully. I often thought
of presenting the proposal to Archie, but then I figured...NO!
Stupid Idea! Archie's pay rates are the poorest in the
To do what I'd want to do, I'd have to devote a lot of time
and stay on top of what was going on. In effect I'd have to
be an editor. Archie paid me better than most when I worked for
them. Mainly because I was always on time with my work and
the product sold well. I have no desire to put that kind of
time and effort into Archie.
Plus Victor Gorelick is "editor in charge" at Archie
and I will not "write down" as is his desire.
Archie is re-introducing the
Mighty Crusaders to current readers through a series of
"Public service announcements" (Captain Flag's bike
safety, etc...), one-page origin recaps, and appearances in
Archie's Weird Mysteries. Your thoughts?
Why bother? They have no one there that seems to understand
these heroes. Capt. Flag teaching bike safety is one thing, but
producing an adventure that will sell is something else.
My pal Bob Cosgrove and I came up with a great story using
Capt. Flag, that we were going to use in Blue Ribbon Comics. The
line folded before we presented this to Archie, so the idea
remains with us.
Archie may use their heroes to keep the copyright and
trademark alive. I swear, I used to think they brought
their heroes back every now and then as a tax write off. If
you lose money on something you can take a business deduction.
I saw a quote somewhere
where you said you had a Bob Phantom series planned. Comments?
(Bob Phantom and Fireball are among my personal favorite MLJ'ers,
but I have no idea why--I haven't ever seen a true Fireball
The Bob Phantom series would have been great. Especially
his powers. Since I've created another hero using the same powers
(they were never really shown or explained at Archie) I'll have
to decline going into the series.
you never know. I may get an offer to do comics again.
From someone other than Rich Buckler. He asks me that all
the time and it never goes anywhere. You mentioned
"Fireball". Did you mean "Firefly?" I
had plans for that character too.
Fireball and Firefly were
two different MLJ characters.
Firefly was the character I had plans for. Only the original
wasn't going to be used all that much. The one I was going to use
was new, but mentored by the original. The Firefly was also going
to be a girl.
Back to Thunderbunny, How
many appearances has he made outside Archie?
Thunderbunny had appearances before Red Circle. A text story
in a fan publication called Mass Fan Newsletter, Comic Crusader
Storybook, and Charlton Bullseye 6 and 10. Number 10 was a
very fun issue. There was only one Red Circle Thunderbunny
book, but he stared in Blue Ribbon Comics #13 and had a story in
Pep Comics #393.
And, regarding him, are
there certain issues you'd recommend more than others?
Two of my personal favorite stories at Warp Graphics with
Thunderbunny was issue #5 and #10. Issue #5 dealt with the famed
Rutland Halloween Parade that used to be run every year. If
you were my age, or read the Avengers or Detective Comics from
that time, the Rutland Parade was in both books. My friend
Tom Fagan was depicted in all the stories, because he used to get
the parade together. Brian Buniak did a very good likeness of Tom
and the local was very well researched. That same year
Thunderbunny was a float in the Parade. It also marked the first
appearance of Moon Miss. Issue #10 was a legal issue.
I enjoyed doing that very, very, much and even used my own lawyer
and friend in the story. The story also introduced the
Thunderbunny wrist watch. I had 30 of them made up and released
them as part of a contest run in the magazine.
What do you think about the
people who say ThunderBunny was just another funny animal book?
As for Thunderbunny being just another "funny animal
book", I'd have to say no!
He was and is unique. He also lasted a lot longer than Captain
Carrot and the Zoo Crew by Roy Thomas. In fact Thomas was
originally going to call Capt. Carrot Thunderbunny, until he was
advised that I owned the character. He tried to get DC Comics to
buy the name and I refused to sell. I also produced a
better book than Roy. Modesty is not one of my strong
Career highlights? Comic Crusader, my fan publication,
followed closely by Thunderbunny. Through Crusader I got to
meet a lot of great people and some of them are friends to this
day. I enjoyed doing the Archie Super Heroes, but Thunderbunny
was and still is, what I got the most enjoyment out of. The one
hero I both wrote and drew also ranks right up there.
Atomic Mouse was that hero. Right before Charlton folded, I wrote
and drew an Atomic Mouse story. The folks at Charlton
didn't want to publish it until they saw the art, then they
changed their minds.
It was all set to go and I'd even done a cover for the book,
but time caught up with Charlton and the company folded.
The story did see print though. Bill Black purchased the
inventory of stories that Charlton had and Atomic Mouse saw the
light of day. I wanted to do more stories, but Bill would have
had to buy the rights to Atomic Mouse and he didn't want to
invest in a "funny animal". Too bad. I could have
done some great things with that character and my eye sight was
still good enough, so I could have drawn the stories. Oh,
well. Maybe in my next life.
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