Back in the 80s and early 90s, the options for even printing a book were few and far between. Only two or three publishers in North America were even set up for comic books, and small orders were not a possibility. A thousand copies of a comic was the minimum and, no matter the corner-cutting and belt-tightening, printing was wildly expensive even without figuring in the cost of shipping.
Then there was the matter of contacting up to a dozen different distributors, each taking a different cut and each of them requiring a publisher to act as their own shipping center. Ads were expensive and had limited exposure in the pages of The Comics Buyers Guide or other, less-well-circulated trade magazines, and those didn't reach the actual customer. Then there was promoting the book at the retail level, convincing direct market shops to even carry your title -- which usually carried a premium price tag on top of everything else. And let's not mention trying to get set up at Cons.
Micro-publishing before the modern era -- that's self-publishing, vanity and other indie-type presses -- was no arena for the faint-of-heart. The worst part of the almost-inevitably disappointing circle of life for the vast majority of these publishers was that they -- very often being the sole writer and artist of the book themselves -- would end up in the possession of hundreds if not thousands of copies of unsold stock, and the remainder of what had been picked up at stores would end up in the quarter bins.
I'd been thinking about the remit of this blog -- the gone and forgotten stories and characters of comicdom -- and realizing that there's a tremendous black hole of coverage for these folks that I'm arbitrarily and aggrandizingly choosing to call "quarter-bin heroes." I think there's no small level of respect due to these folks, regardless of the quality, consistency or even the content of their creations, which is why I've plundered my own local quarter-bins for a few hundred of these seriously forgotten endeavors, to which I'll do my best to give some degree of exposure ... starting with possibly the most-deserving example of the oeuvre I've yet found ...
L.I.F.E. BRIGADE (Blue Comet Press)
2 issues, 1986 (followed by a single issue sequel, The New LIFE Brigade)
Comics are experiencing something of an Art Brut renaissance -- not in the term of outsider art, particularly, inasmuch as comics is about as inclusive a community as "drawing a comic" will define. But non-mainstream creators like Benjamin Marra and Johnny Ryan, to name a couple, have reintroduced the aesthetic of rough-hewn and spontaneous content to comics at a degree that hadn't really been the norm in the industry excepting in its incipience.
|This frank exchange of tele-blasts has changed minds.|
With Earth having fallen into a near-apocalyptic state, a quartet of special human operatives were sent into space to discover relief -- a new home, new sources of food and other necessary resources. What they found instead was a strange blue comet which imparted on them tremendous and unusual powers and a universe of vicious alien enemies.
Tim Buck of the exploratory space vessel "Revenge" (humans took their relief missions seriously, it appears) is outside making repairs when a "mass of boiling energy" embraces him, revealing a Kirbyesque stellar form granting him amazing powers. "I must be seein' things or I'm dead!" he cries as he's granted the awesome might for which he eventually dubs himself The Blue Comet.
|You can't really hyphenate "launch"|
The action comes fast, furious, confusingly and thrilling in L.I.F.E. Brigade, with creator Craig A.Stormon putting his pen to work on everything from pencils and inks to letters and, I assume, cover colors. After saving Oracle from the Vandanese pirates and sharing their origins, the L.I.F.E. Brigade returns to Earth to find that their homeworld "has reversed evolution," by example of dinosaurs ravaging the Hollywood sign. Landing only puts them in the clutches of "Rad Mutants" (not to be confused with "Bitchin' Freaks") who "have turned to cannibalism with blood-lust and total insanity!"
This allies the L.I.F.E. Brigade with an underground resistance army, where much of the remainder of the story is given over to Long John Lazer's tortured dreams, reprinted here in their manic-depressive glory.
There were backup stories in both issues - - "Rollercoasters," human roller skating enthusiasts turned interstellar warriors, and Stormon's funny animal "Blazing Tales"-- but L.I.F.E. Brigade is the genuine star.
One last thing to mention about the book; endemic to the self-published comic was almost always the self-aggrandizing publishorial -- comments from the editor, writer or sole creator (whichever the case may be) which was almost universally an attempted tone-poem recreation of Stan's Soapbox OR a list of all of the minor grudges and imagined enemies which the creator in question believed were stacked against him (The Protectors, a comic I long ago reviewed for this site, was so enamored of its publishorial that it ran in the bottom-page gutter of every single page of the book, complaining constantly about how the world just wasn't ready for the creator's brilliance).
The publishorial in L.I.F.E. Brigade is a welcome alternative, inasmuch as it's infused with Stormon's apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm. His was one of the few articles of this type I'd ever seen which spent more time promoting his backup artist than he did promoting himself.
Stormon, I was gutted to learn, passed away in 2010 at the ridiculously early age of 59. That there hadn't before been a resurgence of popularity of L.I.F.E. Brigade is absolutely unforgivable ... even as a curiosity piece, it's something to have been experienced, enjoyed and celebrated.
|"It is ... balloom!"|