Friday, February 02, 2007

Influences: The creators of 'Mazing Man

'Mazing Man

For 12 whole issues in 1986, DC Comics took something of a turn from the mainstream of the time by publishing 'Mazing Man, a ensemble situation comedy set in modern day (80s, that is) Queens, New York. Its only concession to what DC typically published was the title character, an unrelentingly cheerful and civic-minded (and possibly delusional) little person who masquerades as a local superhero. His typical patrol in the decidedly non-gritty cityscape involves warning people away from a faulty stair until it can be fixed, protecting a litter of baby skunks, keeping children from eating cigarette butts, and in one instance, saving a child from an oncoming truck.

The cast of characters include "Maze"'s roommates, a woman named K.P. and her brother Denton, a short dog-headed (!) man who writes for "BC" comics, which served as backup stories, illustrated by the incomparable Fred Hembeck; a local ladies man, Guido; and Brenda and Eddie, a typically 80s yuppie couple.

I wouldn't necessarily say that either Bob Rozakis or Stephen DeStephano is a huge influence on me but 'Mazing Man had a great effect on me in terms of opening up what sort of things comics could do. The storytelling in the comic was very straightforward and workmanlike, and the stories were basically just charming little vignettes, but the ease with which the comic created complex, likable, infuriating, imperfect characters made me think about writing in a way that wasn't, for once, cribbing from Frank Miller.

Like a lot of my favorite comics, these have yet to be reprinted, but if you find them in a back issue bin, they'll be cheap. Pick 'em up and be surprised.



At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Indigo said...

is it just me, or were the 80s a positive boon of absurd humor comics? 'Mazing Man, the Heckler, Ambush Bug, Flaming Carrot, Reid Fleming...

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Zander Cannon said...

Keith Giffen and Ambush Bug are a subject of a future Influences post-- I absolutely loved that comic and Giffen's style (its remarkable similarity to Jose Munoz notwithstanding).

And don't forget Groo, Mythadventures, Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, and Boffo Laffs! It was a wonderful time, provided you didn't mind having your intelligence insulted every once in a while. Kind of like now.

I think that the '80s comics were a bit of a reaction to the '70s ultra-serious ripped-from-the-headlines comics like Speedy on heroin or Green Lantern fighting racism, not to mention the more serious 80s comics like Dark Knight or Watchmen. Kind of nice to have a break from all the doom and gloom and preaching to the choir.

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Indigo said...

You know, Marvel just reinforced their Spider Ham trademark by squeezing out a Spider Ham Civil War issue. I saw it just the other day. It looks horrible - doesn't look anything like Spider Ham.


At 10:42 AM, Blogger Zander Cannon said...

Still-- that cracks me up. I need to find that issue.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger hostile17 said...

I always hated Peter Porker the Amazing Spider-Ham, but I love Mazin' Man that little guy can always put a smile on my face.


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