Tomorrow, June 3, the X-Babies mini-series I wrote gets released in its “graphic novel” collected edition; all four issues, alternate covers, and even some design/development sketches…96 pages under glorious paperback stock covers!
With its release, I wanted to share an e-mail sent to myself and (X-Babies artist) Jacob Chabot shortly after the release of X-BABIES #4 in January. It’s a long one, even edited a bit for content (and be warned, there are spoilers) but worth sticking with it. The sender, Dennis, wrote:
To Gregg Schigiel and Jacob Chabot,
I just wanted to write to both of you to tell you how much I enjoyed the X-BABIES miniseries. I won’t keep you both long, but I do want to tell you a little bit about myself. As a very young child, I remember picking up my first comic book at age 4. I had seen comics sold in stores but they’d never caught my interest…until one day…I got a comic…called FANTASTIC FOUR. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t really feel much connection to the characters – they were nothing like me, didn’t seem to be people with whom I could relate. I wasn’t really hooked on comics…that would come later, when my parents took me to a restaurant that had one of those HEY KIDS COMICS spinny-racks…but the titles there were like none I had ever seen before…titles like CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST, HOT STUFF, WENDY THE GOOD WITCH and my then-unknown-but-now-beloved RICHIE RICH. For some reason, these titles connected with me instantly, the look of the characters, the covers, the pages inside. I suddenly HAD to have them, and begged my folks – who kindly got me four comics.
That began my love affair with comics, and for years I bought every Harvey Comic I could find…until quite suddenly and without warning to a kid such as myself…Harvey disappeared off the shelves. I was devastated, thinking the titles were still out there but not being “carried” by stores near me (after all, they weren’t there in the grocery stores. I had to find them at that local restaurant, but they weren’t even there any more!). The restaurant owners didn’t know what happened. Nobody apparently did. This was before the internet.
So I was a very sad kid who drifted out of comics, though I read the occasional weird title like MAN-THING, ROM, DAZZLER and JONAH HEX. I was never into the super-heroes. I just couldn’t get my head around it nor identify with them like i did my beloved Harvey characters. I just figured eventually that comics of the sort I liked to read were considered “for babies” and weren’t popular any more in the wake of X-MEN and stuff like that. As time has gone by, I’ve learned to love all comic types.
That was…until STAR COMICS.
I had a friend who visited a local comic shop and knew the types of comics I liked and when he heard about STAR he told me all about it. I immediately went down to the comic shop thanks to my folks again and set up a “shelf” there – my subscriptions? ROYAL ROY, WALLY THE WIZARD, PLANET TERRY and TOP DOG. At last, it seemed, comics were going back to the way I like them, and I was so excited that I would soon get to read all those types of comics again. I truly adored the characters, and I know in a recent interview I read with you, Gregg, you thought the books had potential but were silly and cheesy. Well, I hope it won’t diminish your opinion of me but I loved them cheese and all, even ROYAL ROY wandering around talking to ghosts and running through dungeons. I thrilled to Terry trying to find his parents – Terry was my favorite of the titles. TOP DOG was, indeed, a totally insane comic that got weirder and weirder as it went – I loved it. And WALLY had such an unique art style for a kid’s comic, reminding me half of Harvey and half of those weird one-panel gag-strip things from the 60s that gave me the creeps featuring people with beards having LSD-looking “trips” that one would find accidentally when poring through old entertainment magazines at garage sales.
Point was – I loved the STAR titles all and was so glad that they existed! Believe it or not, I think I may be the #1 STAR COMICS fan in the world, silly though that might seem to you.
This went on for a year.
Then, suddenly, they all ceased publication. Of course, ROY had ended first. The comic shop owner actually consoled me because I was so sad at the cancellation of TERRY et al. I hadn’t ever had a favorite title get cancelled before this point so it was rough going, believe it or not, even though I was 13-14 during the run of STAR COMICS. But I…think it was a matter of just having a different eye and people being different, that my tastes ran toward these STAR titles. However, STAR opened the door for me to so many other comics at that shop, which I would not have visited were it not for the STAR gang.
I’m telling you this because recently, at the same comic shop, the owner – who knows well my oft-repeated love of the STAR characters, stuck all four issues of your X-BABIES comic onto my shelf all at once. I hadn’t heard of it, and he explained to me that he hadn’t either, but as soon as he found out the STAR characters were back he knew I would want to read it. I did.
And, at first, I was FURIOUS with you.
When I got to issue #1’s ending, I was reading the comic on a bus and I yelled out “PLANET TERRY! YEAH!!” A woman had been watching me enjoying the comic and I said “Oh, sorry, just a character I love has just come back” and she said “I could tell you were really into it,” laughing good-naturedly. I immediately went into my backpack and got out #2 and started reading it, … and that’s when I got FURIOUS! “What? WHAT? HE’S … EVIL? WHAT?” The lady had still been watching me and said “Story not going how you like it?” because she saw me frowning deeply and I said “No. They made the character a villain.” She said “Oh, I’m sorry.” I said “Why? YOU didn’t make him a villain.”
Then I kept reading.
TOP DOG. Villain
I was so upset, having hoped for so long the STAR heroes would come back that when they finally did and they were all bad guys I was just devastated, thinking that you were trying to approach it from a “meta” standpoint, criticizing Marvel for the STAR characters by making fun of the gentle nature of the old STAR BOOKS. I figured the story would go in the direction of having the X-Babies shred the old STAR characters in a symbolic gesture that “Marvel hated those old STAR characters so we’ve killed them! AH HAH HAH!” I really thought that’s where you were going.
You fooled me!
And I’ve never been more happy to be fooled, because it was SO great to see these characters brought into the proper Marvel Universe where they might appear again, all in the present day of the current continuity (I -think-).
Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. I won’t bore you with more praise – you fooled me and wrote a terrific story that left me breathless at the end with happiness that the STAR characters are back and your book meant the world to me.
Will the STAR characters possibly be back? Please give me hope?
I already thanked Dennis via e-mail, but re-reading his e-mail as I edited bits here and there for this post, I feel like I need to thank him again.
Despite the nature of the X-Babies and the tendency for folks to dismiss them as silly or ridiculous, Jacob and I set out to tell a real story with ups and downs and consequences and all the stuff that theoretically make for a good story and good comics. We spent what some might consider WAY too much time discussing the Star Comics characters and what they’d be like in the “real” Marvel Universe…how we might incorporate their classic versions into something modern without betraying what’d come before. It made it fun for us to try to create a comic that on the surface might read clean and unencumbered, but have those little somethings extra for those who might be paying more attention or have the memory for these weird or obscure details. But we did all this assuming no one would ever actually notice or care.
We were wrong. And as much as I hate being wrong, in this one instance I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from it.
If you picked up and read all four issues of X-BABIES when they came out, thank you so much. It wasn’t a big book by Marvel Comics standards, but it meant something to me (and to the other folks working on it). And if you haven’t seen or read it and are curious (despite the spoilers above), please check it this new collection. Matter of fact, you can even order it over at amazon.com with a significant discount ($10.19 currently, vs. the regular price of $14.99). Or support your local comic shop or ask you local book seller to order copies if they don’t carry it.