DEADMAN: THE NATIONAL PASTIME

KC Carlson at a baseball game. Honest.

KC Carlson at a baseball game. Honest.


A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

(NOTE: That’s not the actual title of the book I’m talking about today. We’ll get to that later.)

Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection

Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection


I was having one of those weeks where a column topic didn’t immediately pop into my head. (I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now, so that does happen from time to time.) So it amused me to no end when Roger (good editor that he is) immediately started suggesting ideas. The first one was talking about the new Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection, due out in August, but being solicited now.

Why did this amuse me? Well, Roger couldn’t have known (and didn’t), but the original prestige format miniseries that this volume collects — Deadman: Love After Death #1-2 by Mike Baron and Kelley Jones — was also my first professional in-print DC editorial credit. (As the Assistant Editor. My boss, Richard Bruning, was the actual Editor.) Rounding out the credits for the series, colorist Les Dorscheid had previously worked with Richard on several Capital Comics projects including Nexus, The Badger, and Whisper. Bruning, Baron, Dorscheid, and I (all former or current Wisconsinites) were all (relatively) recently arrived at DC. That made Kelley the odd man out amongst all us cheeseheads. He certainly seemed to fit in well, however.

Since this was almost 30 years ago, I don’t remember ALL the details, but here’s a few things I do remember: Richard took point on dealing with Baron, which made sense because he was already used to many of his quirks. The biggest of which, at least at that point, was that Baron was still writing his scripts out in longhand, and his penmanship wasn’t that great. Baron’s scripts were usually done on legal pads, so occasionally, we’d get a FedEx package with just a scrawl-packed legal pad in it. I can’t recall if I was required to retype the script for the artist and letterers — maybe that was why there were two different letterers assigned to the two-issue Prestige series (both Todd Klein and Ken Bruzenak, neither of which had anything to do with Wisconsin, as far as I can tell).

(You know, Deadman: Love After Death was such an early example of this “upscale” format, I’m not even sure that it was called “Prestige Format” yet.)

THE ORIGIN OF “EDITOR LAD”

Action Comics Weekly #625 cover by Eduardo Barreto

Action Comics Weekly #625 cover by Eduardo Barreto


My primary job on this series was keeping artist Kelley Jones in the loop and gently nudging him when deadlines loomed. I soon realized that no matter what time of day or night I called, there was always a baseball game going in the background, either on TV or radio. (I obviously couldn’t tell which.) I wasn’t much of a baseball fan at that time, having watched my beloved Chicago Cubs completely fall apart pretty much every season when I was a kid. (I think this is why my primary hobby switched from the Cubs to getting more serious about comic books when I got to high school. Of course, working for the local magazine distributor kinda nudged me that way also…)

The best part about calling Kelley at least once a week was raving about the most recent artwork he was sending in. Before I started working at DC, the only original art I saw was at comic conventions, and it was generally out of my price range. Kelley’s artwork may have been among the first comics artwork I ever got to hold in my hands. I have no artistic aspirations whatsoever, but I spent a lot of time studying Kelley’s work. It was time very well spent.

Deadman: Love After Death #1

Deadman: Love After Death #1


The only little blip we had on the series was that Richard and I had to reject some initial cover sketches by Kelley. He had sent in some sketches that were quite provocative — rightfully thinking that they were in line with what was going on inside the book. Since this was one of DC’s earliest “Suggested for Mature Readers” titles, not everything had been worked out regarding specifically what that warning actually meant. I do recall people in DC Marketing being uncomfortable with some of the cover imagery that Kelly initially submitted. No one had previously considered that maybe standards were different between interior art and what was on the covers of the books.

I was not present at whatever these behind-closed-doors discussions were about, although I was the one who had to try to explain to Kelley why he had to modify the original cover drawings. Which he did quite well, as the revised covers were still quite provocative — but successfully made DC’s nervous executives a bit less nervous.

BUY THIS BOOK… OR DEADMAN WIIL DIE!!!

Deadman: Exorcism #1

Deadman: Exorcism #1


This new collection, renamed Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection, is largely based on a previous (now out-of-print) 1995 book called Deadman: Lost Souls. They both collect Deadman: Love After Death #1-2 (1989) and Deadman: Exorcism #1-2 (1992), both by Mike Baron, Kelley Jones, and Les Dorscheid. This new Complete Collection also adds the “Grave Doings” Deadman stories by Baron, Jones, and Tony DeZuniga from Action Comics Weekly #618-621 and 623-626. (More on this below.) Both of these collections share the same Deadman cover art by Kelley Jones. Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection is 272 pages, available in late August, and comes highly recommended by me. (Even though Assistant Editors don’t get royalties or reprint fees. Shucks!)

I’ve seen DC do this kind of thing a lot lately — getting some of their old and out-of-print collections back on the bookshelves — and most of them are fortified with extra stories or material that wasn’t previously collected. The recent Legionnaires collection (collecting both Legionnaires and Legion of Super-Heroes from zero issues onward and featuring work by Mark Waid, Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, Lee Moder, Jeffrey Moy, and others) added about five extra issues to what was the (now OOP) original collection. (And hey, I edited that entire volume! And talked about it here.) It’s a good trend, unless you’re a completist and wind up with copies of both versions.

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KC CARLSON is embarrassed to say that he is just now realizing (some 30 years later) that Deadman: Love After Death wasn’t the first Mike Baron/Kelley Jones Deadman story. The serialized “Grave Doings” was earlier by a bit. Although I had read the earliest issues of Action Comics Weekly when I was still in Wisconsin, after Richard got the go-ahead to hire me, my life became a whirlwind of putting all my stuff into storage in Wisconsin, finding a place to live in NYC (crashing on Bruning’s couch for a few months until that happened), getting all my stuff into the new apartment, figuring out the city (and the subways and the buses and where to walk or not to walk), as well as several billion other things. I basically had no time whatsoever to read anything beyond what I was directly involved with… and nobody happened to mention those Action Comics Weekly comics to me. Yikes. I can’t believe that happened. Well, now I’m even more looking forward to this new collection and the first-time reprinting of this first Baron/Jones Deadman story!

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. I also just learned that irritation is NOT what farmers do for their crops. Who knew?

Purchase

Deadman by Kelley Jones: The Complete Collection

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

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