As I write this, it's a slow news day. I'm already a week ahead on these columns, so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to put in yet another one. It seems like forever since I did one of these for an independent comic. Of course, in my mind, Phantom Lady doesn't count. The first thing that came to mind was one of my favorite independent series, Elementals by Bill Willingham, better known for Fables. A lot of what other writers did in the later 1990s and 2000s was done before by Bill Willingham. Do you want a sinister government agency interacting with super-heroes? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want super-heroes cursing? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want graphic violence in your super-hero comics? Willingham did it in Elementals. Do you want your super-heroes deciding not to act like they're in a comic book? Well, I've got an issue for you.
I hadn't intended following up Pantheon #3 with another Bill Willingham comic. However, the rumors of Vertigo's demise got me thinking about a mini-series that came out just before Fables started. It was an idea that came out of Willingham's time as a poker player for a casino. Casinos have players that fill seats at poker tables until other customers come in to play. They play with their own money. Willingham had a job to make ends meet in between projects. The premise of the series is that a proposition player named Joey Martin has over drinks with friends, jokingly bought 36 souls for the price of a drink. Now he finds himself as the focus of a struggle between Heaven and Hell. As the forces of Heaven attempt to force his hand, so to speak, his friends begin to die and he finds their souls arriving in his apartment.
I always strive to review old comics that you may not have thought about. Heck, you may not even know that they even exist. This is sometimes hard to do, especially in these days when some of the most obscure titles are available with a membership. Many creators got their start in unlikely places. Some have their careers go into areas that may seem unlikely given their past. Bill Willingham is one of those writers that became very popular with his Vertigo series Fables, and it reached into other works for DC and of late, has been working for independent publishers. This is not uncommon ground for him. Bill Willingham first rose to prominence on his creator owned series for Comico, Elementals. Eventually, as the comic market saw the publisher fall, Willingham sold the rights to Andrew Rev,who had bought Comico. After putting together a bible for the direction he had been taking the series, Willingham saw it ignored and eventually used as a doorstop, according to an editorial in an issue of Ironwood. Word has it that Willingham retooled many of those ideas and put them together for a mini-series that saw itself published, albeit irregularly, by Lone Star Press.
I'm resurrecting another favorite old series of mine, Elementals, by Bill Willingham. This time it's an issue that I remember being exceptionally good. Will this be another case of memory being fooled by a more critical eye years later? Let's have a look.
This week, our needless character analysis might very well be just that. In legal limbo for many, many years, the Elementals are unlikely to ever see a resurgence. Their creator, Bill Willingham is at last comment, uninterested in revisiting the characters, much less trying to regain full legal ownership of them. Nevertheless, Elementals remains one of the gems from the independent comics boom of the 1980s, and worthy of your search for them.
Elementals #8 June 1986 I set out to find an independent comic to review, and the first one I came across was one of Bill Willingham's early Elementals issues. I chose not to review it, as it came from the middle of a story. I searched for one that stood alone, and essentially what I could find was this one where it's a stand alone issue, although some subplots get set in motion. SYNOPSIS: At the Mercer Island estate serving as the Elementals' base of operations, Fathom is woken up by a phone call from Eddie, who had developed a crush on Fathom when she was captive on "the island." (NOTE: This is Nacht Island, where the Elementals were held captive by Saker before they defeated him.) He wants to meet her where they first met, as he apparently has a deep crush on her. Half asleep, Fathom agrees to meet him and then bolts up having just realized what she just agreed to.
ELEMENTALS #22 February,1988 I’ve been a fan of his Bill Willingham’s work since I graduated from High School. See, on graduation night, I had gotten my diploma and was on my way to the county graduation party to have one last blast with friends, and so I stopped by the Mall to pick up a tee-shirt with the
Elementals #2 April 1989 It was 1989, and I was graduating from High School. In my home town, there were only two places to buy comics, a Convenience store with a spinner rack and just down the road from there at the town's only shopping mall, a B. Dalton booksellers that also had a spinner rack, but featured better comics. The plan was just after graduating and just prior to a party, to stop by the mall and get a t-shirt for the college I would be attending (and subsequently dropping out of) in the fall. Being the comics fan that I am, I decided to stop by the bookstore and pick up a comic or two. For some reason on that afternoon, I decided to pick up something new, and that was where I was introduced to Elementals.