The nineties get a lot of flack nowadays from comic fans, and some of it is very well deserved. Many things happened in the nineties that made it a very dark decade for the comic industry, many things we would like to forget happened at all, and some things we just can’t seem to let go of. And pouches, so very many pouches.
For as many reasons as there are to speak in hushed tones when referring to comics in that rather fateful decade, there are many more reasons to shout at the sky in praise. Each Tuesday I discuss the many things that made that decade truly a great time to be a fan. This week, I bring you another reason the nineties weren’t all bad.
Michael Allred’s ginchiest creation, Frank Einstein, otherwise known as the Madman of Snap City.
Beginning life in October 1990 in the black & white one-shot from Caliber Press, Creatures of the Id, Madman has been in print on and off ever since in some form or another. Since those early days Madman has gone on to fight mutant beatniks and robots; he’s met Superman, Nexus, the Savage Dragon, and The Jam; and he’s been published by Tundra, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Image Comics, and even his own label, AAA Pop! Comics. It’s been a long, strange trip.
Madman was originally Zane Townsend, and agent for the mysterious Tri-Eye Agency. After being killed in a car accident he was brought back to like by two scientists, Dr. Egon Boiffard and Dr. Gillespie Flem. An amnesiac, Dr. Boiffard name’s him Frank Einstein, after his two heroes, Frank Sinatra and Albert Einstein. A man without a past, Frank was reborn with slight psychic powers and better than average physical abilities. The one thing he could remember was his favorite comic book hero, Mr. Excitement, so he makes a costume in homage and becomes and adventurer.
Along with Dr. Flem, his secretary girlfriend Josephine “Joe” Lombard, Mott from the planet Hoople, Astroman and Machina, he has had some of the wildest adventures to grace the comic page. Heck, even those mutant beatniks have become his friends as The Atomics, a group of far out superheroes with their own popular spin-off series!
Allred has been on Madman for over 20 years, along with his wife Laura, spinning his own wild brand of pop-art infused, silver age inspired stories to an ever growing fan base. This fan base includes the likes of Jack Kirby, Matt Wagner, Los Bros Hernandez, Mike Mignola, Frank Frazetta, Darwyn Cooke, and way too many other luminaries to name drop here. Them, and so many others, have drawn pin-ups of Madman and friends for the comics, posters, and trading cards. It has been one of the most popular indie books of the last two decades, for good reason.
This series is exactly what I look for in a comic; fun, exciting storytelling with fantastic art. Every month I looked forward to each issue, my favorite purchase on new comic book day. And never once did it disappoint as Madman’s world and cast of characters grew and evolved into what it is today.
There have been numerous pieces of fantastic Madman merchandise put out over the years. Everything from t-shirts to cloisonne pins, bubblegum cards to yo-yos, action figures to mask recreations, and everything in-between. The long defunct, yet brilliant, Graffiti Designs alone must have produced hundreds of different types of merchandise for the character.
Allred has gone on to give his own spin to iZombie, the Fantastic Four, and now a fan-favorite run on the Silver Surfer with Dan Slott, and I have no idea when we’ll get more adventures with Madman. Luckily there are plenty of trade collections, and a hefty 852 page Madman Gargantua that collects everything from 1992 until 2002!
Michael Allred is putting out some career defining work these days, but it all started in 1990 with that one-shot featuring Madman, the hero with the iconic exclamation point on his chest, and he’s one of the reasons it was ginchy being a comic fan in the nineties. Next week I’ll bring you another.