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American Flagg, The Rocketeer, Jon Sable Freelance. Those were just a few of the titles I cut my teeth on as a young comics reader. Amongst many others, they were indicative of the new wave of American comic books in the early 1980s. There was a palpable excitement in the air as scores of great books hit the shelves.
New things were also going down behind the scenes. Royalties and incentives were finally being paid for the first time ever. Independent publishers began wooing seasoned creators away from the Big Two with opportunities to tell the types of stories they'd always wanted to tell. And one of those creators was Mike Grell.
I actually found Mike (or maybe he found me) in the mid '70s on The Warlord at DC Comics. Warlord was a Verne-esque tale about a modern-day Air Force pilot "lost in a lost world". I was also quite fond of Mike's work on Legion of Super-Heroes from a few years earlier. Super-powered teens in the 30th century? What was not to like?!
Later, I was floored to find out those Legion stories had been written by a then-teenage Jim Shooter (he started writing them when he was twelve). To paraphrase Mike from today's panel audio, Legion of Super-Heroes was a book aimed at young readers that was being written by (at the time) a very young reader.
After Warlord and Legion, I pretty much checked out everything the guy did — the aforementioned Jon Sable, Starslayer, Green Arrow - The Longbow Hunters and even some of his rare Marvel work.
Moving forward, our hometown convention, Dragon*Con, brought Mike to Atlanta this year as a special guest. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with him. Grell was funny and in great spirits, and the crowd was full of enthusiastic fans.
All of the above was covered in the sit-down, but we also got an ear full on the writer-artist's background, how he broke into the business, and the scoop on his latest project, The Pilgrim (with writer, Mark Ryan). Good times.
Thanks to Mike for his candor and humor, thanks to the crowd for being all kinds of awesome, and thanks to the promoters of Dragon*Con for having me as a moderator.
**The picture of Grell above was borrowed from maggiethompson.com. Thank you, Maggie.