Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Catching Up With Crossfire

I've been re-reading Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle's Crossfire series (Eclipse Comics, 1984) having finally found the wily and elusive #2 a few weeks back. Crossfire ran for 26 issues and one spin-off mini series from 1984-1987, following Bail Bondsman by day/vigilante by night Jay Endicott through a series of Hollywood based adventures informed and seasoned by Mr. Evanier's life experiences in that land of make-believe.

Crossfire was originally a spy/thief for hire with a flying suit named Jeff Baker, who met his violent end in Evanier's DNAgents series. As of Crossfire #1, Jay Endicott, an honest, perpetually broke bail-bondsman has taken on the identity and work of Crossfire, with a secret agenda to work for justice. His cast includes a parade of colorful oddballs whom Jay aids and bails, as necessary, and who are occasionally helpful to him.

I'm happy to say, the series holds up well to my fond memories of it. Dan Spiegle was and still is one of comics' master artists, and his work on this only improved as the series went on. Its really a shame he isn't better recognized, because his work on this and DC's Blackhawk was excellent. In Crossfire, Spiegle was called on to draw cars, ships, city streets, and even a dinosaur or two, and delivered it all with his beautiful linework. He could also draw clothes, interesting faces and different body types; which skills are seemingly a lost art these days.

Mark Evanier played some really clever storytelling tricks in this series, including a story told backwards, another story told as a series of 2 and 3 page TV promos, and one issue told as a movie script. I've long enjoyed Evanier's essays, from those that ran in the back of Crossfire, (often worth the price of admission alone), to POV, his series of essays first featured in the Comic's Buyers Guide and now at his current web home. His writing on Crossfire really worked that accretion of Hollywood anecdotes into some exciting and well-told action tales. Through it all, Jay was a fundamentally decent guy with a sympathetic streak that led him to meet some...very interesting folks:

That's Howard Hughes writing a pre-Crossfire Endicott into his will, by the way. Jay finds it years later and discards it, thinking it a Mintz forgery.

Crossfire was initially more of a companion series to DNAgents, early issues featuring some odd-fit superhero elements, like costumed assassins and Endicott's artificial blood, provided by his girlfriend, DNAgent Rainbow. The series reinvented itself, veering toward the more realistic after the switch to black and white with #18. At that point, Endicott had to destroy his Crossfire costume to trick his way out of prison, and abandoned it for a plainclothes masked look. His unusual blood was never mentioned again.

I think the series really improved after #18, with the stories taking on kind of a "hopeful noir" tone, as Endicott began to feel increasingly burdened by his clients and debt. Crossfire also got a new supporting cast and a new girlfriend, but it wasn't to last. Eclipse had to cancel Crossfire with #26, but Evanier and Spiegle had time to give the book a proper ending, with of all things, a dinosaur. Trust me, it makes sense in the context of Crossfire's final story.

This was a great book, and a personal favorite that's been overlooked by pretty much everyone. Apparently, a new 8 page Crossfire story is in the works, to be featured in an upcoming anthology. If you ever get the chance to read that, or buy up some back issues, I'd say give 'em a try. If nothing else, there's the occasional naked lady, and you can't go wrong with that.


RAB said...

I've always thought this book was Mark Evanier's finest work -- yes, better than Groo and better than Welcome Back Kotter.

H said...

Maybe even better than his Blackhawk run.

Bill said...

I don't think I ever saw any of the black and whites. Crossfire was terrific, and I'm delighted to hear there may be an anthology in the works.

los angeles bail bond said...

About Comics' publisher Nat Gertler just dropped by to pick up my cover-art for his upcoming collection of Ginchy Gail Simone's YOU'LL ALL BE SORRY! columns (!) and gave me an advance copy of the MANY HAPPY RETURNS 2008 ANNUAL, featuring a new 8-page "Crossfire" story by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle.

I know that there are a lot of CROSSFIRE fans here, and frankly, I doubt if the MANY HAPPY RETURNS 2008 ANNUAL is gonna receive the publicity it deserves -- it's also got a new "Journey" story by Bill Messner-Loebs (thus explaining the "returns" part of the book's title) -- so keep yer peepers peeled for this one!



Brian Hughes said...

Scott Shaw! ladies and gentlemen.

You heard the man, folks. Pester your friendly neighborhood comic shop guy for the MANY HAPPY RETURNS 2008 ANNUAL today!

California bail bonds said...

I know I especially identify with the original, Crossfire #1. It is a shame it was SO overlooked.

HEH said...

Wow yeah, I'm not familiar with Siegle's work, but these pages look great. Anywhere to read Crossfire online?

Brian Hughes said...

Not that I'm aware of, HEH, but About Comics published a collection in 2004 (ISBN 0975395815) and back issues are fairly cheap, when you can find them.

Glad you like the blog!

HEH said...

Thanks, Brian.

Matt Celis said...

I just bought Crossfire #s 1-17 for $8. Fantastic comics: brilliant art with nice crisp lines and, as you said, the people look different one from the other unlike so many comics, fun stories that occasionally cross over into greatness but always entertaining, and the coloring was pretty good too. I would have preferred less super power stuff but at least it was infrequent. I wish more comics were this good.