Early Mad.

*I had a Labor Day themed post all prepared and polished about my past experiences in the work force, but then I decided that it didn't even reach the relaxed standards of quality that this website strives to maintain. I hope you all had a nice Day of Labor anyway.

*Also fished out of my batch of stuff from the quarter bins is "Grafik Muzik" issue #1, a 1990 Caliber release. It's an early book by "Madman" and "X-Statix" artist Mike Allred, credited here as 'Michael Dalton Allred'. Allred had recently completed three issues of a prior series, "Graphique Musique", and the first story of this 48-page no-ads issue is a continuation of a story begun in the prior series: 'It Was'. The plot involves the last man on Earth, who dies and is sent back to relive his life as compressed into one day. The most immediate surprise the longtime Allred fan notices is the color. Longtime colorist Laura Allred only provides 'color assist' to Mike, and the look is far more subdued, very rich in pastel. It differs greatly from Mrs. Allred's signature bright pop as we know it today, but I find it appealing. It serves the earlier style of Mr. Allred's lines well; he's much looser here, and his reality is a bit more relaxed, with eyes popping out of a young boy's head when he's given a slap. There's a strong sense of experiment to the story, with visual homage to Georges Melies paid and song lyrics printed across the side of a space-time car and abstract shapes sparkling in the darkness. Having only seen this chapter of the ongoing story I have no idea if this is a representative portion, but Allred demonstrates a nice grasp of suburban nostalgic/grotesque visual eyecatch, something that doesn't get much visibility in Allred's later superhero-centered art.

Speaking of which, the second story will prove to be very interesting to the Allred fan; it's part one of 'Ghoulash' which was later remade in the pages of the ongoing Dark Horse "Madman" series (issues #17-20) as 'G-Men From Hell'. And when I say 'remade' I mean that entire page layouts have been preserved, but re-drawn in Allred's later style. What's fascinating is how little retconning Allred needed to do in the later work: both "Madman" leads, Frank (Madman himself!) and Joe, appear in this very issue, and they're left essentially the same in the "Madman" version of the story. Only a few tweaks are added to plug events into the timeline a little more smoothly, and a few things are deleted from the originals (one particularly good joke: in the original version a mouse appears in the G-Men's office... in the later version a more plot-specific beastie appears but a character exclaims "What was that? A mouse?"). Frank had previously appeared in a short b&w story Allred had done, but this was the future Madman's first appearance in color.

And indeed, after three more issues of "Grafik Muzik" Allred would move on to the first "Madman" series, although the undead G-Men would occasionally put in guest spots to make early fans of Allred chortle, until their story was revised into continuity proper. This early version serves to educate us as to Allred's development (he's dropped a lot of arty flourish and tightened up a little more), and enlighten us as to the early plans he had for his still-gestating supporting cast.