Mage #2 (1984)

It used to be said that the audience for comic books would turn over every four years. In other words, the vast majority of readers would be entirely different for comics every four years. My the early ’80s that began to change, as for some reason readers began to stick around longer. I guess it’s a chicken-and-egg thing whether the rise in comic shops, intelligent content and better production values made people stick around longer, or whether that was the result of fans sticking around.
I think it’s funny and maybe a bit ironic that the rise in comics happened soon after their nadir. It’s often been said that without the massive success of their Star Wars adaptation, Marvel would have died in the late ’70s. And yet comic shops and independent comics rose to the fore soon after that nadir. Again, you have to wonder if there’s a chicken-egg effect going on there. Did Star Wars create the groundwork for a revolution in comics, or were the companies lucky in cashing in?
Whatever the reason, there’s a dramatic difference between yesterday’s entry in my blog and today’s entry. "The Liberty Legion" was driven by the passion of Roy Thomas for the 1940s, but his vision was compromised by his need to stay within Marvel’s parameters and the overriding need to publish pages in a color comic book. Production quality and depth of thought were secondary to the relentless need to create more pages on schedule. Mage is just the opposite. It’s driven by the passion of Matt Wagner, the creator, who had a clear vision of a comic series tht reflected his own particular view of life. The comic was delivered on Wagner’s schedule, done in a way that was satisfactory to him, and if the comic were to miss a deadline, it was assumed to be part of the cost of doing business.
It’s interesting to read an early issue Mage because Wagner was still so obviously a work in progress. His art style was awkward and his faces wouldn’t have the grace and charm that they would later, but Wagner’s passion wins out in these comics. He’s free to set his own pace, so Wagner takes his time, creating mysteries that both the reader and protagonist Kevin Matchstick will learn over time. It’s amazing to consider how much Wagner’s art progressed in just a year; by the time he reached issue 10, this comic was really rocking and rolling.

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