September 9th, 2007

The Zombie

A Crusty Hunch

September 7 -  OK, so this is a "September 7" entry in name only.  As I type this, it's actually about 2:00AM on the 9th.  What can I say?  Life happens (which is generally better than the alternative).  Still, I've gotten my hands on so much nifty Crusty Bunker information, that I've decided to post this "7th" entry, another one for the 8th, and, strength willing, one more for today.  So, first off, I have to tell you that Crusty Bunker, who wasn't even a real person to begin with, sometimes worked under pseudonyms!  I found this Denny O'Neil editorial on the "Bursting the Bonds" letters page of DC's Mister Miracle #20, from 1977 -

Who is Ilya Hunch - ?
- is not exactly the burning question of the century, but it's one we might have fun answering nonetheless.  Those of you who joined the Mister Miracle saga an issue ago, with number 19, may recall that Ilya is credited with being the inker on the story. (Instant Education: "Inker" is the artist who adds inks to the pencil drawings of the artist called the "penciler."  Clever?)  Now, as it happens, you won't find Ilya in any directory of comic book personnel (assuming such exists) because I made up the name as the magazine was going to press.  Ilya is a phantom, a chimera, or, as that blue-chinned guy down in the mailroom would say, "This Hunch is nobody!"
But somebody inked those pictures.
Therefore: Who is Ilya Hunch?
The answer is that he's a composite - actually nine very talented men.  When he realized that he was running out of time, Marshall Rogers enlisted the aid of a whole bunch of his friends, and assigned each of them a character in the story.  The scorecard reads like this:
Mister Miracle/Scott Free inked by MARSHALL ROGERS
Barda inked by DICK GIORDANO
Granny Goodness inked by MIKE NASSER
Kanto inked by AL MILGROM
Oberon inked by AL WEISS
Bedlam inked by JOE BROZOWSKI
Vermin Vundabar inked by TERRY AUSTIN
And that's...not quite all of them.  I said there were nine inkers, and only eight people are listed.  The ninth is Neal Adams.  He did - get this - the eyes on the first page.  "I wanted really deep, brooding eyes," Marshall explained.  At least, I think it's an explanation.
Anyway, that's who Ilya Hunch is, and his - their - participation surely makes Mister Miracle #19 some sort of mundo weirdo collectors' item.

Ah, that Denny O'Neil.  What a mensch.  Always there for me as I look back through my comic book collection.  Amongst his scattered ramblings, published in letter columns throughout the DC comics of three decades ago, I have found a treasure trove of helpful, and insightful, assistance in my goal to present The Lives and Time of Crusty Bunker.  Next time, with Denny's time-displaced aid, I will focus a little on the "Time" part of that goal.  Here's the 7th's "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Alan Kupperberg!
The Zombie

The Times, They Were A-Changin'

September 8 -  In a nutshell, Crusty Bunker is dead.  Again.  Like readily reanimated Solomon Grundy, Crusty's deaths don't seem to be too permanent...but the first one was the most traumatic.  From reading what the original Crusty Bunkers have said, and reading between the lines of what they said to flesh-out what they couldn't say, I've learned that something, somewhere, went sour.  Some blame Neal Adams.  Some blame industry changes.  Some blame artists from the Philippines.  Some blame themselves.  Some blame booze or drugs or exhaustion or all of it.  No-one seems to be on the same page as to exactly why, but most seem to be in agreement that, after about five years, the Crusty Bunker method came to an unfortunate, if not acrimonious, end.  Me?  I'm working on a couple of theories.

A) A Sea Change.  Anthology comics were dying, superheroes and continuing storylines were back in favor, comics artists (even inkers) were becoming stars, and a whole new crop of guys (like John Byrne and Frank Miller), were changing what comic books even were.  Even at that, the former Crusty Bunkers helped usher in that new age.

B) Herding Cats.  It's a myth, you know, that getting artists to work together is "like herding cats."  Most artists, even those with incredibly high opinions of themselves, enjoy collaboration...if only for the competition inherent within it.  In NASCAR, Darrell Waltrip calls this "coopetition."  Sometimes, depending on the situation, drivers, like artists, have to work together for a while...with the understanding that, when the time and opportunity come, they'd have to try to leave each other in the dust.  I think something like that happened to the Crusty Bunkers.

C) Watergate.  Yes, I said Watergate.  It's hard to remember a time when the American people completely lost faith in their President (he said with a deep sigh), but it's worth mentioning that the fall of Richard Nixon coincided with the fall of Crusty Bunker.  Remember, this was a time of deep disillusionment in anything that smacked of establishment...and the comics biz had been established for about forty years by then.  That guys wearing white shirts and narrow ties were the bosses of artists with long hair and bellbottom jeans is not as insignificant as you might think.  Here, editor Denny O'Neil provides some insight into this possibility courtesy of the Weird Words letters column in DC's Weird Worlds #8, 1973;

Funny thing.  When Howie Chaykin, Carmine Infantino and I sat down to plan Iron-wolf six months ago, we didn't think the character would be, to use a shop-worn word, relevant.  Here was this saga about a space pirate, set tens of thousands of light years past tomorrow, full of exotic places and improbable creatures and wild adventure.  Pure fantasy.  Nothing to do with now, right?
As it turned out - wrong.
As I write this, in May, the headlines and newscasts are sad.  For some weeks, we've been learning that men we trusted, men we believed in, have betrayed us.  There is an almighty smell of corruption coming from places where most Americans least expected it, and a lot of faces I see on the streets are masks of anguish.  Oh, we'll recover, maybe - hopefully - by the time you read these words; we're a hardy lot.  But for the moment, we're disillusioned, bitter.  We've lost, perhaps forever, a portion of the faith we live by.
I've suddenly realized that Lord Iron-wolf is in exactly the same situation.  Understand, he was loyal to the Empress.  For many years, he accepted her wisdom without question.  It wasn't until her greed became too plain to ignore that he rebelled, and set off to restore the honor of the empire.
The point is, he did not allow her evil to taint him.
And at this moment, in May, hordes of decent men are working to remove the stigma from our own institutions.  They are the Iron-wolves of the present.  Wish them well.
And consider the irony: a trio of comic book makers, intending to create a wholly imaginative story, find themselves, instead, creating a parable.  A moral tale.  A piece of Relevance.
You never know...

D) All of The Above.  They were there, those now legendary artists.  They know why Crusty Bunker died.  The simple truth may be that each artist wandered away from being a Crusty Bunker for completely individual reasons.  We may never really know.  Hmm.  Well, here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Frank Brunner!