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CSBG Archive

Into the back issue box #30

Yes, I know I’ve been remiss about keeping up with these every weekends.  Usually my weekends are busier than my weekdays, so I have to sacrifice something, and my wife won’t let me sacrifice quality time with the family.  The nerve of her!!!!

Anyway, as usual, the rules of these posts can be found at this link.  This week’s entry is a fond favorite to some people, but the first comic I’ve ever read starring the character.  Read on!

‘Mazing Man #12 by Bob Rozakis, Stephen DeStefano, and Craig Boldman.  Published by DC, December 1986.

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‘Mazing Man is spoken about in hushed tones around the Internet, as many people remember him fondly and with a wistful longing for the days when comics were more innocent and fun.  I, personally, have never read a comic with the character, and this presented a perfect opportunity.  Plus, I could consider whether it would be a good book for a first-time comic book reader!

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Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this comic.  It’s a bit too cutesy, and although it has its charms, it just didn’t do much for me.  But let’s look at the two stories in this issue.  In the first story, Denton, who’s a dog, is writing a script for his comic book.  His typewriter ribbon is shot to hell, though, so he needs to get a new one.  He and ‘Mazing Man, whom everyone calls Maze (and so will I) and who wears a yellow bucket on his head, goes with him.  We learn something about Maze on the second page: he has money.  He gives it to Denton without expectation of repayment, and apparently has done so very often.  Denton and Maze head out into their neighborhood, which is apparently in Brooklyn, to find a new ribbon.  He heads to the store, but it’s been replaced by a video store.  Denton remembers that he used to buy comics at a candy store and they occasionally carried office supplies, so he checks in there.  No luck.  He meets a new policeman who is very polite, unlike the one he remembers.  The typewriter store has converted to computer equipment, and the clerk digs up a box of ribbons in the back room.  Denton resists the urge to buy a computer.  Denton starts to feel melancholy because everything is changing around him.  He’s about to turn 30 and he’s feeling old.  As usual, Maze gets involved in an argument between two belligerent groups, and when Denton joins in, he gets his clock cleaned.  This leads to a final change – Maze has to type his script for him.  The story ends with a quote from St. Augustine:

Be always displeased with what thou art.  If thou desirest to attain to what thou art not … always add, always walk, always proceed, neither stand still, nor go back, nor deviate.

Man, that St. Augustine could turn a phrase, couldn’t he?

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The second story is about Denton’s thirtieth birthday.  Maze abducts Denton to his neighbor’s apartment, where all his friends throw him a birthday party.  We learn that his sister is human, but not why he’s, you know, a dog.  We also learn a little bit about his friend – one of them is pregnant, another keeps porn in his kitchen – and at the end, Denton gets a computer.  Maze gets him a scrapbook with pictures from his past so Denton won’t be so upset about everything changing.  At least he can reminisce with his scrapbook!  This ends the issue, and, as it turns out, the series.  In the letters column, DC made some noise about bringing the series back, but all they could muster, apparently, were three specials in the next four years.

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As I mentioned, I wasn’t too impressed with this comic.  The art is charming and goofy and actually does a nice job of evoking a New York neighborhood and apartment building.  DeStefano gives the characters personalities and does a fine job with facial expressions throughout the book.  There’s a lot of wonderful body language in the book, and DeStefano packs each panel with great details.  Despite the cartoonish quality of the art, the people look more real than a lot of comic book characters, and even ‘Mazing Man, with his bucket and his boxer shorts on the outside of his clothes, looks like someone who put together a costume by himself.

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The stories are simplistic and nostalgic, and although there’s a nice wistfulness to them, they don’t quite work for me.  (For instance, would a 30-year-old in 1986 really be that nostalgic for a typewriter?  It feels like Denton should be 50, not 30.  But that’s just me.)  However, a first-time reader wouldn’t have any problem with them as soon as he suspends his disbelief and stops wondering why this dog is wandering around New York talking to everyone (and, of course, there’s that human sister of his).  Maze himself doesn’t appear to have any powers, and from what we learn in the first story, he just likes to get involved and try to fix problems.  That’s cool.  However, there’s the suggestion that he’s rich, plus there’s the fact that he does dress up, so there’s the hint of something deeper about Maze, but Rozakis never goes there.  What this book is for a first-time reader is a nice diversion, a way to connect, perhaps, with something from their past that mattered to them.  Denton is a bit young to be whining about how everything changes, maybe, but his nostalgia is heartfelt, and who hasn’t indulged themselves in some self-pity now and then?  The birthday story is just a nice way to get all the friends together to bond.  It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a comfort story.  That’s really all Rozakis is going for.

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A first-time comic book reader wouldn’t necessarily need to learn the answers to the questions about the issue.  These are two decent stories that show many of the strengths of comic books.  That’s good enough, because something like this might lead people to other comics.  It certainly won’t drive them away.  If the stories are somewhat simplistic, they’re still sweet, and they show a cute world with an anthropomorphic dog and a dude who wears a bucket on his head.  And what’s wrong with that?

16 Comments

Norton Zenger

June 16, 2007 at 3:54 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with a 30-year-old in ’86 being nostalgic for a typewriter. I’m about that age now and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to use a cell phone. Someone who’s 30 in ’86 would’ve been around 24 when home computers started becoming a big thing, and certainly would have grown up using typewriters.

I don’t have a problem with Denton using a typewriter, just that he’s so resistant to change. He seems a bit young to be moaning about how everything changes. Yearning for the good old days when everyone used typewriters seems to me something Rozakis, who’s a bit older, would be nostalgic for, not necessarily Denton. That’s all I meant.

Denton’s not a dog – he has a dog-faced look about him, taken to cartoon extremes. I’m not sure issue 12 of a 12-issue series is really the best issue to get into *any* comic. And, yes, I’m one of those who speaks of Maze in hushed tones. It’s quite simply 15 issues of greatness, and you should make the effort the read them all (and maybe also HERO Hotline, the 6-issue series by the same creators).

Whatever happened to deStefano, anyhow?

I’ve never spoken of Maze on the internet before now, but since I am speaking of him imagine I’m talking very quietly. Just today I completed my collection: Special 2 and Secret Origins 16. As Alan said, Denton isn’t a dog he just happens to look like that (like Stuart Little who looks like a mouse, but isn’t one), but you wouldn’t know that from reading #12; it’s explained in one of the early issues, if not #1. Come to think of it, AIR Denton was adopted; wonder if the writers of the Stuart Little movie “borrowed” that from MM?!

I was 19 in 1986 and I can tell you computers as something you had at home was still pretty new. (The Mac was only 3 or so years old, and the Intel 80386 came out that year. My father almost bought an Altair 8880 in 1975; the sight of that thing representing what a computer “is” would be enough to scare anybody not named Bill G or Steve W into technophobia). Besides, Denton’s turning “the big 3-0,” and is obviously the type who takes growing older hard, so he’s feeling nostalgic. Much like a comics enthusiast about to turn 40 reminiscing about MM. BobRo (if he can be believed) introduced computerized color separation into comics, so I wouldn’t think he’d be that resistant to change himself.

Glad you didn’t complain as a “first time comic book reader” that Batman wasn’t in the book, just on the cover.

(For instance, would a 30-year-old in 1986 really be that nostalgic for a typewriter? It feels like Denton should be 50, not 30.

You ever read any of Seth’s stuff? I think he was younger than thirty when he started writing “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.”

But I’m with you on Amazing Man. The four-five issues I fished out of the quarter bins didn’t do much for me either.

Denton’s NOT a dog? That’s just weird. As for not being a good place to start, that’s the whole point of this exercise. No comic should be a bad jumping-on point.

Sorry, Greg, but Norton and Lothor are right. Nostalgia isn’t a function of how old a person is, but how much a person feels in control of his or her life at that particular moment. Personally, I started feeling things were changing too fast when I was around twelve…so you can imagine how I felt when I was about to turn thirty! I think this comic is right on target.

Alan, you can see just what DeStefano is up to these days on his blog. Go Team Venture!

Waitaminnit. Stuart Little isn’t actually a mouse?

How does he fit in that tiny car?

“Wonder if the writers of the Stuart Little movie “borrowed” that from MM?!”

Actually it is probably the other way around. “Stuart Little” is a classic of children’s literature written in 1945 by E. B. White, who also wrote “Charlotte’s Web.”

I was in college in 1986, and personal computers were available, but extremely expensive, so most of us continued to use typewriters. What a pain!

As others have commented, in 1986, typewriters were still common. In all the office jobs I had, computers were not ubiquitous like they are now, typewriters were still the main workhorse.

A lot has changed in 21 years.

As others have commented, in 1986, typewriters were still common. In all the office jobs I had, computers were not ubiquitous like they are now, typewriters were still the main workhorse.

A lot has changed in 21 years.

Barry, you’ll notice I specified the *movie* version of Stuart Little, and I thought I specified in regard to the adoption. I know full well that EB White wrote it in 1945. As a matter of fact (originally researched for Apodaca):

“When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son was born, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse’s sharp nose, a mouse’s tail, a mouse’s whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse.”

Chapter 1, pagagraph one of the original BOOK Stuart Little. He is of woman born; he looks like a mouse and is the size of a mouse, but isn’t. (All this is off the topic of course, and on that basis I apologize for bringing it up.)

I am curious, though – if the Frank Miller Batman and Carrie Kelly Robin aren’t in the book, why are they on the cover? Is it supposed to be representing a change in how comic books and art styles were becoming a different style and predicting the coming boom of the artist taking writing into their own hands?

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what DeStephano has been up to since would fill volumes…very little as far as comic books go,(Instant Piano, Jingle Belle,Bizarro World) but very much in animation…and not just Ren & Stimpy, …I don’t think he was ever meant to be a comic book artist in the traditional sense, which makes looking at those early ‘Mazing Man issues ever stranger.

Wow! For the record, I was in love with the ‘Mazing Man comic and bought every issue. I stopped buying comics 20 years ago, but if I had the chance to have Maze (and Dalgoda) I would. Those two are it.
The story of Maze is that Denton was supposed to be a talking dog originally, but because a “dog-faced boy” instead. A little wierd, but then Hubert Horatio Hunch (a.k.a. ‘Mazing Man) is the world’s nicest guy. He’s not stupid, or “mentally deficient,” he’s just a nice man who has trouble navigating the world. He sees things his own way.
Prolly the best way to explain this book is “Frank Capra does Krazy Kat.” It has Capra’s gentle, innocent take and Herriman’s sometimes inscrutable political philosophy. It remains a cult comic because so few people “got it.”
And by the by, “I am curious, though – if the Frank Miller Batman and Carrie Kelly Robin aren’t in the book, why are they on the cover? Is it supposed to be representing a change in how comic books and art styles were becoming a different style and predicting the coming boom of the artist taking writing into their own hands?” – yes and no. Dark Knight was BIG at the time, Maze was just a fan!
Long live ‘Mazing Man!

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