365 Reasons to Love Comics #215
Bill Week’s penultimate entry shines the spotlight on the unluckiest man in comics, yet one who is not only a helluva guy, but a great writer and artist as well. (Don’t stop archivin‘; hold on to that feeeeelin’.)
215. William Messner-Loebs
Bill Loebs, as his homies call him, is a great person. He’s suffered through misfortune after misfortune, but he remains steadfast. And his comics work has been pretty damn good.
His early work was with Dave Sim’s independent company Aardvark-Vanheim, where Loebs began publishing his longform work Journey, a tale of the frontier. It featured his own beautiful cartooning work, which, frankly, we never get to see enough of. I imagine drawing has to be a relatively unique challenge for Mr. Loebs as it is, for he only has one arm. He developed a tumor on his arm as an infant and the limb was amputated. That did not stop him, however, from pursuing his artistic desires, which is wonderful.
He’s mostly known in the industry as a writer, however, and he’s done some excellent runs in his time. He wrote Epicurus the Sage, an acclaimed work with art by Sam Kieth. He also scripted Kieth’s The Maxx later, and worked for the cartoon version of it as well. He’s also written for comics such as Jonny Quest, Impulse, Dr. Fate, and a short Thor run that had some good moments. And, of course, there was his lengthy run on Wonder Woman which was filled with lots of good and quirky bits. And he created the Artemis character that was pretty popular for a while.
There are two Messner-Loebs projects, however, which are my favorites. The first of those is his highly underrated run on the Flash. Bill’s incredibly overshadowed by the Mark Waid run that immediately followed his, but hey, Loebs brought quite a bit of development to ol’ Wally West, and created his permanent love interest, Linda Park. And yeah, he wrote one of the best issues of Flash, a story so good that it became the first of Dave Campbell’s F*@% Yeah! Files. Read more about it at the link and see cool scans.
The second run he did that I dig is the Jaguar, from the defunct !mpact Comics line, where DC revamped all the old MLJ heroes. This Jaguar was a teenaged heroine who transformed into a feral-ish and mighty defender of justice! It was pretty good stuff. I loved that whole imprint, actually.
In recent years, Bill’s run out of comics work. He lost his house due to steep medical bills, he got into a car accident, and his mobile home was stolen. Regardless, Bill perseveres, and maintains an optimistic outlook. Seriously, for a guy who’s gone through so many hardships, it’s marvelous to see that he’s still holding his head high. Weaker men would’ve crumbled, but William Messner-Loebs is tougher than that. He’s one hell of a man, and I wish I had the strength he does.
Bill Loebs is yet another in a long line comic creators who end up impoverished and in trouble– it’s something we’ve got to stop. And the Hero Initiative can only do so much. When word got out about Bill’s plight, there were some benefit projects and DC threw him a bone with a Green Arrow issue to write. Last I heard, he was working on some new projects at a couple publishers. C’mon, Big Two! Hire him onto something! He’s got the talent, and the drive.