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CSBG Archive

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’.)

8/3/07

215. William Messner-Loebs

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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.

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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.

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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.

For more on Bill’s plight, read the original article that brought it to light. And for some good memories, read Peter Gillis’ piece here. And be sure to buy those Messner-Loebs comics!

10 Comments

I always did like his run on the Flash the best, even though I’ve found his issues hard to track down here. I had no idea about any of his background or current troubles, though, that’s sad.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 4, 2007 at 6:03 am

I loved the JOURNEY series, and was quite disappointed when it was discontinued (cancelled or whatever).

Hopefully, somebody like IDW will pick up the reprints like they did with GRIM JACK and JON SABLE FREELANCE and soon to be published BADGER and even do a brand new mini-series.

Epicurus the Sage and the MAXX was fun to read.

I’ve had the privilege of talking to Bill on more than one occasion. Both he and his wife are wonderful, wonderful people– very generous with their time.

Bill has been doing some illustration work, and you can see some more of his excellence by getting a copy of “Chicken Wings for the Beer Drinker’s Soul”.

I’m sorry to hear about all of Bill’s personal woes. (I had no idea.) But I was also very sorry to read his run on Wonder Woman. He did that incredibly vexing thing where he ignored her supporting cast — and Perez and Co. had created a really wonderful supporting cast, in addition to fleshing out reasonable new roles in WW’s post-Crisis universe for Steve Trevor and Etta Candy. Also, Diana working at Taco Whiz? Worst. Issue. Ever.

That Flash #54 was one of the best comics I’ve ever read.

Is it wrong of me to hold a grudge over his run on Impulse? He just wrecked the book. I’m sorry that he’s in dire straits now, I hope his situation improves, I know it’s pigheaded of me to judge a man by a select few issues…but dammit, he ruined Impulse before Todd DeZago set fire to the wreckage.

His rationale on Wonder Woman was, let’s see how she does on her own, with out the large supporting cast to help her out. While the end result made many, in his words, willing to crawl over broken glass in order to strangle him, he was trying something new.

I enjoyed his Impulse run myself, especially the kookier sort of characters he introduced, like the Green Cigarette. That issue in which all the characters– heroes, villains, and townies– teamed up to try and stop the flood– that was a really interesting and entertaining story.

And, in his defense, at least his Impulse– and DeZago’s– were an attempt to write Impulse. No broken legs, angst, or being kicked to death. The character of Impulse may have been ruined– but it was _not_ on their watch.

"O" the Humanatee!

August 5, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Since I urged you to include Bill Messner-Loebs at the start of Bill Week, I’m of course delighted to see that you did. I’ve actually read little of his mainstream superhero work, such as Flash or Wonder Woman. From what I’ve seen of it, he handled humanity, characterization, and humor well, but conflict and violence not so much. Ultimately – and unfortunately for his finances – I think he’s probably too individualistic a talent to work well in the mainstream (though I’d like to go back and check out his Flash work sometime).

My love of his work comes from more personal stuff like Journey and Epicurus the Sage (the funniest treatment of ancient Greek philosophy you’re ever likely to read). Journey is a seamless melding of frontier adventure, history (human and natural), humor, human relations, and even occasional mysticism. It is, put simply, a wonder. The bear chase in issue 1 must be seen by anyone who loves the comics form. And there’s a scene at the end of a later issue where Jemmy Acorn (Messner-Loebs’s delusional Johnny Appleseed figure – he travels America planting oaks!) receives a “message from the future” like nothing you’d ever expect. That scene always brings me close to tears of both laughter and something more sublime.

If I had the money, I’d become Messner-Loebs’s patron and fund him to continue creating Journey. (The second Journey series, War Drums, only lasted two issues.) I wonder if he could get a grant to do it?

I like Bill Messner-Loebs a lot – I think I knew him first from his run on Dr Fate which was great.

Is it wrong of me to hold a grudge over his run on Impulse? He just wrecked the book. I’m sorry that he’s in dire straits now, I hope his situation improves, I know it’s pigheaded of me to judge a man by a select few issues…but dammit, he ruined Impulse before Todd DeZago set fire to the wreckage.

I haven’t read them so I don’t know, but it might not be his fault. I vaguely remember Tod Dezago saying that the editor on Impulse was forcing him to write Impulse as a superhero book rather than the comedy he felt it should be, so Loebs might have had the same problem.

What in the world is in that Taco that WW’s carrying?

Spaghetti?

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