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CSBG Archive

Doug Moench’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Doug Moench!

Enjoy!

Doug Moench is best known today for his acclaimed runs on Masters of Kung Fu, Moon Knight and Batman (where he created the popular Batman villain, Black Mask).

Moench first worked as a critic for the Chicago Sun-Times before getting into comics in his early 20s in the middle of 1970. His first comic book work was for Warren Publishing. His first two stories are actually both cover-dated the same month, September 1970.

They appeared in Eerie #29 and Vampirella #7.

Here’s the last few pages from the Eerie story, “Snow Job” (with art by the great Jack Sparling – talk about lucky! Sparling as your first artist?)…

And here’s the ending to his Vampirella tale, “Plague of the Wolf” (with art by Frank Bolle)…

23 Comments

Nice post. Moench was a great favourite of mine during my teens. I thought his Werewolf By Night run was fantastic (yes,even The Legend of Hill House rip-off two-parter). Of course, I have never returned to read any of those issues so they may not be as good as I remember them.However, I’m willing to bet that his MOKF has stood the test of time. Who remembers that trilogy of Fu Manchu stories he did over the years? First with Paul Gulacy,then Mike Zeck and , finally, Gene Day .Great art. Great stories. Great memories. Moench never became a star name but he hardly ever let you down.

Definitely agree with John, above. Moench certainly produced some outstanding stories, esp. in the 70s – I would add to MoKF and Moon Knight his part in co-creating Deathlok with Rich Buckler. Worth noting also are a few of his Elseworlds stories featuring Batman.

Sad to say, but I enjoyed that wolfwoman story more than any of the dozens of Moench Batmans I’ve read.

I only know Moench’s work from the mid-80s onwards which has almost all (the notable exception being Prey) ranged from mediocre to rubbish.

Maybe one of these days I’ll try some of his 70s stuff that gets raved about.

Surprised to see so much hate for Moench’s 80s stuff. Moench was my favorite mid-to-late 80s Bat-writer. I favored him much more than Chuck Dixon.

I never had any interest in the Black Mask, but I guess he must be popular with someone because he keeps turning up.

I was a huge fan of Moench’s Master of Kung Fu run but never liked his Batman stuff much (nor Dixon’s, now that you mention it). I was just reading the trade of Batman: Unseen the other day and thought the dialogue was just terrible, but it did get points for the climactic scene of Baman running around bare naked in the snow except for his cowl. Because he’s freaky like that.

…. and at the end it turns out he’s a werewolf! Bet nobody saw that coming.

Pete Woodhouse

March 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I don’t know why Moench’s 80s Batman gets a bad press – I thought his run on Batman and Detective were probably the best between O’Neil & Englehart in the 70s and Grant in the late 80s.

There were arguably few classics but they were consistently entertaining and struck a good balance between what became known as ‘grim & gritty’ (with art from the likes of Newton, Colan and Janson there were plenty of shadows) & the traditional ‘Bat-family’ type-stuff. The development of Bullock as a key supporting character was a plus (although Conway & co may’ve done this 1st).

I enjoyed the new sagas involving Nocturna, Night Stalker, etc, and the continued stories thru both books were successful attempts to bring a cohesive, Marvel soap opera-type feel to a DC book.

Although I wouldn’t compare it to prime O’Neil & Adams/Aparo, Englehart & Rogers, pre-crisis 80s Batman is so underrated given that everyone raves about DKR, YR1, Killing Joke, etc, that came immediately after: Gerry Conway in my opinion did his best work here (if anyone wants to argue a case for his JLA with Dillin & co I wouldn’t disagree); plus you’ve got Novick, Aparo, Newton thru to Moench, Colan, Janson, Mandrake; with Wein, Giordano & O’Neil all in the mix at some point, as artist, editor, or writer.

Maybe my memory is hazy (& rose tinted) & I may need to read them again, but unless anyone can point out a stinker of a run, I don’t think there was a bad Batman year’s worth between 80-87 – and how many DC books (or Marvel, for that matter) can you say that for?

Great feature, but one suggestion is that you might want to be clearer in the introduction as to what type of creator the person is. Except for the “with art by…” tags, it wouldn’t be clear to a person unfamiliar with Doug Moench whether you’re talking about a writer or artist.

I never read Moench’s post-Knightfall stuff because I couldn’t tolerate Kelley Jones’s art, so he may have indeed gotten worse during the Black Mask era. But his Knightfall stuff I did like.

80s Batman is generally underrated, perhaps simply because the majority of it hasn’t been reprinted, and the stories are not very accessible to most Batman fans.

I haven’t read enough of his 80s run to judge, but don’t care much for Moench’s 90s tenure with Jones, despite the acclaim it gets from fans.

I love pre-Crisis ’80s Batman. Such a good balance of characterization rather than the Milleresque one-note asshole personality that we got post-Crisis that basically became a parody of itself after a while.

My theory for why this period of Batman comics is generally forgotten is simple. Whenever a creator is very successful in redefining a character, the period that came immediately before is the most forgotten. Much older runs will be remembered for nostalgia’s sake, but the ones that came right before the gamechange are sort of doomed.

Mark Waid’s Flash has made people forget the excellent runs by Mike Baron and Bill Messner-Loebs.

Peter David’s Hulk has made people forget Bill Mantlo’s exceptional run, and Bill Mantlo was even thought to be the definitive Hulk writer before PAD came aboard.

So Frank Miller too “erased” everybody that came before him, the erasure probably stopping at Englehart and O’Neil.

Through torrents and the like I have read a lot — a whole lot — of Batman the past few years, both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis. I would never have thought I’d say this but I’ve come to vastly prefer the pre-Crisis Batman. He was a far more interesting character and a million times more fun. I love the Englehart/Rogers run, short as it is, but my favorite is probably the Gerry Conway issues. And although I love Adams and Aparo and all those guys, Don Newton knocked it out of the park art-wise.

I think it is noteworthy that Moench’s Batman from the 80s has never been reprinted. Hard to still be remembered if it is has not been in print for decades.

Justin Carmona

March 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I thought you were just going to feature artists for this series of articles. So glad you’ve included writers too! Are you going to be doing inkers as well? I’d love to see Scott Williams’ first work as well as Danny Miki and Jimmy Palmiotti’s.

This is a fun feature, Brian. Only 31 artists and writers will get a feature? I doubt it!

And I loved Master of Kung Fu. Moench was a truly unique voice.

Rene, that’s a good point. We as fans, do tend to erase “epic” runs on a book when the next one comes along.

Brian, thanks for this. I never knew Moench did Vampy… I am going to have to track this issue down…

Master Of Kung Fu has to be one of the most under rated titles ever, it’s consistency was quite brilliant for over one hundred issues. How many other comics can boast about runs from artists like Gulacy, Zeck and the excellent Gene Day.

MOKF was brilliant work tho’ slightly marred during the Jim Craig run, I’m sorry to say.

Nice theory, Rene… I agree with you 100%.

And I loved the hell out of Moench’s run on Batman and Detective. Apart from Batman Year One, I was actually very unhappy and disappointed with the early post-Crisis work and felt it didn’t hold a candle to the stuff Moench had done with Colan, Newton and Mandrake.

Doug Moench did some great work in Marvel’s black and white Planet of the Apes magazine in the 1970s, too.

DC needs to start collecting Moench’s Batman.

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