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CSBG Archive

Almost Hidden – The Heckler

Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.

I want you folks to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.

Reader Ralph suggested that I spotlight The Heckler, so, well, here ya go!

Plotted and penciled by Keith Giffen, with scripting duties done by Tom and Mary Bierbaum and inks by the late Malcolm Jones, the Heckler was a short-lived series, lasting only six issues before being canceled.

The gist of the series is that the Heckler is a superhero parody consisting of a superhero (the Heckler, natch) who has powers similar to that of Bugs Bunny in a typical Looney Tunes cartoon (you know, malleable, able to pull items out of seemingly nowhere, great speed when necessary).

Here’s the Heckler in battle with a bad guy to give you an idea of what I’m talking about…

A later issue introduced probably my favorite villain, John Doe, whose touch…genericizes stuff!!

He comes up with a plan…he will infect the water of the city!!!

This leads to a confrontation with Doe and the gun-toting woman you see above, plus the Heckler plus a pair of thugs sent by the mob to silence John Doe (as they don’t want to be genericized, either)…

Awesome stuff.

Man, looking at Giffen’s art, it’s a real shame that he didn’t DEBUT with this style, as I think he’d get a lot more acclaim for his artwork instead of folks remembering how he USED to draw. He is such a skilled sequential artist – such great storytelling skills. I’m glad he’s been doing more art as of late. He’s so good.

In any event, this series did not last long, but boy was it a fun ride while it lasted!! Hopefully the rights will go back to Giffen and the Bierbaums soon and we’ll finally get a collection!

37 Comments

I’m waiting for some journalist (hint, hint) ask Giffen when we will see more of the Heckler, Vext and a revisit to his absurdly underrated Legion of Super-Heroes run (which is a clear contender for Almost Hidden #1 for me).

Heckler was the first time I noticed Giffen’s art, so to me, this is how he used to draw! I’ve never backtracked to earlier stuff to compare…

You’ve never seen any pages from the Great Darkness Saga?

was waiting for the heckler to show up on thls list hopefuly if keith does indeed regain the rights he not only finaly finds a way to reprint it but does more finaly with the heckler

I have some suggestions for Almost Hidden: The 1980s Red Circle/Archie Adventure Series stuff (never been reprinted), Impact Comics (Ditto), and Femforce #34 to #36 (Shroud War. Closest thing AC got to its own ‘event’ crossover!)

J.A.P.

SUCH a great comic. I was just looking at an old Wizard interview with Giff, where he said that Heckler was the one book he’d like to do more with. (This was…’93, ’94?) I hope we can get more of this in the future (I think the rights revert fairly soon, right?), but I love the 6 issues we did get.

“I have been unexpectedly shot in the head and fatally wounded.” HAHA!

I love Giff’s art, and I know that the Heckler style is the style of his I prefer, but his earlier stuff is pretty cool. I’ve never really compared/contrasted, but even back with Omega Men 2, he was doing some neat page layouts. I wonder how much he retained with the Munoz … absorption… that he did. There’s definitely an influence there/here.

Giff art will be about the ONLY draw for that new OMAC book.

Man, there’s a bunch of Giff stuff you could feature here. Not just the ones Ricardo mentioned, but Punx, some of the Lobo stuff isn’t collected, I don’t think (or it’s long out of print). Giff might be the best modern writer/artist with the most different series that are the least collected (if you follow that).

I know it`s been said, but Vext! Vext! I bought all six issues and enjoyed the Vext ouf of them.

I definitely like his Heckler/Ambush Bug style most. For me it peaked with the Doctor Fate mini he did with J M Dematteis. That thing is beautiful

One of the earliest DC comics I bought as new is Ambush Bug #1; the Heckler appeared and proved to be more of the same silliness, except more mainstream (i.e. no fourth wall). It’s the kind of thing one wishes were more popular, because it would improve the availability … for me, seeing Giffen’s “earlier” style is more jarring because I was used to his Bug style. I can always tell when Giffen has done the layouts or pencils on a comic — just check for the big eye panel.

Here’s a suggest: “The Adventures of Captain America” by Fabian Nicieza & Kevin Maguire.
In the near-glut of Captain America reprints from the last year, it’s one that stands out to me by its absence.

Damnit, I loved this book, but lost my copies! For some reason, I have three #1’s, though; from the quarter bins over the years.

randypan the goatboy

August 11, 2011 at 6:58 am

I hate Giffens abstract artwork. I rank him as a novelty artist like sergio argones or fred hembeck. its impossible to take anything he does seriously because it all looks like ambush bug. You must have been one of the chosen 12 people who read the heckler. I was the guy in Ohio.An exageration sure, but i remember the days of waiting for the new comics to come in and it was always here randypan…looks like just you again for heckler. The first issue sold 12 and by the last it was down to me…so im pretty sure this will stay hidden.

Sugar shane and the disco ball

August 11, 2011 at 7:12 am

In my opinion the heckler fans are akin to the guys in the 70’s who would wait around during Andy kauffman shows to hear him finish the Great gatsby. They exist in the margins, and are so full of themselves because they ” get it”. Crap is crap is crap is crap and no amount of perfume can extinguish the smell.. For anyone under 30 who didnt know Andy kauffman was a ham that was disgused as a comedian that refered to himself as a song and dance man who essentially was the man for the tragically hip untill he imploded under the weight of his own self importance. In the movie man on the moon he was quoted as saying “he didnt even know what was funny” truer words have never been spoken. Andy kauffman fans +crappy artwork= The heckler.

Matthew Johnson

August 11, 2011 at 7:43 am

Is there a reason so much of that 80s-90s DC stuff has been uncollected? I’ve read here and there that it’s because DC creators had a better deal in those days, so reprinting it wouldn’t be as good a deal for DC financially, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that confirmed.

This reminds me very much of Steve Ditko’s more personal work, especially the guy who genericizes stuff, but way more mainstream and less rant-y, therefore much more accessible. Good stuff.

@ Sugar shane and the disco ball:
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“he imploded under the weight of his own self importance” = died of cancer?
that’ll teach him to not make you laugh!

“Andy kauffman fans +crappy artwork= The heckler” > angry fanboy on the internet.

I was a HUGE Legion fan, and when Giffen took over for Pat Broderick, I was blown away. His stuff — even those who say it was too Neal Adams — was absolutely astonishing. And I think he was working carefully with his colorists, because they were doing things I’d never seen before in a comic.

And in about a year, he started sliding into this style. And I hated it.

I still do. His more “realistic” style was incredibly clean and clear and loaded with all kinds of details — the guy basically redefined the “look” of the 30th Century in ways that still echo today, 20-odd years and several reboots later. But this cruder style, with all those blacks and the same nine-panel grid… meh. It will never match what he and Larry Mahlstedt did in the Great Darkness saga.

J.

Sugar shane and the disco ball

August 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

No No and no again. he died of cancer after he became irrelevant. you must have been the guy who stayed for the great gatsby and laughed a phony laugh that is usually reserved for the people who got the joke and didnt know it was on them the entire time. Here..allow me to entertain you with a Andy kauffman routine….hummm hummm retiitiity titty…yabbagabaa yuck yuck…obnoxious dance obnoxious dance tony clifton obnoxious dance…I hope you enjoyed it

randypan the goatboy

August 11, 2011 at 10:45 am

uhh ok.

I’ve often wondered what kind of person could hate Giffen’s work in (what seems to me to be) his prime. Now I know. Thanks!

randypan the goatboy

August 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

It sounds kind of strange to judge someone so harshly who doesnt like giffens artwork. I loved giffens artwork during his first legion of superheroes run. in fact he drew a humanoid spaceship in lsh 300 that i thought looked great. so i dont like abstract art, does this put me in a class with gay bashers and the kkk? maybe i even beat my wife and son and cheat on welfare. i must be a lowlife human being because i think keith giffen’s signature art style sucks the balls. i didnt know how bad of a person i had become. luckily there are people who are willing to shout down any desenting opinion based simply on the mindset that ” if i dont like it …it isn’t any good and if you like something that i dont…well you just suck”. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways self aware guy with a little blue man in your avatar.

I didn’t say what kind of person, but thanks for clearing that up.

Also wasn’t aware I was shouting. I’ll turn the volume down on my keyboard.

Anyway, I was kidding and didn’t mean anything by it. I certainly didn’t realize you’d read quite that much into it. As far as I can see the only real common element to Heckler hecklers in this thread is impressively far-ranging mental tangents, which isn’t a bad thing per se.

Giffen went through a few art styles – early on in The Defenders it was a pared-down version of his Legion style, then he went completely Kirby-esgue (but doing it much much better than either Al Milgrom – who was good at it – or Ron Frenz, whose work I always hated, even before he tried to become a Kirby clone. I’ve liked them all, though I have to admit that it took a while to get used to his French abstract style.

I wanted to not turn this to an All-Giifen-praise, or we still miss that reprint from the giff … but its hard to resist

Heckler always reminds me of a looser ‘Umbush Bug’, Loonier ‘Video Jack’ ( Epic comics, not reprinted with cary bates), on par with ‘PunX’ (hope to one day see the 4th issue finally printed)
and a distant cousin is ‘The march hare’ (it has been reprinted some years ago -Munoz-canibalization period)

In that same period he did some cool stuf ffor marvel , the 3 issues with Conway on ‘Justice’, the ‘peter parker’ tale with Mantlo (about arson, homelesses) and ‘Daredevil’ 247 with nocenti

and lets not forget for the people that love his 1st period legion , the ‘Doctor Fate’ he did in the backup of Flash ( been reprinted in the late 80’s ) and the layouts he did as is first DC work, for W.Wood on ‘All lstar comics’

The Giff’s munoz-canibalization period is surely akward for some people, but its like comparing realists and expressionists. and some time it takes a real long time to appreciate, to understand.

randypan the goatboy

August 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm

yeah my bad . I thought i was the intended target. but there is much worse on here. No harm no foul. nothing more touching than a dude and his disco ball

Man, I love the Heckler. And I love how you and I just keep reposting the same John Doe pages, Brian, but, damn, they’re good.

Not read Giffen’s comedy stuff like Ambush Bug and the Heckler. To me, the overall art style and vibe (especially the look of the Heckler) comes across as Steve Ditko with a sense of humour transplant.

On Giffen’s earlier and later art styles: I don’t mind either. I got given a load of early Defenders back issues and the stuff with Klaus Janson on inks I liked (maybe because Janson gave it a ‘Defenders house style’ look – his work over Sal Buscema was great, it gave the pencils depth), even when Keith was in full Kirby-love mode.

Part of me still thinks that “the Heckler” was Giffen’s unused ptich for “the Creeper.”

The other part thinks that Giffen – frustrated because he missed out on his dream job of writing for Looney Tunes – feels compelled to unload the cartoon character that’s constantly floating through his brain wherever and whenever he can be it in the form of Ambush Bug or Lobo or Heckler.

All of me is happy I purchased these six issues.

Giffen’s style also changed when he did the Legion 5 years later thing, and the last issue of Invasion. He squinched his figures a little, and thickened his lines… Everything got blockier. I liked that style too. The Munoz phase is awkward, in part, because it drew legal fire from Munoz himself. Some of the panels from Ambush Bug looked like they’d been pulled out of Sinner. Giffen claimed, and I don’t disbelieve him, that he was so immersed in Munoz’s work that it happened unconsciously. In any event, I really like looking at that era of stuff (the Dr. Fate mini was pretty strong, as was the aforementioned Marvel stuff).

I find Giffen to be one comics’ most varied creators- for both good and ill. He’s both written and drawn some great stuff- and some terrible ones as well. To the point I wonder if he went through some personal phases that affected his work. (And I had no idea he ever copied someone else, though that might help explain the sudden change in his art style which I disliked btw.) I used to love his Ambush Bug, before he started using it to criticize the fans and other comics people.

I never got to see The Heckler, I simply never found the comic to check it out. I actually like what I see above- characters like John Doe are hilarious. Too bad. If I find a copy of the series some day I will read it. Thanks for the exposure Cronin.

randypan the goatboy

August 13, 2011 at 7:14 am

I was one of the few people in my shop to sit through heckler untill the bitter end. I was in a phase where I felt i had to buy everything in case i somehow stumbled on to the new teenage mutant Ninja turtles # 1[ that book caught everyone by surprise and as far as im concerned created the small press boom of the 80’s]. I will freely admit to getting sucked in to the comic craze of buying 5 first issues of everything…how else was I going to buy a house and put my son through college?…uhhhh i got nothing. But i will say with pride that i only bought ! copy of x-men # 1… Being smarter than a chipmonk I figured out pretty early that the comics from the silver and golden age were so valuable because they were rare…Print runs in the millions do not add up to anything being rare. In fact i challenge everone to go to their local comic shop and ask to see the overstock…to this day you will see box’s and boxs of foil enhanced 0 issues with die cut covers and exclusive first appearances of awesome characters that are sure to be favorites forever like Dark hawk and slapstick. sleepwalker and yes even our old pal the heckler…uhh I need an aspirin

For me also this was the style I first saw Giffen use and I just loved it. I’ve since come to appreciate most of his evolving styles. I remember buying the first two issues of this series and then kinda forgot about it. It was in the midst of all the 90s excess I was collecting at the time where I read everything out of habit instead of just what I loved. Amidst the grim and gritty Punisher stuff I was really into at the time I don’t think my tiny mind was ready for clever satire. I’d love to see these issues released digitally for a great price.

I’d always thought there was a Munoz influence in some of Giffen’s work, but I never realised there’d been such a controversy over it.

Oh, yes indeed. IIRC, The Comics Journal had at least one article with side-by-side comparisons of panels of Munoz and Giffen’s work where Giffen had duplicated Munoz’ work virtually line-for-line. (Maybe it was The Comics Buyer’s Guide; I remember seeing the comparison article, but didn’t read TCJ very often, while I had a subscription to CBG for over a decade. But I digress… :) )

Giffen – the Master of the 9 Panel Grid

love his stuff

I think he and Morrison could make a killer combo

Seems awfully similar to Marvel’s [Madcap](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madcap_(comics)).

This should definately get a reprint.

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