Friday, May 15, 2009

To Be "S'Pacific": Pacific Comics' Anthologies from Bruce Jones Associates

Bruce Jones and April Campbell *. In the 80s, they became perhaps my favorite editors on the strength of the magnificent anthology titles they produced/packaged/edited for Pacific Comics: Twisted Tales, Alien Worlds, and the magnificent, single-issue of Pathways to Fantasy**. Those mags were intended to be--and were quite worthy-- modern-day heirs to the great EC line of comics of the 1950s. They were also very much a product of their times, printed on "Baxter" paper (that crisp, white, low-gloss paper that holds up so well to the ravages of time) in full-process color (by masters like Joe Chiodo and Steve Oliff) with painted covers. "R" rated (a "Recommended for Mature Readers" lable was added to the covers with issue #6) with plenty of blood, nudity, and profanity (sometimes, admittedly, of the titillating, unnecessary sort). In fact, it was kind of like taking Marvel's Epic Illustrated mag, making it comicbook size, and splitting it into three comics...with much better writing, since Jones, himself, handled most of the writing chores. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise, Bruce Jones was a master of the short-comicbook story format. (I'll soon be posting some of his Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, and Warren work over on Diversions of the Groovy Kind for proof of that.) Don't forget that Campbell helped plot, edit, and contributed a few stories of her own, as well.

(*aka April Campbell Jones--she and Bruce married in 1984.) (**Yeah, they did other cool stuff for Pacific, like Somerset Holmes and Silverheels, and yeah, they continued producing awesome anthologies for Eclipse after Pacific's demise. I'll cover all of that--as well as profiles on both Bruce and April--in future posts, promise!)

They made a great team and were able to lure some of the very best artists in the biz to work on their mags. For example, during their horror anthology Twisted Tales' eight issue run at Pacific (Fall 1982-Spring 1984), they were able to get the best artists from Marvel, DC, indies, ground-level, undergrounds--everyone wanted to play in Bruce and April's sandbox. Like "who?", you ask? Heck, why tell you when I can show you! Check out the credits on these splash pages--a veritable "who's who" of 80s comicbook artists...

Not only were they able to get stunning work out of the best artists of the period, but Jones and Campbell managed to snare quite a find to help with the writing. I'm guessing you've heard of...William F. Nolan? I'm not making this up. Check it out:

They didn't let up on finding the best when getting artists for the sci-fi-centric Alien Worlds, either. AW ran for seven issues (Winter 1982-Spring 1984) under the Pacific banner, and it was a joy to look at. Wasn't a bad read, either! Take a look...

Yep, that last piece is from a rare Roy G. Krenkel story, perhaps even his last, since he passed away in 1983.

And finally, what could have been the best anthology in the lot, Pathways to Fantasy (Summer 1984). Only one issue--but what an issue! Try not to drool on your keyboard!

Magnificent art. Great writing. Thought provoking. Sexy. Gut churning. Dream/nightmare inducing. It's no wonder Eclipse Comics snatched Bruce Campbell Associates up to continue Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds after Pacific's demise. And just how well did that work out? Stay tuned! Meantime, have you got any memories of Twisted Tales, Alien Worlds, or Pathways to Fantasy you'd like to share? Favorite stories? Post a comment!

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