I mentioned the possibility of covering DC’s sci-fi offerings in the post-Crisis 1980s in a podcast episode, and I’m still thinking of that, especially since while this was an early 1990s series, The Giffin falls into the sci-fi/superhero hybrid genre and was completely outside of the DC Universe of the time. My understanding is that it was originally an independent comic produced by Slave Labor Graphics in the late 1980s which DC then picked up and allowed writer and creator (and SLG publisher) Dan Vado to finish.
Packaged in what DC called its “Prestige Format” (and maybe they still do?), The Griffin wound up being a six-issue series that retailed for $4.95 each. I believe that when I found these in the quarter/fill a shortbox bin, they were in two-fer bags, which meant that I got this on a really steep discount. It was a series that always looked interesting to me and I even remember it coming out in 1991, but at the time I didn’t have $4.95 per issue, especially when it came out smack in the middle of Armageddon 2001 and War of the Gods. But all six issues for 75 cents? Oh yes.
Written by Vado with art by Norman Felchle and Mark McKenna, The Griffin is the story of Matt Williams, a guy who was a star high school football player bound for glory in 1967 who winds up being abducted by aliens and recruited to fight their wars. He does so for more than 20 years until he finally goes AWOL and returns to Earth. However, his reunion with his family is kind of bitter and the aliens he worked for? Not only have they been infiltrating America’s military for decades, but now they want to get Williams back and they’re willing to destroy Earth to do it.
I think that this looked cool when I saw it in Direct Currents in 1991 because The Griffin kind of looked like Guy Gardner with a red vest instead of a green one, and the covers by Matt Wagner suggested that this might have been closer to the Aliens and Predator comics I was reading from Dark Horse as opposed to Batman and Superman. Its origin via Slave Labor Graphics confirms this, and it does seem like it would have felt right at home with Eclipse or First Comics around this time. But I also know that Archie Goodwin, who was the editor, had a way of fostering talent and ideas like Vado’s. Sometimes it worked out, other times it didn’t.
It does work here, at least as far as the series goes (Vado’s Justice League work leaves quite a bit to be desired). The story takes it time to give us all of the characters and keeps the events grounded in a real world that has never seen a super hero before except on television. But instead of giving us some sort of ultra violent, ultra dark story, Vado and company leave enough wonder on the page for us to enjoy the book while also making sure that there are serious consequences for the characters’ actions. He also gives us a look into the aliens, which are so politically dysfunctional they might as well be our government. It’s a little bit of political intrigue and soft satire that is intriguing.
Art-wise, it’s solid. Felchle and McKenna do draw a main character who could have come from the Image Comics of a year or two later, yes, but the style is a little more DC house style of the time than Rob Liefeld clones. I see a litle bit of Mike Mignola and Joe Staton in their work, and they certainly make use of the page, with very few splashes and dynamic action throughout, which is beautifully colored by Steve Oliff.
This has the feel of the early 1990s, but not in that speculation boom way; instead, it feels like an early 1990s action movie or syndicated science fiction series. It would have made a fairly good one, too, and I’m glad I picked it up. I’m sure I’ll get more into depth if I ever decide to port it over to a podcast ep, but for now I recommend grabbing it if you see it.
Keep, sell, donate, or trash?