It was a great pleasure to receive the material below from one of the favored comics writers of my boyhood, and one of my favorite acquaintances as an adult — Don McGregor. His body of work surely needs no introduction (and if you’d dispute that because you’re late to the party, well, a quick Google search will quickly clue you in). Don asked me to insure his message got posted in this space, and I’m only too happy to follow through on that request. Without further ado, friends, I yield the floor to the 2015 recipient of the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing …
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
Copyright 2018 by Don McGregor
When Dean Mullaney first thrust his unique talent into the comics medium in the mid-1970s he helped open up the foundations of comics in a way few had done before, creating a place where writers were held in esteem, and where they could create stories that were unlike anything being published anywhere else.
He kept his word to writers and artists; he established an unprecedented variety of material in impeccable volumes that ranged in approach from science fiction to parody to operas translated into visual form, to adult mystery series. He certainly helped establish the foundations of the direct market and prove that comics could go where they had never been before.
Before Dean, I could never have created and written a Sabre, with an inter-racial couple at its center, a love story with explicit sexuality and romance. I could not have finally been able to bring back my private eyes, Ted Denning and Bob Rainier, and though I had gay characters waiting in the wings at Marvel, in Panther’s Rage, if I had tried to bring W’Kabi and Venomm out of the closet, it not only would have never gotten into print, it would quite possibly be the last book I wrote at the company in that time-frame.
I could bring gays into the world of comics in Sabre and Detectives Inc.
In terms of diversity, no one beat Dean Mullaney!
When he returned to comics later in his life, Dean once again came at it with a ferocity of belief in the medium, this time rather than opening up the artform for what it could do or be, he turned to preserving its history, and to doing it in volumes of books that would set the standard for how to publish comic strips — with hard covers, and thick paper, and book-marks, all throwbacks to the way books used to be done, for those who loved books.
In the 1980s the only comics I bought were NBM’s reprints of Terry and the Pirates, because, who knew, Dean Mullaney would come back into the comics midst and preserve all of Milton Caniff’s glorious twelve years in a labor of love. With Terry alone, Dean proved that the preservation of comics, the respect for the medium, would ensure that these treasures that shaped the very language and existence of comics would not be lost.
I have written about this before, but it really cannot be stressed enough, that though many pieces commend the preservation of film, the preservation of comics is equally important. And is no easy task.
Whenever I first experience one of these volumes from the Library of American Comics, I can’t help but smile. It is a pleasure not just to experience these treasures, but to know the time and labor and love that had to go into making them so outstandingly, beautifully reproduced.
And here’s a question for Bruce Canwell, one of the other guardians of this comic strip domain: What do you think, Bruce? Did Milton Caniff have it all planned in 1939 when he first had Big Stoop meet the Dragon Lady for the startling revelation? Did he plan it from the beginning? Or was it just before he came to writing and drawing the sequence that the startling idea came to him?
I never saw it coming.
Any of you?
If you haven’t read the six volumes of Terry and the Pirates, then all I can tell you is you need to order them now. They will be some of the best comics you’ll ever read.
Maybe it’s because Milt left Terry after a dozen years, and nothing could change those strips. They will always stand alone and apart and complete.
It’s like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean — gone young, their iconic images remaining, never changing, still powerful to many. Age didn’t change that look, the defining defiance and sexuality.
The same can be written about Terry and the Pirates!
But Dean Mullaney, he has made two distinct impacts on the visual world he loves: He helped open up the comics boundaries when he started, and he helped preserve in an unprecedented way the comics that developed not only the language of the drawn story, but established it as an enduring medium that people the world over would come to love.
Thank you, Dean.
From not just me, but all comics lovers!
June 5, 2018