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December 7, 2009

Ink Stains 7: Rick McCollum

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Written by: kenmeyerjr
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There were few minds as feverish or pens as prolific as Rick McCollum.  You will see why this artist and writer can arguably be given the mantle of the Kirby of the fanzine world!

New Wave Heroes 1-3, Superhero Terror 1-7, Omniman 9 and more

Creator and co-publisher: Rick McCollum


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If a case can be made for any creator frequenting the fanzines of a few decades ago to be as imaginative and prolific as the aforementioned King Kirby, that creator is Rick McCollum. I cannot remember if any of the zines featured here were the first time I saw his work, but they certainly point to someone who had no shortage of ideas, energy…or ink! His most often used inker, Bill Anderson, said McCollum’s work was “light years away from what everyone else was doing,” and that his pencils were “the best of both worlds, very tight but open to interpretation.” Frequent collaborator and publisher of Rick’s work, Matt Bucher, called the writing  “complex and wildly creative (some might even say hallucinogenic)” and the artwork  “visceral and compelling.” Artist Rafael Kayanan says of Rick’s work, “I always enjoyed his work even before I knew who was drawing it. I wish there was a collection of everything in a large volume somewhere. It was always unique, and I could look at his work all day – you can see the love of the material seeping through.” No one could produce that much work without loving what they were creating! Possibly like the artist himself, Rick’s male characters were rough, tough, often profane, and usually pretty darn hairy. He never squandered a chance to draw a virile, hairy chest! His women were buxom (but not Corben level buxom), mysterious, sultry, and sensual. He wasn’t afraid to throw a few F-bombs in the mix or show his hero on the porcelain throne. His stories felt drug fueled, sometimes Cthulu-esque, and yet he was also very good at keeping the story moving by successfully managing action sequences and fight scenes. And did I mention he was prolific? The pdfs available for you this time number a total of 120 pages of work that Rick created, wrote, penciled, lettered, and very often inked and published. This was in one year, 1981, and this is only a fraction of the work Rick McCollum produced in that year!

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Even the names of Rick’s characters (sometimes in collaboration with Matt Bucher) were visceral. Rage. Horde. Styx. Slaughter. Slyph. Karnevil (seen above). His prose could be ornate and literate in one panel, then grimy and guttural in the next. From page one and two of Superhero Terror 7:

“To reach the world called Vatican 800, you must pass by an armada of huge dreadnoughts and orbital defense satellites. On the surface, every inch, are populated palaces and shiny towers, populated by diplomats, bishops, admirals, prostitutes, philosophers and warriors. In its bowels are brothels, catacombs, and dark dungeons, filled with protestants, heretics, aliens, the discontent and the damned.”

McCollum was not afraid to take on organized religion, race relations, politics, psychedelic scenery, and any other number of subjects not usually seen in professional comics, much less its often simple and sophomoric bastard step child – fanzines. Through it all, he advanced his story lines and kept the action fast and frenetic. As Bucher observed, most of  McCollum’s publications ads featured the standard tag-line,  “You must be 18, or willing to lie about it.” His comics were definitely not aimed toward the Disney crowd or the Marvel zombies (though several of his characters could be considered Marvel-esque).

In the selections I have scanned and assembled for this column, you will read adventures featuring all the characters mentioned above.  You will be able to read two exclusive but connected series, as well as an issue of Matt Bucher’s Omniman (issue 9) where Rick did all tasks save inking a few select pages. While being wrapped up in the stories, you may notice a somewhat Kirby-esque, simple but dynamic visual command of the human figure, and inventive (but never distracting) layouts. You may also notice a few severed heads, an exposed breast now and then, and some crazy mystical shenanigans. One thing you won’t be feeling is bored. You will see some beautifully clean inking by Bill Anderson, and some on the job training by yours truly. You won’t, however, be slowed down by over rendering, because Rick was not interested in that. Though some of his backgrounds could be geometrically intricate, he was mainly interested in propelling the story forward.

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I sincerely wish I could have found Rick to get the juicy truth right from the creator’s mouth, but though I tried, I just could not track him down. I did locate two self-penned short bios from him, seen below. First, from a 1982 interview:

“I’m 27 years old. Married, two kids. The oldest is named Ragnar. I got a B.A. degree in the College of Design, Architecture, and Art, from the University of Cincinnati. I’m now working towards a Master’s in Art History. Every six months or so I go on a painting binge. So far, I’ve been in several art shows. I’m constantly reading. I’m very interested in theology and metaphysics. Karnevil is my attempt to bring God and Christ into real blood-and-guts tales as major characters.”

And from 1991:

“Born in 1954 with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati, Rick McCollum has been many things: janitor, bartender, bouncer, rent-a-cop, freelance designer, Montessori teacher. Now a graphic artist for the City of Cincinnati, Rick has continued his perverse affair with comics. He is married to science fiction author Paula Robinson.”

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You will definitely see Rick’s work again in this column. At some point, I am going to profile Matt Bucher’s galactic superhero saga, Starslayers. Of Rick’s involvement in that series, Bucher says, “The brilliant Rick McCollum provided artwork and an uncredited story assist, injecting surrealism and near-poetry into my more conventional story.”  Artist Ben Adams compares Rick to a few well known professional writers below:

“There were a lot of ‘fanboy made good’ types like Roy Thomas and Paul Levitz writing for Marvel and DC in those days — people who frequently had many letters of comment published in Marvel and DC titles and had near encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel and DC continuity. Many of these writers just didn’t seem to me to be capable of writing anything that seemed as fresh and new as, say, the Fantastic Four did in 1961. Many superhero comics seemed stagnant because they were becoming too inbred — i.e., they were written by people who didn’t know anything other than superhero comics.

After reading Rick’s work and interviews with him, I got the impression that a discussion with him in which superheroes were entirely off-limits would be an interesting one. According to an interview he did for Omniman Spectacular,  I got the impression that he had suffered through some hard knocks, experienced real pain in his life, and that he was using his comics work to wrestle with his personal demons. The impression made him far more compelling to me than many [professional] comics creators. I know that he had studied art history, painting, and religion and that he was very interested in classical literature and metaphysics — a superhero comics creator with this kind of background who proudly showed it off in his work seemed very unusual and intriguing to me.

When I discovered Rick’s work, I had access to many superhero comics, but I didn’t know of many deeply personal, highly literate, and highly idiosyncratic ones like his. This is why I still remember his work but have forgotten many other superhero comics from this period. His work stands out in the same way that the best superhero comics work of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Steve Gerber stands out.

Ultrazine Special #7 ended up being my introduction to Rick’s comics work, but the Rage origin story in Ultrazine Special #8 was the story that really caused me to fall in love with his work — it was a complete and total home run.”

McCollum  appears in many other fanzines, including previous Ink Stains subject No Sex. He contributed to over a hundred fanzines in a 15 year period, and was poised to garner more mainstream exposure during his series Screaming Masks for Tundra, but the company fell apart at just the wrong time. During the black and white comic books of the late 80s, Rick worked for small companies such as Comico, Fantaco, Pyramid, Wormhole, White Wolf, and Crystal. He did manage to do a few issues of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as three issues of Turtle Soup, but not long after that, he seemed to disappear from the mainstream comic scene, contributing only to lesser known areas, such as Fantagraphics Eros line titles like Darker Side of Sex and Come Again.

Thanks to Bill Anderson for a few  McCollum pieces from the pre-release Screaming Masks portfolio from Tundra, one of which you see below, and the others you can see here.

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You can see a large, but by no means exhaustive list of Rick McCollum’s work here. And keep in mind, most of these appearances were not single illustrations, but full stories (and also usually with Rick doing his usual one man band act). Rick’s amazing and prolific presence will be missed by myself and, I suspect, many other comic enthusiasts. For now, please download the pdfs here.

Thanks this time out go to Matt Bucher, Rafael Kayanan, Richard Krauss, Rick Bradford, Ben Adams, and Bill Anderson. Rick, if you are out there…come back, Rick, come back!

Ben Adams’s site can be seen here.

In two weeks, please return for a great double feature! Two issues of Wally Wood’s Witzend, featuring such greats as Frazetta, Crandall, Wrightson, Spegielman, Kurtzman, Bode, Morrow, Ditko and more!

Ken Meyer Jr.
ken@comicattack.net

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20 Comments



  1. Once again, great article Ken! I appreciate your many quotes and insightful quips!

    I like how McCollum wasn’t afraid to give his social commentary on what may otherwise have been considered too taboo for anyone else at the time. What work did he do for White Wolf? Also, I didn’t know that Turtle Soup ran more than one issue! Do you know when they came out? The one I’m thinking of was from 1987.

    “Born in 1954 with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati, Rick McCollum has been many things: janitor, bartender, bouncer, rent-a-cop, freelance designer, Montessori teacher.” Nice to see he did what he had to to generate a cash flow and still make art!

    Oh, and Karnevil looks BAD ASS!!



  2. Yeah, Rick was a force to be reckoned with…I often wonder why he didn’t make it bigger in the majors…and where he is now. To be honest, I don’t know much about the Turtle stuff he did. But check that link for that ‘exhaustive list’ as there are dates there.


  3. Bill Anderson

    Great article, Ken! Just a couple minor corrections: that color piece was actually a title page of a chapter from a story called Sander Hall Funnies, which was intended to be serialized in the comic-book sized version of Horde (which Rick had previously published in digest-sized fanzine format). We only managed to get out the first issue, which contained 2 chapters of the story and some unrelated tales. The other pieces at the link are from Screaming Masks, as you mentioned.

    And secondly, what Tundra published wasn’t a portfolio, but a comic-book sized sketchbook (one of a series they published featuring many different artists).



  4. Bill, thank you for reading and for the corrections…I appreciate it!


  5. Matt B

    Excellent, Ken! And what a treat to read some of Rick’s work that I’ve never seen before. BTW, the only person who might’ve been as productive as Rick in 1981 is Bill Anderson, who was cranking out beautiful pages with many other pencilers (Willie Peppers, Steve Brooks, etc) that year.


  6. nick alenikov

    Wow, this is a really nice article about one of my fan favorite artists, rick was surely a man ahead of his time or at least the times that we live in. I would really like to know what he’s been up.
    Cheers
    Nick



  7. Matt, did you not see that Bill posted just a few posts above you? Come on, man! I am going to profile Ultrazine/Omniman at some point in the future…will let you know when…probably because I will be sending you a bunch of questions!

    Nick, you and me both.



  8. Thanks for another great article Ken! Very nice sampling of artwork as well, many I’ve never seen before. Thanks also for the link to the zinography!

    It’s still possible to pick-up several of his books like Ashley Dust, Dark Regions, and the Tundra Sketchbook Series #6 (Screaming Masks) at very reasonable prices.


  9. billy

    Wow, the dude seems like he is a real trailblazer. Good article KM.



  10. Thanks, Richard and Billy. Hope everyone downloads those pdfs!



  11. Hi Ken —

    Thanks for a a great column about a great comics creator. Keep up the good work with Ink Stains.

    I, too, have wondered why Rick didn’t end up being bigger in the comics industry than he was.

    In the OMNIMAN SPECTACULAR interview, Matt Bucher asked him if he was interested in working for Marvel, DC, or Eclipse. He basically said he had too many other interests to pursue, and that he didn’t have enough time.

    I can’t help but think he could have really gone places during the mid-80s boom either self-publishing or working for an outfit like Eclipse, First Comics, or Comico.

    He’s obviously someone who needs a lot of creative freedom. I really don’t see him getting along well with Jim Shooter (*ROFLMAO*), so I doubt ’80s Marvel would have been a good home for him. BUT …. why didn’t he have a long run on a title like Ostrander and Truman’s run on GRIMJACK, Matt Wagner’s run on GRENDEL, or Chaykin’s run on AMERICAN FLAGG? He could have done great things.

    I know he got divorced in the early ’80s and that his output slowed down dramatically because of this. Maybe that had something to do with it.

    It’s totally understandable why he doesn’t do many comics now, since the direct market is so much smaller and there are fewer opportunities to make much money. I’d still love to see some new work from him or at least hear what he’s been up to.

    Maybe he’ll Google himself at some point, find this column, and post a reply.



  12. Great bunch of comments, Ben, thanks for writing. You are so right when you mention things like Grimjack…and I sure hope Rick does do the vanity trip and google himself, finding himself here!


  13. Rick McCollum

    Maybe I should do the vanity thing once in a while. My sister found INK STAINS and forwarded it to me. I’m very flattered, thank you very much. I was very pleased to see Bill get some credit, he worked very hard on making my stuff look good. I’ve been out of the art world for a few years now due to a combination of disgust over the comics market and personal issues. I’ve spent the time studying everything from gnosticism to evolution. I’m in the process of slowly reopening my studio, I’ve worked out a stand-alone issue of ASHLEY DUST I’ll be beginning soon. Plus tons of other ideas, of course. I’ve a lot more I could add regarding that nice article and other stuff but I’m pressed for time right now. If anyone wants to write me back at the above address I’d be happy to respond. Thanks again!



  14. What above address, Rick??? I would love to see how you are doing and have done over the years…if you come back to see this, send me an email, fer cryin out loud!



  15. […] forget, I did a whole Ink Stains column dedicated to the feverish creations of Rick McCollum (one of his inked pages […]


  16. Scotty Henderson

    Just came across this article while looking for something else. I’ve known Rick virtually for about 15 years, first introduced to him through the pages of REHupa, the Robert E Howard United Press Association amateur press group. Rick is a big REH lover, like me, and he always did his contributions comic style, hand lettered with copious illo’s. Always a pleasure to read his stuff and drool over his illustrations, related of course to Howard’s writings, which was always a treat. The above samples are in the same vein as the ones I’m familiar with, so one might say he has a definitive style, easily recognizable against the plethora of same-old. Thanks for the insight into his background, of which I was only partly aware.



  17. Scotty, thanks for reading…I loved Rick’s stuff way back then…wish he had an outlet now!


  18. Chris Hudson

    I’m his sister a x know how to terack him down if you are interested


    • ken meyer jr

      Hey, Chris, that would be great! Please send an email to me at kenmeyerjr@yahoo.com



  19. Hey, I just got made hip to Rick’s work via this article. Thank you so much for putting all of those pdf’s together this made my week.



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