Some people call this the golden age of comics, and for good reason. Sure there’s great new comics on the shelves everyday, but there’s real gold in the decades of previously out-of-print comics that are being collected by publishers in recent years. One such publisher bringing these fondly-remembered characters back onto shelves is Dark Horse, who have recently revived the classic titles of the 60s and 70s publisher Gold Key with revamps as well as full color, hardcover collections of the original classic stories. Recently, Dark Horse brings back the Mighty Samson.
Mighty Samson came out in the early 1960s as one of several apocalyptic titles of the day, depicting a desolate Earth after some unnamed tragedy with only sparse remembrances of the days that came before. In the case of Mighty Samson, the book took place in a far flung future in an area known as “N’Yark”, tipping its hat to New York. The titular character of Samson was a barbarian of sorts, larger than most other humans of the day – and stronger as well. In this futuristic world, there is a menagerie of monsters, including a ‘liobear’ (picture that!) that gouges out his eye early on in the series.Mighty Samson was created by Otto Binder (Captain Marvel) and Frank Thorne (Red Sonja), who wrote and illustrated the first six issues. After Thorne’s departure, Jack Sparling took up the book for twelve issues, followed by Jose Delbo and Jack Abel. The book went for a total of thirty-two issues, but was interrupted by several hiatuses. Dark Horse’s Mighty Samson Archives is he first time the complete series will be collected in one place. Newsarama recently talked with DH Editor Philip R. Simon, who edited this and many of the other archive books.
Newsarama: Philip. what do you think makes the Mighty Samson stories here from the 60s hold up in the modern day?
Philip R. Simon: They're so refreshing in how fun they are and in the risks they take. Mighty Samson isn't trying to be anything else than a romp. It's not looking at other comics and trying to emulate any pathos, continuing mythos, or drama -- it really, very simply, enjoys itself and its own odd world.
Nrama: What stands out to you personally about those old Otto Binder stories?
Simon: I've always been entertained by the imaginative, completely unrealistic "animal merging" in the Mighty Samson comics. Since this is a nonsensical, radioactive future, many animals have merged or mutated into ridiculous creatures that Samson must fight and defend weakling humans against -- half gorilla/half gator beasts, the Spider-saurus, giant moles with eyes of blinding light, dinosaurs with long octopus arms -- those kinds of things. Also, the fact that the creative teams chose to throw even the most basic rules of science, really, out the window while creating their own rules to their world makes the stories incredibly fun and unpredictable.
Due to the printing restraints at the time, you won't see full bleed pages or spread pages or crazy panel experimentation, but there's so much going on in the action sequences and in the writing. The original Mighty Samson comics are just fearless and fun -- colorful, humorous, bold storytelling -- when compared to most modern superhero comics.
Nrama: For people that haven’t heard of Mighty Samson, how would you describe Samson and his stories?Simon: Imagine the mentality of Shane O'Shea's insane Herbie humor stories, but mixed into a Mad Max-style apocalyptic New York setting. Mighty Samson packs unrealistic action and imaginative creatures and situations into tight, fun stories set in a radioactive future.
Nrama: How are you getting these back in print ? Do you have the original pages, or are you shooting from old comics, or what?
Simon: We've found that with the technology at our disposal and with the time that we have on each project, scanning the original pages (often with several copies of the same comic on-hand to get the best possible source) and cleaning up things like broken or faded lettering and ugly bleed-through images is the best approach. That's what we're doing with the Mighty Samson and Doctor Spektor archival programs.
Nrama I’ve read that you’re also switching to a different paperstock for this, which makes a lot of difference when it comes to reprinting older material like this. Is that so?
Simon: Yes. I was able to get approval to switch to an uncoated, cream-colored paper on these books, which I think will help the pages out, since a lot of the charming, original "warts" will still be seen throughout the stories -- things like color shifts, legible-but-awkward lettering, oddly-cut color blocks, and pages that look a tad off-register.
Nrama: Are you doing any sort of Ted Turner Technicolor to it, or leaving it the way it was originally published?
Simon: By no means are we recoloring the work with modern tools, but we do look over each page with the original comics on hand. Our digital touch is light, but we try to make sure that eyesores, glitches, and bleed-throughs don't ruin the reading experience.
Nrama: Samson is in line to be relaunched in Dark Horse’s new Gold Key line written by Jim Shooter. Are you involved with that at all to talk about it?Simon: I'm not involved at all right now, but if that program ever opens up and allows new editors to enter the ring and fight for titles, I'd be very eager to wrestle for new Samson and Spektor comics. Right now, Senior Books Editor Chris Warner has been working closely with Mike Richardson, Dark Horse's publisher, and with lead writer Jim Shooter on all of the new Gold Key hero titles. They're keeping the amount of cooks in the kitchen to a minimum, which makes sense. Too many cooks can stall a project or ruin its energy. So I'm working on most of the classic, original material -- getting hardcover reprint programs rolling for Mighty Samson and Doctor Spektor and getting affordable trade versions of our previous hardcover editions of Doctor Solar and Magnus, Robot Fighter rolling, too. Randy Stradley, who's very fond of the Turok character, is in charge of our Turok, Son of Stone hardcover reprint program.
Nrama: Will Dark Horse be collected the complete Mighty Sampson series, including those Tom Morrow backups in #7-20?
Simon: We only have the rights to collect the Mighty Samson material, unfortunately, but I'm including as many bonuses that I can, including the informational one-pagers, those Mighty Samson educational pages about America's history, and fan pages featuring monster drawings for Samson's world. Tom Morrow may get his own collection one day, though.Nrama: How many issues will this first collection contain?
Simon: Mighty Samson Archives Volume 1 collects the first six issues, with an introduction by Dylan Williams. Volume 2 will collect issue #s 7 to 14, with an introduction by Paul Tobin. Volume 3 will collect issue #s 15 to 24, and our final volume will collect issue #s 25 to the end of the run, issue #31, since issue #32 reprints Mighty Samson #3. We're also including the Mighty Samson "Night Glowers" story and the Samson cover from Gold Key Champion #2 in our final volume.