Creator Profile: Jeff Parker

Creator Profile: Jeff Parker by Jerry Whitworth

 

Likely best known for his work in revitalizing nostalgic franchises for the modern day such as Agents of Atlas, Batman ’66, and Future Quest (featuring Hanna-Barbera’s action heroes), writer/artist Jeff Parker has been working in the field of comics since the mid-90s including creator-owned projects like Interman (2003), Underground, Bucko, and Meteor Men (2014). Raised in Burlington, North Carolina, Parker became a fan of comics while working for his father’s grocery store Chuck’s Curb Market (Chuck being Jeff’s grandfather). When he wasn’t busy racking redeemed soda bottles, Parker sat on the Coca Cola cooler next to a “Hey Kids, Comics!” spinner rack consuming titles from the likes of DC, Marvel, Fawcett, Harvey, Archie, and Gold Key (as well as Warren magazines on a nearby shelf featuring Vampirella and The Spirit). For Parker, Fawcett’s Dennis the Menace drew him in to Hot Stuff the Little Devil, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Uncle Scrooge, and, of course, superheroes like Batman and Spider-Man. Almost instantly, Parker began making his own comics foreshadowing his future career. In later years, Parker would count among his inspirations Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad magazine, Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin, and the works of Alan Moore and Alex Toth. Parker chose to matriculate at East Carolina University where he dual majored in English Literature and Communications. In his studies, he came to understand other heroes from literature by examining the likes of the Knights of the Round Table and Beowulf. While in college, Parker contributed to the school newspaper The East Carolinian producing comic strips, editorial cartoons, and reviews of local bands. However, Parker would also get his break in the comic industry around that same time.

 

A self-taught artist, Jeff Parker would network at conventions and contribute free work for Caliber Comics including its anthology series Negative Burn. In 1994, Parker co-inked the pencils of Casey Jones along with Craig Gilmore for Edward Martin III’s three-page story “The Calculus Test.” While in college, Parker helped found Artamus Studios in Hillsborough, NC which counted among its number the creator’s Negative Burn collaborator Craig Gilmore as well as Mike Wieringo, Scott Hampton, Richard Case, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, Chris Kemple, and John Lowe. His first assignment to emerge from Artamus (thanks to Scott’s brother Bo) was in 1993 to draw an inventory Vampirella story for Harris Comics (slated for that character’s eighth issue) that did not see print. Parker also contributed the character “Kasey Venus” to Majestic Entertainment’s Comics Future Stars 1993 trading card series (which came about by simply answering Majestic’s call at Artamus). Trying to attract some attention to his work, Parker included some of his samples with the art his fellow creators sent out to their editors. Parker provided fill-in art for Wonder Woman where DC was willing to try out new artists as the book seemingly sold the same regardless of who drew it. The creator’s sample strategy would pay off when his Fantastic Four art he included with some of Lowe’s work ended up in the hands of editor Hank Kanalz at Malibu Comics. Parker would draw the eight-page story “Quite Contrary” for Giant-Size Freex #1 in the summer of 1994 and come the fall, Parker contributed to Solitaire #7 before taking over pencil duties from J.B. Jones moving forward. Sadly, this ongoing work came to an abrupt end within a few short months with the so-called “Marvelcution.”

 

Following the collapse of the speculator comic market in 1994, Malibu was struggling financially and was bought out by Marvel Comics who then axed the staff. For a time, Marvel would employ aspects of Malibu under its own umbrella but by 1996, Marvel itself was trying to keep from its own collapse (Jeff Parker would contribute a pin-up of Solitaire and Black Panther for the one-shot Battlezones: Dream Team2 – Marvel vs. Malibu). Parker struggled to find work, his most regular assignment was contributions to DC imprint Paradox Press’ The Big Book Of series. In 1995, the artist penciled Justice League America Annual #9 (which teamed Parker with his frequent Malibu collaborator Gerard Jones) and counted a pin-up of Zatanna in Martian Manhunter Special #1, some art for the one-shot Xavier Institute Alumni Yearbook, and the art duties for The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Special #2 (which was mail-order exclusive through Honey Nut Cheerios via Dark Horse Comics) as his workload for 1996. DC Comics editor Jim Higgins kept trying to find Parker work but Paradox founder and editor Andy Helfer kept shooting down his pitches as being too complicated. Becoming a delivery driver who, in his free time, worked on his own creation Interman, Parker inevitably reached out to his former Malibu editor Phil Crain who had gone on to work for Sony Animation. Given a try-out with some storyboard clean-up, Parker was hired and, in 1999, moved to Los Angeles.

 

Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot would be adapted for animated television by Sony and aired for two seasons on the Fox Kids programming block. Jeff Parker would work as a clean-up artist before being promoted to storyboard on the series and performed a similar task for commercials and music videos (the artist would be invited to storyboard for Futurama but was afraid it would have a short run and turned it down). Parker also continued his work for comics having contributed to titles like Deception, Heroic Tales, Fallout, Robin, Batgirl, JLA-Z, Tales of the Vampires, Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, Suspended in Language, Vampirella, Four Letter Worlds, and Detective Comics. It would be his creator-owned work, however, that would make waves. Noted earlier, Parker spent over four years of his spare time working on a passion project called The Interman. By 2002, he made the decision to finish the book. Shopping the story around, DC and Dark Horse demonstrated interest, but they were still recovering from the market implosion and were unwilling to risk publishing the graphic novel of a relative unknown. So, Parker gambled on himself to create his own publishing company and make Interman his first production. Originally calling his company Beast, at the behest of a retailer friend who felt that name would place him in undesired company in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Previews, Parker officially formed Octopus Press and became a client of Ford Lytle Gilmore’s burgeoning Illuminati Entertainment (Gilmore formerly being the vice president for development at television production company Goodman/Rosen Productions). Before Parker could even publish Interman, Gilmore felt the project had so much potential that he shopped around its black and white galleys. Following the success of the film Road to Perdition (2002), movie studios realized the potential of even non-superhero comic book adaptations and Interman was quickly optioned by Paramount for Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Motion Pictures to be made into a feature film. The news generated a lot of buzz and suddenly saw Parker drawing attention from the likes of Entertainment Weekly (who later made the comic one of the earliest graphic novels they ever reviewed).

 

Originally envisioned as a four-part mini-series, Jeff Parker published The Interman as a single graphic novel (given the growing popularity of trade paperback collections). Parker would also make the gamble to publish his book in full color (which was virtually unheard of at the time for a self-publisher), feeling it was necessary to capture his vision (having extensively pored over geographical imagery for its backgrounds). Jill Powell, Parker’s wife, would aid with the coloring process. Its story features Van Meach, a man who takes on seemingly impossible assignments for a price, who is the product of a believed failed program to create superhumans called the Interman Project. Described as an “adapter,” Meach can adapt to his environment and situation which makes him so good at what he does. It was believed all of the subjects used to create adapters died and when the powers behind the Interman Project learn of Meach’s existence, a contract is placed on his head drawing out the most dangerous assassins from around the globe. Among these killers, the mysterious Outcault and Ukrainian agent May stand out from their counterparts as Meach is aided in his fight by naturalist Dr. Richard Keele and Rajani Sirraman (whose father headed up the Project). Parker admittedly drew inspiration for Interman from his love of Jonny Quest which he watched as a child (as well as ideas he conceived when he was sought by Dark Horse to work on their Jonny Quest comics only to be denied by Hanna-Barbera due to his “classic” take on the franchise). Parker would also draw inspiration from the writings of Trevanian and Michael Crichton and the film Three Days of the Condor (1975).

 

To promote his book, Jeff Parker went on a grueling convention schedule believing the best way to sell this work was to simply expose people to it. This process was made that much more difficult by the loss of his mother (who he based Rajani Sirraman’s mother upon) and the birth of his first child Allison who was born in the midst of convention season. Interestingly enough, most of the book’s sales would come from libraries. In 2004, The Interman was selected by the American Library Association (ALA) as one of the best works of fiction for young adults. Other authors to win such an honor that year included J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Marjane Satrapi, and Craig Thompson. Baker & Taylor, who sell extensively to public libraries, would purchase the most of Parker’s printed run. During Parker’s busy 2003, he also began work on another project in the all-ages Li’l Legends featuring juvenile Roman gods he co-created with Chip Carter and promoted on a mini-site. And, after four years of living in Los Angeles, he decided to move to Portland, Oregon where he has remained since. With the move, Parker would join Mercury Studio, founded in 2002 as the largest professional comic book studio in the country. With Parker’s membership, the Studio featured eleven full time artists including Drew Johnson, Terry Dodson, Karl Kesel, Matthew Clark, Rebecca and Pete Woods, Paul Guinan, Steve Lieber, Ron Randall, and David Hahn (where Terri Nelson, Colleen Coover, Jesse Hamm, and Dylan Meconis joined soon after). The studio would continue to expand and grow changing to Periscope in 2007 and Helioscope in 2016 (with close to three dozen members today). Following Parker’s busy 2003 and 2004 (not to mention the birth of his son Stephen Reid), the creator would begin to pick up traction at Marvel Comics.

 

Over the years, Jeff Parker had worked for editor Mark Paniccia at various points in time. In 2005, Paniccia was put in charge of Marvel Adventures, an all-ages line of comics aimed at younger readers without binding continuity. Paniccia offered a ten-page fill-in story to Parker to write for the MA: Spider-Man series after seeing his ten-page work “Ape Company” from the series Heroic Tales (Parker had given Paniccia a copy which he didn’t read until his move to Marvel). The writer decided to pen a team-up between Spider-Man and the Human Torch who tackled the Kirby monster Goom that, due to the actions of Torch, only spoke in hip-hop lingo. Reportedly, the story slayed editors working in the office who openly read aloud the dialogue to each other. When writer Akira Yoshida abruptly abandoned MA: Fantastic Four, Parker was brought in to finish his script for the second issue before coming on as the series ongoing writer. After eleven issues (and a Harvey award nomination for Best New Series), Parker moved from writing Fantastic Four to the new series MA: The Avengers which he had three runs working on (issues 1-4, 9-16, and 24-29). While Parker was busy on Marvel Adventures, he also found time to publish, via Octopus Press, Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book (2006) featuring the letters Alex Toth mailed to John Hitchcock, owner and proprietor of comic book store Parts Unknown in Greensboro, NC (as Hitchcock supplied Toth with his favorite brand of cigarettes). Toth would sadly pass away before the book saw print (though he did see a galley and offer his approval prior to his death) as the title would be nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Comic Book Related Book. Parker also continued work on a 32-page sequel to Interman called Interman Zero with Tomm Coker (as New Line Cinema picked up the film rights). It would be around this time period Marvel editors were looking for pitches for a new Doc Samson series. Deciding to submit a pitch, Parker approached Paniccia about doing a Doc Samson more in the vein of its Doc Savage roots he was originally intended toward called “Doc Samson and the Mysteries of the Universe.” Parker’s pitch made it to the final three considered before the editors decided to go with Paul Di Filippo. However, Paniccia really liked the pulp-flavor of Parker’s concept and decided to challenge him with another idea. The editor had recently come across the cover for What If? #9 which introduced the concept of a “Secret Avengers” formed in the 1950s featuring Marvel Boy, 3-D Man, Venus, Gorilla-Man, and the Human Robot. Paniccia wanted Parker to come up with a pitch that involved those characters. Parker returned with Agents of Atlas.

 

For the premise of Agents of Atlas, special agent Jimmy Woo assembled a team of superheroes in the 1950s to rescue President Dwight Eisenhower from Woo’s greatest foe Yellow Claw. Made up of Marvel Boy, Venus, Gorilla-Man, and the Human Robot, the team was called the G-Men that proved to be successful and remain together for some time. However, the government didn’t feel the world was ready for such a group and they were disbanded and adventures classified. Years later, Woo came to work for SHIELD and continued to investigate Claw’s organization the Atlas Foundation eventually re-teaming with his old comrades (as well as Namora who Woo approached to join in the past but was turned down). While editors loved Jeff Parker’s pitch, heading up a relatively new franchise was challenging as the initial script went through six versions before editor Tom Brevoort approved it. Several artists were approached to pair with Parker including Peter Snejberg and Paul Rivoche before securing Leonard Kirk who both had the ability to convey the story and its characters and who was available. The project proved cathartic for Parker who had recently lost his father as the series featured an elderly Woo being near death and both revived and rejuvenated back to his more youthful state. There was a big push by Marvel to promote the book, going beyond press with an alternate reality game known as Temple of Atlas that was conceived by Parker. Bringing various comic websites, shops, and conventions into the mix, players solved puzzles to receive Parker penned prose stories. Agents of Atlas would be highly lauded, earning distinctions like issue of the week (for its second issue) and book of the month by Wizard magazine at a time when the industry was in the midst of Marvel’s Civil War and DC’s One Year Later and 52 (as Atlas‘ hardcover collection was nominated for an Eisner in Best Graphic Album – Reprint). After the end of the mini-series, members of the G-Men would pop-up in various books like Marvel Adventures: The Avengers (which Parker continued to work on), Spider-Man Family, Secret Invasion, and another series Parker was tasked with.

 

While Jeff Parker was busy with Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, Agents of Atlas, and various other projects like Marvel Westerns: Western Legends and What If? Avengers Disassembled, the creator was tasked with tackling an eight-issue limited series exploring the earlier years of the X-Men. Entitled X-Men: First Class, the series was like his Marvel Adventures work in that each issue featured a standalone story and was all-ages but diverged in that these stories must fit almost excruciatingly into established continuity. By the end of its run, it had proved so popular that it spawned a special and an ongoing series written by Parker that lasted sixteen issues with an additional giant-size Halloween special (not to mention various spin-offs that went to other members of Marvel’s staff). The series subsequently returned again with Parker for a four-issue mini-series in X-Men: First Class Finals in 2009 which chronicled the team’s final days leading up to their fateful encounter on Krakoa. Fox would in a manner reboot their X-Men film franchise with X-Men: First Class in 2011. And while Parker was still busy with MA: The Avengers, X-Men: First Class, and Agents of Atlas, one of the Marvel Adventures editors in MacKenzie Cadenhead had gone on to work for Virgin Comics (a subsidiary of Virgin Records) and approached Parker about doing a project for the company. After a phone call with Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Parker began producing work for Virgin, first on the six-issue Dave Stewart’s Walk In and then the second series of Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper in 2008. The experience proved to be surreal for Parker as very little effort was placed in promoting the comics (so far as not even soliciting release dates) who felt the product was little more than a property that could be perhaps transitioned across another medium. Parker had written a Gamekeeper prequel that was in the process of being drawn when Virgin Comics closed its doors.

 

Having developed a reputation of Marvel’s go-to creator for all-ages work thanks to his success in Marvel Adventures and X-Men: First Class, Jeff Parker would scribe a four-issue mini-series called Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four teaming the famous heroes. Parker was joined by his close friend and fellow Artamus alumni Mike Wieringo who illustrated the project. Sadly, the series would be one of Wieringo’s final works as he passed away suddenly in 2007. On the day of Wieringo’s passing, Parker had received a page of art from his friend for their next project, a What If? featuring Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider as the Fantastic Four. Parker had spoken to Wieringo over the phone only hours prior to what happened. Wieringo had completed seven pages for the book which Marvel donated to the charity Hero Initiative as artists from across the industry donated work to finish the story so that it could raise money for a good cause in their fallen brother’s name. The book was released as a tribute in 2008. Parker remained busy at Marvel, contributing to his aforementioned books as well Mystic Arcana, a What If? based on 1987’s Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, Hulk: Raging Thunder (introducing the Hulk and Thundra’s daughter Lyra), Monster-Size Hulk (featuring Hulk vs Frankenstein’s Monster) and the Silver Age inspired The Age of Sentry mini-series. Near the end of 2008, however, Parker would get the opportunity to return to something close to his heart.

 

It seemed fairly clear that while sales of Agents of Atlas didn’t break any records, it’s staying power was impressive. People kept talking about it and buying its trade collection. It also seemed like every time Jeff Parker’s name appeared on something big like Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?, the Agents of Atlas were sure to appear. Such was the case with Dark Reign: New Nation. When it was announced Parker was attached to the book, speculation began of the creator’s superteam putting in an appearance. And, sure enough, when preview art dropped, the Agents were there. But even before that title emerged, a digital exclusive comic came seemingly out of the blue. Marvel Digital started up in 2005 as an online resource for older comics. By 2007, it was adding new comics but with a mandated six month delay to protect retailers. However, by the following year it also became home to web-exclusive comics. And near the end of 2008, one of its earliest announced exclusive comics was the three-issue Wolverine: Agent of Atlas by Parker and Benton Jew. Revealed to the public only thirty days before its initial issue was released, the series followed an encounter between the G-Men and Wolverine set in the late 1950s. And while the team was in the past interacting with the mysterious Logan, they would take center stage in a short story in Dark Reign: New Nation where they rob Fort Knox bringing them into the purview of the director of SHIELD, Norman Osborn (who planned to use the reserve to finance clandestine weapons). This event lead directly into their new ongoing series two months later as the team plays the part of supervillains in order to oppose Osborn and his corruption. The series would run for eleven issues (not including an issue zero collecting previous short stories) before being relaunched as simply Atlas following Marvel’s Heroic Age rebranding. In between the relaunch, Parker produced the two-issue series X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas, a crossover in Thunderbolts, a five-part back-up Agents series in Incredible Hercules, a three-part Marvel Boy: The Uranian series, and a four-part Avengers vs. Atlas series. Soon after the start of Atlas, Parker also wrote a Namora one-shot. However, the creator pulled the plug on the relaunched Atlas series after five issues as its sales began to slide. This opened the door for Parker to write Gorilla-Man in Deadpool Team-Up, Venus to appear in Chaos War, and Parker to pen a three-issue Gorilla-Man mini-series featuring the character’s tumultuous history. In 2011, Brian Michael Bendis would create an Avengers 1959 and Tom Taylor penned Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas in 2015. While Parker was heading up the return of his Agents, he would also spread his creative wings.

 

Ben Abernathy, an editor for DC Comics’ imprint WildStorm, approached Jeff Parker about creating a series under their umbrella. So was born Mysterius The Unfathomable. An unlikable stage magician from the turn of the twentieth century, Mysterius learned true magic and how to stall the aging process by stealing the life of others as he started to battle the occult for a price. The series was an opportunity for Parker to work with his friend and fellow artist Tom Fowler whom he had admired for his work on Mad (and who Marvel passed over for Parker’s delayed 1602: The Web Complete). Mysterius would be one of the last series WildStorm published before it shut down in 2010 (only to return about a year later). Parker would begin to irregularly produce a column for the website Comic Book Resources called “Writer vs. Artist” with his collaborators beginning with Fowler at this point. Around this time, Parker would also find the opportunity to produce a comic with his close friend Steve Lieber. While on a train ride, Lieber read an article about caving and conceptualized a story around it that he published in the Image anthology Four Letter Worlds in 2005 (a book which also included Parker’s tale “Bear”). However, Lieber wanted to expand the story and, in speaking with Parker, something bigger was conceived. Between Parker and Lieber’s separate busy schedules, it would take several years before they found time to finally produce this expansion in the 2009 mini-series Underground. Therein, a small Kentucky town wants to open up its beautiful Stillwater Cave to the public which leads to a dangerous confrontation between the townfolk and park rangers Wesley Fisher and Seth Ridge who must then fight for their lives inside the deep, dark cave. About six months after a trade paperback collecting Underground was published, most of the work was posted as a PDF file on the image-based message board 4chan by a frustrated fan of the book who wanted more people to know about it. Learning of the post, Lieber posted in the thread asking if anyone had questions about the title rather than trying to have it taken down. In a move that garnered a bit of news, sales of the work went up prompting Parker and Lieber to post the book online for free with links to buy a physical copy or make a donation. Long after the move, people continued to make donations via this method. Parker’s 2009 remained busy at Marvel as the author relaunched Exiles and penned mini-series Dark Reign: The Hood and 1602: The Web Complete. It would be towards the end of 2009, though, when Parker tackled his next big franchise at the company.

 

Created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley in 1997, Thunderbolts featured the Masters of Evil in the guise of superheroes. Given the absence of the Avengers following Heroes Reborn, this tactic was such that the villains could mask their criminal activities as the public was none the wiser. Following the events of Civil War in 2006, however, the team was redesigned as supervillains acting as government operatives in the vein of the Suicide Squad (while Dark Avengers featured villains in the guise of heroes). Andy Diggle was leaving the book in 2009 in the midst of the event Dark Reign and Jeff Parker was approached about replacing him. Pitched about following a series based out of the Cube maximum security prison, Parker initially passed on the idea feeling he was being asked to produce the comic book equivalent of the HBO series Oz. However, on reflection and in speaking with his editors, he realized the Cube was merely a headquarters and the meat of the series would be in the field and accepted the assignment. In the wake of Norman Osborn employing the Thunderbolts as his personal black ops team, Parker quickly saw his villainous protagonists take on his heroes-posing-as-villains Agents of Atlas. Initially, Parker had a hard time trying to produce the kind of series he envisioned with artist Miguel Angel Sepulveda and his photo-realistic approach. But, with the Heroic Age rebranding, Thunderbolts entered a new direction with Luke Cage leading the group from the Raft prison as Kev Walker emerged on the book to handle art duties.

 

Incorporating the enigmatic Man-Thing into the team (and later Satana, the Devil’s Daughter), Jeff Parker steered Thunderbolts through various events like Dark Reign, Siege, Heroic Age, Shadowland, and Fear Itself before really getting into his own pace as the team is lost across the expanse of time (while Cage lead a new group forced upon him in the present, nicknamed the “Underbolts”) at the suggestion of editor Tom Brennan (who also offered various story scenarios that Parker adopted). The time travel advent served two purposes: allowing the title to handle two artists for double-shipping without a great deal of disruption (as Declan Shalvey joined the book) and to offer an out from being pulled into events. Parker scribed the series for nearly forty issues, almost half of it traveling through time, before staying on as the book became Dark Avengers as part of the Marvel NOW! rebranding in 2012. Again at the suggestion of editor Tom Brennan, as Thunderbolts came to an end, the Dark Avengers would enter the book and replace its characters as its lead. The strategy worked well as orders for the title went up with the change allowing Parker to continue his story for sixteen more issues. Almost as soon as Parker’s run on Thunderbolts began, he stepped deeply into the world of the Hulk.

 

As part of the event Fall of the Hulks, Jeff Parker produced a one-shot called Fall of the Hulks: Alpha featuring a group named The Intelligencia. Composed of Doctor Doom, M.O.D.O.K., Leader, Mad Thinker, Red Ghost, Wizard, and Egghead, Marvel’s most brilliant evil scientists align to form Earth’s greatest store of knowledge as the story results in the creation of the Red Hulk. Parker followed that the next month with the Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk mini-series featuring the Red Hulk accidentally unleashing a Cosmic Hulk Robot on the world in the service of the Intelligencia. Before that series ended and also part of the event, Parker also produced the three-part Fall of the Hulks: The Savage She-Hulks teaming She-Hulk, Lyra, and Red She-Hulk against the Intelligencia. Around this time, Parker also wrote the two-part Hulked Out Heroes as part of World War Hulks which saw a Hulked out Deadpool (or, Hulkpool) travel to the past trying to slay himself before becoming Hulkified. In the fall of 2010, Parker took over the writing duties of Jeph Loeb on Hulk which starred the Red Hulk and a Bruce Banner incapable of Hulking out. Following the events of Fall of the Hulks, the Intelligencia initiated doomsday scenarios which Banner and Red Hulk go about trying to stop on a globe trotting mission. During Parker’s 34-issue run on the book, Red Hulk would gain foes like General Reginald Fortean, Zero/One, Omegex, M.O.D.O.K. Superior, and Black Fog and allies like Annie the LMD, Machine Man, and the Legion of Monsters (Parker would also tackle a tale in Venom with the Red Hulk). As part of the Marvel NOW! rebranding, Hulk would become Red She-Hulk and focus on the new titular character under Parker’s pen. The new title’s ten-issue run saw its heroine hunted like the Hulk of old as she tried to stop Fortean and his Project: Echelon before it destroys the world. While Parker was early in his Hulk run, he would enter the world of webcomics.

 

DAR was the autobiographical webcomic featuring the life of creator Erika Moen that she published online from 2004 to 2009. After wrapping on the series, Moen wanted to simply draw someone else’s story and mentioned in an interview online she would like to work with fellow Periscope studio mate Jeff Parker. Word quickly reached Parker via Google Alerts who walked over to her and so began the year-long webcomic Bucko. Described as a “dick and fart joke murder-mystery,” the concept for the series came to Parker as he biked to work one day where he asked members of the studio if they had diarrhea but came across a dead body in the bathroom, would they still use the toilet? The webcomic’s story opened with Rich “Bucko” Richardson (named after Moen’s brother who Parker overheard her call him Bucko on the phone) going on a job interview while dealing with a bout of diarrhea from a night of binge drinking and discovered a murder victim in the bathroom. Gypsy “Gyp” Bouvier, a girl Bucko met the night before, joins the character in trying to solve the murder which devolves into a series of misadventures across the span of a week in Portland with Gyp’s roommate Dell, Bucko’s roommate Chad, alternative model (or Suicide Girl) Sindee Killah, Juggalo Queen Terri Hurricane Bluray-Devastatah d’Gresham, Fartmonger, bicyclists, steampunk makers, cover bands, meth heads, hipsters, and individuals with an affection for top hats and absinthe. Bucko would be nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Online Comics Work and published as a collection by Dark Horse Comics in 2012. Parker continued to extend beyond his Marvel work with Immortals: Gods And Heroes (based on the 2011 film), Jim Henson’s The Storyteller (based on the television series), Creepy, Planet of the Apes Annual, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Willow: Wonderland (while at Marvel, he would write the two-part Harley-Davidson/Avengers and an interactive Iron Man 3 comic sponsored by Audi called “Steer The Story”). By the end of 2012, Parker would begin to dip his toe in the pool of Marvel’s greatest competitor.

 

While Jeff Parker would provide art for DC Comics in the beginning of his career, after his rise at Marvel, the closest he seemed to come to the company was his work for WildStorm. This changed with the publication of Legends of the Dark Knight #6. Ben Abernathy, who had previously approached Parker to produce something for WildStorm (resulting in Mysterius the Unfathomable), contacted the author if he’d be interested in writing Batman. Parker instantly responded with a webcam picture of a signed photograph of Adam West hanging on his wall behind his desk (from a car show in Greensboro, NC when he was eight years old). DC Comics had begun producing several digital first comics that would be posted online initially in chapters before being collected in single issues at retail. One such series was Legends of the Dark Knight which featured out-of-continuity tales of Batman. Parker and his Hulk collaborator Gabriel Hardman contributed “Gotham Spirit” which had Batman deal with a liquor store robbery. This event seemed to open the door for Parker who shortly thereafter wrote a Masters of the Universe digital first comic about Orko. Several months after that, Parker would write a story for the digital first Adventures of Superman to replace a tale penned by Orson Scott Card following public outcry regarding Card’s stance on homosexuality and contributions to a hate group. Sticking to the digital first format, Parker was next approached by editor Jim Chadwick to head another Batman title that would become one of the creator’s most defining runs of his career thus far.

 

In 2012, a landmark agreement was made between Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox. For nearly five decades, the rights to the 1966 Batman television series were in limbo. A cultural phenomenon, Batman had overtaken the United States (called Batmania after the prominence of the term Beatlemania) and aspects of the franchise were everywhere and on everything. A motion picture based on the series was even produced and shown around the world. The problem that emerged was that the show prominently featured original characters which were owned by Fox (like Chief O’Hara, King Tut, and Egghead) set in a world owned by Kinney National Company (who bought Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and became Warner Communications). This meant neither company had the ability to provide media for the home market without some agreement which seemed would never emerge. It would be a private citizen who looked at the show’s legal quagmire and take advantage of loopholes to force the two companies to work out a contract. The earliest of these deals came with the production of merchandise but in a few short months, a comic was announced based on the series (as DVDs of the series would come some months after). Jeff Parker would team with his Periscope studio mate Jonathan Case to produce the digital first series Batman ’66.

 

As DC Comics had acquired not only the rights from Fox but the likenesses of actors like Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and so on, the Batman ’66 comic looked like it had jumped off the screen and onto the page but with a considerably larger budget. Of course, again given the Fox deal, series specific villains like King Tut and Egghead made the jump, as well. But still, Jeff Parker and his myriad of artists went further, bringing the likes of Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Scarecrow to the book. Despite doing well initially, sales for the book entered a consistent decline save bumps from introducing new aspects like the retroactive villains noted. The series would last 29 issues (Parker writing all but the final issue) not counting a mini-series with Green Hornet written by Kevin Smith and Batman superfan Ralph Garman and a one-shot adapting Harlan Ellison’s unproduced Batman script introducing Two-Face from the team of Len Wein and José Luis Garcia-Lopez. However, DC recognized that the series had a dedicated fanbase and initiated a series of mini-series crossing over with other franchises. The first of these was Batman ’66 Meets the Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 2016 by Parker followed by Batman ’66 Meets John Steed & Mrs. Peel (featuring Britain’s Avengers) by Ian Edginton. Given the initial success of Batman ’66, the Wonder Woman television series made the transition to comic in Wonder Woman ’77 written by Marc Andreyko. From the beginning, Andreyko expressed a desire to pen a crossover with Batman ’66 which came to fruition in 2017 and saw the writer team with Parker to introduce Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia to the series. Recently, Parker would write a one-shot Batman ‘66 Meets The Legion of Super-Heroes which seems to be the series’ climax for the time being. While Parker was busy with Batman ’66, he would begin an ongoing relationship with Dynamite Entertainment.

 

Dynamite Entertainment had made a reputation of securing licenses for older properties and providing new material for these characters while also reprinting out-of-print work of these stories. One of these licenses were for the King Features classic comic strip characters which lead to new series like The Last Phantom and Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist. However, given the success of team comics like Project Superpowers (featuring public domain comic characters) and Masks (with Condé Nast characters and others), there was a desire to accomplish this same feat with the King characters in a modern setting. For this, Jeff Parker was approached by Dynamite editor Nate Crosby resulting in 2013’s Kings Watch. A fan of the Flash Gordon serials and The Phantom comic strip, Parker teamed Gordon, Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Lothar to combat an invasion of Earth by Ming the Merciless and Earth-based cult leader Cobra. The mini-series lead directly into an ongoing Flash Gordon series penned by Parker the following year. Parker would again team the characters together for 2017’s Flash Gordon: Kings Cross. The prolific author remained busy also producing Aquaman for DC, an Indestructible Hulk Annual for Marvel, and Angry Birds and Super Angry Birds for IDW. At Oni Press, Parker would see a project he had spent years producing reach publication.

 

Back when Jeff Parker attended East Carolina University and worked on the East Carolinian, he met and befriended fellow student and cartoonist Sandy Jarrell who also worked on the paper. Jarrell would spend years sending samples to comic publishers while working at Nice Price Books in Raleigh, NC but only came as close as producing a 140-page story for a small publisher that never saw print. Parker and Jarrell remained friends, the former praising the unpublished work his friend had created. Come 2010, editors James Lucas Jones and Charlie Chu of Oni Press sought Parker to see if he would be interested in making a project for them that appealed to young adults. The writer spent months conceiving ideas for the book before finally settling on one that appealed to him and visited Jarrell at his store on Free Comic Book Day 2010 to ask if he would draw it. Parker and Jarrell remained in touch for months fleshing out the idea before coming far enough that the latter drew the first eleven pages and presented them to Jones and Chu in September 2011. The book was greenlit and the creators slowly worked on it in their free time as Parker would write a few pages and send them along to his friend to draw. Rather than give panel-by-panel descriptions, Parker described what he wanted and allowed Jarrell to interpret it as he saw fit making for a unique composition. In the interim, Jarrell himself started getting comic work including drawing a few of Parker’s Batman ’66 stories. It wouldn’t be until 2014 that the book was finished and ready for Oni to distribute. Titled Meteor Men, the story featured an alien invasion of Earth centered around a teenage Alden Baylor who was at ground zero for all of it. Oni chose to release the work digitally by chapter at first before publishing the complete work in print. Meteor Men would be nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) and was listed on the YALSA 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Finishing out 2014, Parker and his Mysterius the Unfathomable collaborator Tom Fowler would contribute the three-page story “Little Star” to The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2014 which raises money for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

 

Come 2015, Jeff Parker continued to be a producer for DC Comics writing Convergence: Shazam!, Convergence: Hawkman, and six issues of Justice League United. The following year, he would even pen a prequel tie-in comic for the film Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for General Mills named “Playground Heroes” packaged inside boxes of cereal. But it would be a few months after that title which saw publication of another work Parker is arguably best known for today. For some time, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio wanted to do something with Warner Bros’ Hanna-Barbera properties. DiDio approached creator Darwyn Cooke about it who commented he wanted to work on it with Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner (where the duo produced Flash Gordon and Convergence: Shazam! together). Cooke drew an image of the various Hanna-Barbera action heroes together and DiDio e-mailed the image alone to Parker and Shaner. Ultimately, Cooke left the project due to his declining health leaving the pair to create it whole cloth themselves. 2016’s Future Quest featured the Hanna-Barbera action heroes of old including Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman, the Herculoids, and Mightor team-up to fight an alien beast that travels across space and time. The project was a dream come true for Parker who remains a huge fan of Doug Wildey’s Jonny Quest and the work of Alex Toth (prolific character designer for Hanna-Barbera). Out of several Hanna-Barbera projects to emerge at the time, Future Quest was undoubtedly the most anticipated and successful. Before the limited series’ twelve-issue run could end, a series of one-shot crossovers between DC’s heroes and Hanna-Barbera were produced including the Adam Strange/Future Quest Special from Parker, Marc Andreyko, and Steve Lieber and the Green Lantern/Space Ghost Special by James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela, and Ariel Olivetti. It was recently announced the series would continue under Parker’s pen in Future Quest Showcase.

 

With convention season ramping up for 2017 and Jeff Parker’s schedule significantly lighter than it has been in over a decade, it’s likely announcements are forthcoming as the creator has commented repeatedly a desire to produce more creator-owned work. While Future Quest has become a showcase series, the scope of the work opens the door for much more (arguably enough for an imprint). In his spare time, Parker likes to work with his hands building things, working on cars, and repairing bicycles. You can find Jeff Parker on Twitter and you can find Helioscope on Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

This article was made possible in large part to Tom Spurgeon and The Comics Reporter and John Siuntres and Word Balloon.

Author: Jerry Whitworth

A product of the 1980s, I was indoctrinated in the pop culture of the time period with a love for its animation, television series, films, comic books, toys, video games, and music helping mold who I am today

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