New Talent Showcase #4 (1984)

New Talent Showcase #4 (April, 1984)
Ekko: “Ekko, Part One”
Bobcat: “Bobcat”
Feral Man: “Who is the Feral Man?”
Full Circle: “Full Circle”
Writers – Rich Margopoulos, Mike Tiefenbacher, Steve Ringgenberg, & Ashley Tillman
Pencils – Steve Lightle, Stan Woch, June Brigman, & Shawn McManus
Inks – Gary Martin, Karl Kesel, Rick Magyar, & Mark Alexander
Letters – Duncan Andrews & Andy Kubert
Colors – Jeanine Casey, Shelley Eiber, & Helen Vesik
Edits – Karen Berger
Cover Price: $0.75

Welcome gang, to the fourth compilation post for New Talent Showcase!

Now, a funny thing happened to me the other day while rifling through some cheap-o bins around town… I just so happened to find and procure an issue of the more “current year” New Talent Showcase.  Ya know, the big fat book that DC put out once a year to see how some of their workshop creators fare plying what they’d learned to some of DC’s heaviest-hitting characters.

I was happy to find it, because… I gotta tell ya, there’s no way I’m spending the $7.99 cover price DC was asking for this.  When I first saw the price, I was sure that it was either a mistake… or DC was just screwing with us.  Hell, even at DCBS prices (40-50% off), there’s still no way I was gonna bite on that!

For a buck though?  Yeah… I’ve spent more on less for this site, and this will keep the project going for an extra couple of weeks (after we discuss the whole 19 (?) issue run from the mid-80’s of course).  So, it was definitely a cool find… caused me to swipe the card… and, we’ll get to it… ya know, down the line!

For now though, we’ve got a somewhat eclectic foursome of stories… that, for the most part, I enjoyed very much.  I hope you do as well!

Our story opens with a fella being hunted down in an alley by a Grenadier and an archer known as Quarrel.  His name is Trevor Hawks, and it looks like he’s gotten himself in too deep researching the so-called “Crimeking”.  Quarrel puts a bolt through his heart, and they leave him for dead.  A weirdo named Screwball arrives in a… well, giant hamster ball… to transport the baddies back to base.

We shift scenes to New York’s Hope General Hospital, where inside we meet a doctor who finds himself with the hotpants for the pretty new doc on the block.  He asks to join her for lunch in the cafeteria, and she seems cool with it.  While he chats her up, he puffs on his pipe… that’s no euphemism folks… frankly, I’m not sure he’s that flexible.  Anyhoo, he’s interrupted by an intern with a bad mohawk named Klepto… who pops by to try and steal his gold Zippo lighter.  We’re world-building here, folks!

The Docs then learn that they got a “bleeder” who just showed up.  It is, of course, Trevor Hawks.  Get this… that pipe-puffin’ Doc is Simon Hawks, Trevor’s little brother!  The hot-doc is named Gretchen, by the way.  Together, they look at the victim, and realize that: they can rebuild him… they have the technology.  Now, when I was reading this, I assumed that these two turned Trevor into Ekko…

… but, that’s not the case at all!  Gretchen and Simon do manage to save Trevor’s life… but, get this… it’s Simon who turns out to be Ekko!  Our new hero suits up, and can sense the arrival of… Grenadier and Quarrel, who are here to finish the job they’d started in the alley.

We get a couple of pages of Ekko showing his stuff… which is basically that the suit gives him heightened senses… maybe super-strength.  I’m sure we’ll learn more as we go through.  We wrap up, however, on the dire scene of Ekko being blasted out of a hospital window… some eight stories high!  Will he survive?  Well, we’ll have to wait until next time to find out…

You remember back in the early 90’s when they stopped making G.I. Joes look like… well, G.I. Joes?  Instead of looking like actual “army men”, we’d get these neon-colored, crazy-helmeted, huge-booted, gaudy-ass goofballs?  That’s… well, that’s kind of what I think about when I see our new friend, Ekko.

I really assumed that this was going to wind up being a Six-Million Dollar Man riff, with poor clinging-to-life Trevor being suited up into the gimmick.  For all I know, it still might go that direction… if Simon actually doesn’t survive the fall.  Eh, anything can happen, right?

I appreciated the little bit of “world-building” we get here.  Establishing a civilian cast and setting to surround our hero is something I always dig… even if some of our characters are a bit one-note.  I mean, a dude named Klepto… who has a proclivity to pocketing shiny things?  Oh well… can’t win ’em all.

The baddies?  Well, more early-90’s G.I. Joe fare.  I mean, these weirdos could easily be slotted into Cobra or the Dreadnoks, no?  Oh well.  I’ll withhold judgment on ’em for now… and let ’em grow into their roles.

Since this is New Talent Showcase… let’s meet us some new talent, shall we?  Our writer, Rich Margopoulos… well, we’ve already met him.  He was the man behind our earlier Forever Amber feature… remember?  The DC Brass of 1984 must’ve been pretty high on the guy, considering he’s given the lead-off feature both times out so far!

Across the table, we’ve got Steve Lightle… who, I’m actually kind of surprised we’ve never discussed here at the site!  He would go on from here to have a pretty prolific career.  When I think of him, my mind immediately goes to the Kupperberg Doom Patrol, even though his run there was very short… like 5-6 issues, if I’m not mistaken.  I think a lot of folks will know him as the guy who penciled over Keith Giffen’s layouts on the early Baxter-era Legion of Superheroes.  It’s really neat seeing some of his early work here.

Overall… Ekko is a pretty neat, if low-stakes, little strip.  It feels a lot like the DC-Impact line.  Kind of boilerplate stuff… but, inoffensive enough to enjoy.

We open with little Davey Tresh having his mother put some Neosporin on his scrapes.  Ya see, this kid has been dealing with a serial bully named Billy Myers.  It seems like every day, Dave gets his butt whupped.  Telling his folks only makes it worse… because Dave’s dad calls Billy’s dad… and, lemme tell ya, that ain’t never a good idea.  All’at will getcha is more whuppins.  Davey is a fan of “big cats”… he’s not quite a Tiger King or anything, but he’s certainly a fan.  He play-acts beating Bully-Billy up with his cat models… breaking one in the process.  That night, Dave’s sister reveals that our boy Davey might’ve been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ this fine day… as she overheard him singing “I wish I was a Billy Myer’s wiener”.  Ouch!

That night, Davey hits the hay… and has a wonderful dream that he is a big cat… hunting down a Billy Myers-faced rat!

The next day at school, Dave learns that the Myers family leaves Billy home alone at night… and, somehow, this gives him an idea.  He still falls for the “Spell ‘I met’.” (I am E.T.) gimmick… which, when I was growing up was “Spell ‘I cup’.”… maybe it was regional?  Anyhoo, that evening, David puts his plan in motion… he uses his “Christmas Ink” to dye his little sweatsuit black… then practices acting like a big cat in the bathroom (with the water running to cover up his growls and grunts).

Davey heads downstairs to dinner… and gets the third degree from Mom.  She asks what he was doing in the bathroom all that time with the water running… which, I feel is a line purposely setting me up to say something perverted… but, I won’t.  Anyhoo, Dave pretends to start sleepwalking at around 7:30 and heads up to bed.  Upstairs, he “suits up”… and prepares to give Billy Myers Wiener the scare of his life!

And, well… he does just that!  Turns out Bill Myers actually is kind of a wiener… though, if I were in fourth grade and suddenly saw a glowing-eyed anthropomorphic cat beast howling in a tree in my side yard, I’d very likely have to change my drawers.  Hell, if I saw I regular critter howling in my tree I’d start sweating!  Anyhoo, it looks as though our Davey might have a little of the Catholic guilt in him, because he immediately decides to come clean… reveal to Billy that there’s no cat-beast outside… it’s just him giving him a fright.

Billy comes around pretty quick… and suggests that maybe they become friends.  He’s got an attic they can have all sorts of adventures in… which, ya know, sounds like how an after-school special might start.  Whatever the case, the kids decide to put their differences aside… and Davey is christened as: Bobcat.  He heads home… hootin’ and howlin’… and annoying some neighborhood dogs.

So yeah… this was not at all what I was expecting!  I had this pegged as some throwaway street-level deal with a lady (Davey’s mom) in a catsuit.  I couldn’t be happier that my hot-take was completely and totally wrong!

I had a lot of fun with this… it was a sorta silly coming of age bit, but I feel it did a lot of things right.  Having been a kid, not unlike Davey, I had my share of bullying done at me.  I remember having to plan alternate routes home to avoid certain blocks or houses.  I can definitely relate to what this character was going through.  Feelings of powerlessness, anger… and maybe being just enough of a smart-ass to sorta-kinda deserve a butt-kicking or two.

I really dug this… though, I must say… I’m not sure I’m really looking forward to where this is headed (if, in fact, it is headed anywhere).  This opening chapter just tapped into so many memories for me… simpler times, but when little things meant the world, ya know?  Feels like Davey’s entire world revolves around trying not to get beat up at school… which, sure, really sucks… but, at the same time, in the greater scheme of things, isn’t much more than a hiccup in a lifetime.

We met artist Stan Woch in an earlier NTS… but, Mike Tiefenbacher is a newbie.  There isn’t all that much I’m able to dig up about ol’ Mike… heck, his DC Wiki page doesn’t even list him as a writer on this story!  What I have found is that Mike wrote a handful of backup strips for DC Comics Presents… and also provided some pencils for the Funny Stuff Stocking Stuffer.  Of note, he was at one time the Executive Editor for the Comics Reader fanzine, of which I’ve actually happened across a copy or two in my travels.  Love coming across the ol’ zines.  It makes me nostalgic for a time that I didn’t even live through!

Overall, this was a fun little feature, and I’d love to see more like this.

We open in the far-flung year of 1997… boy oh boy, the future was such a long time ago!  Here we meet a former Agency Research Analyst who has volunteered to undergo a process that can “expand his consciousness”.  Looks like he’s starting to regret his decision, but by now, it’s too late to go back.  He’s already strapped to the table and being injected with all sortsa stuff.  Once the formula begins to flow, our man is haunted by some strange visions… his cat, his girlfriend, and some pervert with a mustache and a headband.  He wakes up… transformed!

He’s transformed all right, he’s now… the Feral Man!  His hair has grown out a bit, and he now sorta resembles Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie.  The doctors look on, pleased as punch that they’ve “unlocked his primal essence”, whatever that means.  We spend the next few months watching our hero go through training sessions and what-not.

One night, our man tries to read… and finds it to be too much of a challenge for his “frenzied” mind.  We shift to another day of training, and a contentious chat between our Feral Friend and a “coach” of sorts named Muldoon.  Things go sideways, and our hero lunges at the fella in something not unlike a Berzerker Rage.  Thankfully, he’s able to check himself before he wrecked… uh, the other guy.

Our hero next decides it’s time to check out of the facility… and so, he makes a break for it.  He narrowly manages to escape, and a few hours later he’s made his way back home.  Once inside, he’s frightened by his cat… and so, he slams it against the wall… killing it.  We wrap up with the Feral Man realizing just how much the company has messed with him… and decides to, I’m going to assume, whistle-blow… telling his tale to The Washington Post!

Well… they can’t all be winners, can they?

This… ehh… was kind of a stinker.  Not only did our new hero look like he stunk, but the story pretty much did too.  Not much to it, unfortunately… so, it’s hard to really analyze it.

I can tell ya some superficial bits I didn’t like… such as the Nietzsche quote that opened it.  I mean, if you’re a writer, and your first instinct is to begin your story with a Nietzsche quote… maybe just close the laptop for the day.  It’s never quite as clever as you think it’s going to be, and ultimately just makes it look like you’re trying too hard.

I thought his dream of pi (not to be confused with dreams of pie, which I have regularly… Salish cherry especially), was another bit of preciousness.  Sort of a shorthand for “hey, ain’t this smart writing?”  No, no it’s not.  Fifth-graders know what pi is… this isn’t deep stuff here.

Other than that… I wasn’t keen on our Feral Friend killing his cat.  Don’t like seeing animals get hurt, even two-dimensional ones that I haven’t even met yet… though, I suppose that does drive home the point that he’s a changed man post-treatment.  Gotta wonder though, if this cat can survive months without being fed… it oughta be able to shrug off being chucked into a wall.

Overall… this was… ehh.  It was fine.  Can’t get too mad at it, though I will say, I’m not all that excited for our next chapter.

We open in Union Square Park in Manhattan where we meet a 51-year old fella named Allen Turgen.  He explains that, up until today… he had the world by the tail… but, that’s all over now.  His life, to this point, has been a series of disappointments and tragedies… including the death of his wife in a car accident several years prior.  From there, he would dive headfirst into his work… and would eventually meet another lady-friend.  Then, today… his company was bought out… and everybody near retirement age was given the ol’ heave-ho (Fifty-One is near retirement age?  On what planet?).  Not only that, his new gal-pal, Cindy decided this was the best time to dump his sorry ass.

So, our hero sits in the park… wallowing.  Can’t really hold it against him, it sounds like he’s had a pretty lousy day, dunnit?  Then, suddenly he hears a shriek!  Two thugs are trying to rob an old homeless woman of her bag.  Our Turgen (uncharacteristically) leaps into action!

He ultimately gets his butt-kicked… and the baddies get the bag.  The lady thanks him for trying… but can’t disguise her disappointment that her bag was stolen.  Ya see, her whole entire life was in that bag.  Our hero vows to track it down… and, a couple’a panels later… he does just that.  As there was nothing of monetary value in the bag, the baddies dumped it in a nearby garbage can.  Did… did the pickpockets actually think an old bag lady would have anything worth stealing in her pocketbook?  C’mon…

We wrap up with Turgen returning the bag… and the two new friends going out to grab breakfast together.  Ya see, our hero thought he’d lost everything that day… but actually wound up finding something inside himself he didn’t even know he had.

This wasn’t half-bad!  It kind of felt out of place, here… but, I enjoyed it for what it was.  It actually feels like something that might’ve been more at home in the pages of Wasteland or something.  Well, actually… it’s probably better than most of the stuff we read over there!

This is the kind of story where I wonder how the fan of the day received it.  It’s unlike anything else in the issue… there’s nothing supernatural about it (unless we’re assuming ol’ Turgen tapped into some sort of power to sniff out the proper garbage can), and there were no superheroes.  I guess ol’ Turgen was pretty heroic… but, again, dude’s not wearing tights or a cape.

There’s not a whole heckuva lot to say about this one… it was a wee bit shorter than the other features in this issue, weighing in at just six pages… but, I feel like they really “nailed” the story they were trying to tell in the pages they were afforded.

Who are “they”?  Well, we’re talking about Ashley Tillman and Shawn McManus.

Ashley Tillman… unfortunately didn’t go on to do all that much at DC… at least according to the information available online.  Just this story, and a few others (all appearing in New Talent Showcase).  If you’re able to dig up anything else about Ashley, please pass it along and I’ll edit the piece!

Across the table sits Shawn McManus… he’d go on to do a whole bunch in the biz… and if Marvel Comics Chrisesnts is still going strong in like six years, we’ll eventually see him pop up there!  He’s got some pretty decent runs on some of the Vertigo books, including Sandman and Fables.

Overall… a decent enough low-key (relatively speaking) story here… and a nice way to close out the issue.


Wraparound Cover:

2 thoughts on “New Talent Showcase #4 (1984)

  • Chris U

    I'm happy that NTS is back on the blog. So in the grand tradition of the non-poll poll, I'm voting for Ekko this issue.
    It had good world building and Steve Lightle art. Plus it was the only feature that I found myself wanting to see more of.
    Bobcat was ……… there.
    Feral man was …….. a story.
    Full Circle was ….. one and done. (I really hope all 3 were one and done.)
    I am constantly shocked to see some of what I consider to be "big names" featured in NTS. But I guess everyone had to start somewhere.

  • Matthew O'Hara

    Shawn McManus is my go to guy if I'm ever talking to a POGO fan. That's one of those comics that I lot of people I have a lot of respect for love a lot. But I just can't get into it. And I really hate to say that because I know they're right and I'm wrong.

    So if I'm ever introduced to someone who wants to talk about POGO (happens more than you'd think) I bring up SWAMP THING #32 which features a POGO tribute by Alan Moore and McManus. He or she either knows all about it and would love to discuss it. Or has never heard of it, but is thrilled to find out it exists. Works every time.


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