Folks, I already knew the first six words, following this sentence, as to how the Rik Offenberger interview, for Rik Offenberger’s www.firstcomicsnews.com website, was going to start, several weeks ago ….. even though I am only starting this interview, right now. And, those six words are: “Rik Offenberger is an Amazing Guy!” And, I’ll get to the WHYS of that statement, as we go along.
Rik Offenberger is, of course, the creator/owner, and a frequent writer and interviewer, for the massive website www.firstcomicsnews.com, a website for comics articles/columns, interviews, and Podcasts with comics PROS, comics news in general, and many other things to do with the world of comic books!
But that’s just the beginning of who Rik Offenberger is.
I’m guessing Rik Offenberger has been a comics fan, collector, and reader all of his, or most of his life. As have I!
I first ‘met’ Rik, (if memory serves), well over (I think) twenty-plus years ago, and it may be even longer than twenty-five years ago. And, we’ve been working together, WRITING together, on the same websites, for all of that time, although I DID take some hiatuses, from time to time. I always came back, though, because writing for Rik’s www.firstcomicsnews.com is one of my biggest non-guilty pleasures!
I THINK the first time I ‘met’ Rik was on a vintage website, all of those halcyon years ago, on the CONTINUITY COMICS MESSAGE BOARD, a website about the (since, sadly, late) Neal Adams’ Continuity Comics. There, Rik and I, and a lot of other Continuity Comics fans, readers, and collectors, posted on that subject at length, for I don’t even remember how many years ago.
Eventually, Rik and I moved on from that site, and Rik and I both then began writing for a comics news and comics pro interview site called www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com. Eventually, though, that website changed its’ name to www.comicsbulletin.com, I don’t recall which of those two titles that website was, after all these years, but I DO recall that both Rik and I kept writing for that comics site for quite some time.
Eventually, Rik left www.comicsbulletin.com with the goal in mind to start his own comics websites, which included www.firstcomicsnews.com, Super Hero News, and, by far, additionally, the largest internet website for the Archie Comics superhero division, www.mightycrusasers.net.
Rik asked me if I’d like to come with him to www.firstcomicsnews.com, decades ago, and we were already Fast Friends, by that time. Now, you can say anything you want to, about me, but, brother, when it comes to my friends, I am LOYAL-!
1st: Rik, I don’t recall if I have the timeline of all of those websites exactly right, but I’ve never, ever regretted joining you at www.firstcomicsnews.com. I don’t write articles and conduct interviews as often as you do, however, whenever I do them, I enjoy every one of them! We have so much fun, there! I probably don’t have the exact timeline of events recorded completely right, above, but that’s to the best of my memory, after all these years.
Perhaps you could correct the sequence of those events? I wouldn’t even be surprised to learn that you and I may have both written and/or posted on other websites and Message Boards as well, that I’m forgetting about. Is that possible?
Rik Offenberger: My memory was that we met on the Mighty Crusaders Message Board when Scott Martin was the moderator. You and I started the Continuity Comics Message Board together. I was the Senior Feature Editor at www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com and I brought in you, Ric Croxton, Terry Hooper, and Kevin Noel Olson. Everyone was from the Mighty Crusaders Message Board. I left www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com to work as www.newsarama.com and years later made a pitch to take over www.comiccon.com/pluse after Jennifer M. Contino quit. I negotiated with Steve Conley and presented a business plan. We couldn’t come to a financial agreement and I launched First Comics News with you and Ric Croxton coming with me.
1st: Do you still do work at Newsarama? Also, do you own it? I was under the impression that you do or did.
Rik: No, no, that was Matt Brad and Mike Doran who started Newsarama. We all worked at the Comic Buyers Guide, at the same time. I was just a freelancer Newsarama. Just doing interviews.
1st: Well, they say that the mind (or memory) is the first thing to go, (LOL), and it certainly sounds that your memory on all of that is much better than mine! Wow.Rik, to the best of your knowledge, how many of those particular vintage websites even still exist?
Rik: Facebook groups filled that space for most people including you and me. But you can still find the old message boards at https://www.comicboards.com/
1st: I am aware that you make your home in Chino, California. I perhaps should probably know this, but I don’t. Is this where you were born and grew up?
Rik: I was born in Norwalk, California. When my father was in the Air Force we live off base for 2 years on Terceira Island, in the Azores. After the Air Force, we move to Anaheim, California. When I was seven years old my partners moved to La Habra Heights, California and my father still lives there to this day. My wife and I moved to Chino with the Kids in 2000 and have lived there ever since.
Rik: My father collected comics as a kid, so he would buy them for me and read them to me at bedtime when I was little. As I got older, after Sunday School he would take me to 7-11 and get me a Slurpy and a comic. I watched the Superman/Batman/Aquaman cartoon before school in the morning and the Adam West Batman after school. My parents knew I liked superheroes, so they bought comics for me. I don’t know which comic was my first, but the first comic I wanted to purchase regularly was Teen Titans.
1st: The 1960s Teen Titans DC title was amazing, especially the issues with Nick Cardy’s art, in my opinion. I read that title right into the late 1970s when it stopped. The Nick Cardy issues were mind-boggling! Whew, that man could really DRAW! And his Bat Lash western title, which started in DC’s Showcase anthology series, was exciting!
Rik: My Aunt had given me some money for my birthday and I used $3.00 to subscribe to The Teen Titans, then they canceled the comic and transferred my subscription to The Flash and I have read his comic monthly from then to today. The mail order subscription changed my comic life. I had trouble following Marvel soap opera subplots since I couldn’t get every issue of each comic. But with the mail order subscription, I could get Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and The Avengers. It later expanded to include Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil, and Thor.
1st: We all have our favorites, of course. Daredevil has always been my top fave Marvel character; I own his premiere issue, # 1, 1964, right up to the present issues, with zero gaps in all of those decades. There is a new DD # 1 coming out, soon, too. And, this Canadian has always bought and followed Captain America, which may surprise some of our readers, given where I hail from, ‘The Land of Maple Syrup!’ (Personally, I hate the stuff!) I likewise collected all of the Avengers titles, including the main title, and have # 1, first appearance, 1963 right up to about fifteen years ago, when I threw in the towel because by then there were too many Avengers titles to collect. I have Amazing Spiderman from #, the early 1960s, right up to about fifteen years ago, to name just a few titles that I have impressive runs on.
Rik: My Father purchased Captain America 109 for me because it was an origin issue, but he also got me all the Alan Light’s Flashback reprints and the tabloid-size DC Golden Age Reprints. He also got me Origins of Marvel Comics, Sons of Origins of Marvel Comics, and Secret Origins of DC Comics. I got into the heroes with their origin stories because that was my introduction to the.
1st: You are a writer, and you also have skill as an artist, Did you have any scholastic training in either, and if so, when and where? What can you tell us about that?
Rik: I took journalism in High School but didn’t follow up with it in college. When I was in college I shopped at The Comic Castle in Fullerton. I met Jim Valentino and Rob Liefeld at Comic Castle. Rob had done Megaton Explosion and Jim had done Normal Man and both were contributing to Who’s Who in the DC Universe and they were both there every Thursday night for the new comics. I got to know Rob a little and Jim much better. When I opened my Comic Shop, one of the pieces of advice I was given was to become an expert in my field by writing in a trade journal. So I contacted Don Thompson and began freelancing for the Comic Buyers Guide to promote my store. Fast forward and Jim told me about the formation of Image Comics when Rob was running the ad for eXecutioners in the Comic Buyers Guide and I ended up covering the launch of Image Comics for the Comic Buyers Guide. I have been a comic journalist ever since.
1st: You are also an artist. And, that talent doesn’t come into existence by itself. Why don’t you tell us when you started drawing, how old you were when you started doing that, and how much, in an average month, you work at it?
Rik: I drew superheroes as a kid, and just kept drawing into adulthood. I took art classes in school, but I understand my limitations. I am ok with drawing a static image but I can’t do page layouts or storytelling. As a result, now, as a publisher, if anyone wants to show me samples I want to see story pages. I am convinced I can’t draw well enough to draw a comic so, if you want to draw for me, you have to be able to tell stories to impress me. If you can only do pinups or covers you aren’t a comicbook artist. You may be a good artist but you aren’t a comicbook artist. I created tons of my own heroes. I did this image of Sgt. Flag in 1992, now 30 years later I am finally publishing him in his own comic, and I’m not doing the art, again because I know my limitations.
Rik: Our first comic was The Who’s Who Handbook of the G-Man Universe #1, with a September 2019 cover date. It was a free PDF and you could order it at a printer’s cost on Indyplant. We took it off Indyplanet when it became outdated.
1st: Which titles have come out of your own published comics, and how many issues of each have come out, thus far? Also, which titles and or issues #s are in the works or about to be Kick Started?
Rik: That’s a big question.
The First Kickstarter: Simon N. Kirby The Agent #1 & #2 and The Handbook of the G-Man Universe #2
The Third Kickstarter: Agent Kirby #4, G-Man Comics 3in1 #2, G-Man Comics Christmas Special #1, G-Men United #2, The Handbook of the G-Man Universe #4 and Judah “The Hammer” Maccabee #1
The Fourth Kickstarter: Agent Kirby #5, Black Phantom #1 Remastered, Black Phantom #1 in color, The Handbook of the G-Man Universe #5 & #6, Invictus: Outrage #1, Lynx #1, Lynx ’92 #1 Remastered, Sgt. Flag #1, and Taranis the Thunderlord #1
In production now are Agent Kirby #6, G-Man Comics Christmas Special #2, The Handbook of the G-Man Universe #7, Highlight #1, Invictus: Outrage #2, Lynx #2, Lynx Grindhouse Special #1, Sgt. Flag #2, Taranis the Thunderlord #2, and Total Eclipse #1 Remastered. To get the Christmas Special out on time for Christmas, we will split this into two different Kickstarters one with G-Man Comics Christmas Special #2 and Lynx Grindhouse Special #1, and then another with the rest of the comics.
In Agent Kirby #6 the main story is Agent Kirby and Sgt. Flag dealing with the aftermath of the death of Terror Noir when they are attacked by a massive quantity of androids. It’s an all-out battle they can’t hope to will when they are overwhelmed by sheer numbers. In the backup Atomik Bombshell and Sister Flag decide they want to make friends with Mummy Girl but during a night out they are called to active duty when they are in no condition to fight.
In G-Man Comics Christmas Special #2 we get our first installment of the Junior G-Men. Joshua 1:9 Holley drew them on the back page of the comic in a one-page gage in Kickstarter Four and they were so adorable they had to team up with Santa and Rudolph to save Christmas.
In The Handbook of the G-Man Universe #7, we will update the handbook to include the new heroes and villains that have joined our Universe as well as backer heroes who will appear in Agent Kirby #6.
In Highlight #1 a mysterious being enters created universes and warped his visions. He must rework the initial mission which involves the destruction of worlds from 2 polar visions. Highlight claims he’s read about these realities. To save them, he has to live the adventures. Their race is called readers.
In Invictus: Outrage #2 a beautiful, rich and powerful, a fashion model turned fashion and media mogul, Midnight Blue, wields her accumulated wealth for the betterment of the oppressed and less powerful—at least that’s what she tells herself. But Midnight has her dark side, and there are those eager to carry out her wishes and whims. The corrupt and powerful will fall before her power, both overt and covert. As they do, Outrage finds herself drawn into the fray ‘Brought to You by Midnight Blue’.
In the first backup story ‘The Night Lili’ introduces True Two, the team of True Blue and Richard the True Knight, first seen in Jim Burrows’ novel The Demon Priest.
In the second backup story 2, The fallen angel Lileilah continues her journey towards the role of a modern-day superhero in ‘The Tale of Red Halo, part 2’.
In Lynx #2 Mateo deals with a stick-up at the liquor store, while Maya has to take on Hombre Piñata, who terrorizes the neighborhood with his protection racket. In the backup Agent, Squires takes Kid Terror on his first stakeout. Can Chris stand to be alone in the car with Kid Terror for hours?
In Lynx Grindhouse Special #1 is an R-Rated version of Lynx. Dealing with drug dealers and bank robbers Maya and Mateo let the claws fly and draw blood as they will stop at nothing to protect the innocent from the harsh realities of local crime.
In Sgt. Flag #2 Rob McFarlane is out of vengeance when Mister Mystery is killed by Omicronbie & Fitch. However, Rob may have bitten off more than he can chew when he decides to face Omicronbie alone. In the backup we have another Sgt. Flag story as he tries his best to get a witness to the courthouse as a band of assassins will do anything it takes to stop him.
In Taranis, the Thunderlord #2 Taranis continues his battle with the Troll Kurzol and his mysterious partner, and if that alone wasn’t enough, Agent Kirby and Sgt. Flag has come to put the thunder god in his place. In the backup story Taranis, Dara, and Boden return to the mythic city of Avalorr, only to find new danger waiting for them in the form of the dark god Aenyr, and the threat of Esh-Kar!
In Total Eclipse #1 Remastered, back in 1962, two fans made comic book history by getting editor Julius Schwartz’s permission to create a new character based on the Golden Age hero Dr. Mid-Nite. Thus was born The Eclipse, written by Drury Moroz and drawn by Ronn Foss. Ronn had just taken over as the editor of Alter Ego and wanted his first issue to include an original creation. The original material is collected now for the first time.
1st: When you decided that you wanted to publish your own comic books, how did you start that up? Did you do the recruiting for writers and artists for those projects on your Facebook Shield G-Man group? I know you’ve talked about it there, but is that where this started?
Rik: I don’t recruit writers. I started publishing comics so I could write comics. Jim and Eric are my partners in G-Man Comics and they write too but we aren’t looking for writers. As far as artists go, Gilbert is our Art Director and he did the art on the first issue of Agent Kirby, G-Man Comics 3in1, The Handbook, and Invictus: Outrage. Alan Faria pitched his art to me. Joshua 1:9 Holley did a very cute style that I needed for a Sgt. Flag story and he can do standard superhero style too. Many of our creators were recommended by Dan Sehn who does Argo Comics. I have also called on several seasoned pros who I have known for years to contribute covers, including Bill Black, Dærick Gröss Sr., Eric Shanower, Michael Netzer, Mike Gustovich, OMG, Pat Broderick, Rob Liefeld, Steven Butler, and Tom Grindberg.
1st: These comics, I’m fairly confident, are printed as they are ordered by fans/buyers, right? This way, you don’t end up with already-printed unsold copies that cost you money, correct? Because I think that is the smart way to do it.
Rik: Because it’s a Kickstarter we know how many to print before we go to press. We print really close to the actual order numbers. I get a few extras for myself, but we don’t maintain an inventory of back issues.
1st: Which leads us, to my next question. Are any of these numerous comics you have written and published, still available for order on Indy Planet? Or, is it that, once the Kickstarters are over, and those who were able to financially support them (at the time), who got a copy or copies, that no more copies will be published for those who later want to order them? Politely meant, of course.
Rik: So far we have been exclusive on Kickstarter. We do offer the back issues in each new Kickstarter so new readers can catch up. We hadn’t planned anything with Indy Planet, we would rather go into retail comic shops. We don’t have anything lined up yet, so if you want back issues, please look out of our next Kickstarter.
1st: I don’t think I’ve asked this question as yet, but I think it is an important question to ask, for the reason that the MLJ and Archie series serious type superhero comics of the past is a huge part of your fan and collecting interests. How did this fascination with the MLJ/Archie superheroes get started?
Rik: I think we covered when it started when we talked about my father buying the Flashback reprints, but the origin of my obsession with these heroes began with the ’80s Red Circle line. They just really spoke to me. I loved getting in on the ground floor with the launch of the line. I loved the history and the details regarding their history they included on the front page. I loved the creative teams. I was a fan of Deathlock and Fantastic Four so I was familiar with Rich Buckler. They had Steve Ditko doing the Fly and were reprinting the Private Strong stories I always wanted to own from Simon & Kirby. It was a real bonanza for me, great artists and great heroes.
1st: Your Mighty Crusaders superheroes website has just got to be the largest, by far – of any Mighty Crusaders websites on the entire internet, and it is my understanding that you work hard to keep it regularly updated, seemingly constantly. You’ve done that for decades, I believe. How many years ago would you say, provided you remember, did you start www.mightycrusaders.net?
Rik: In 2003 I launched a GeoCities website dedicated to the Shield www.geocities.com/lancelotstrong. There were a half dozen Mighty Crusaders fan sites at the time. Bradley Cobb had www.mightymlj.com and gave it to me when he decided to do something different. His was an HTML-coded website so I had to learn to build and work a website. Scott Martin had a site www.crusaderschonicles.com and he gave that to me as well when he wanted to focus on Silver Age Marvel Comics. So with three sites combined, I decide to register www.mightycrusders.com however, as it turned out Bradly Cobb had registered that domain and then given it to Archie Comics when their attorney asked for it. So I registered www.mightycrusaders.net I called it the Mighty Crusaders Network because it was a network of websites combined. Then Sean Clay gave me www.goldcomics.com which was a Golden Age MLJ site famed for having scanned every MLJ Comic of the Golden Age and selling CDs of the scans of Sean’s comics. Once I was the only Mighty Crusaders site people started sending me obscure stuff and I chronicled everything.
1st: And our firstcomicsnews.com readers REALLY SHOULD look seriously, and lengthily at your mightycrusaders.net site, because it REALLY DOES have …. EVERYTHING!! Do you collect Golden Age 1940s Archie’s more serious superhero comics also, such as Pep Comics (featuring The Shield), The Black Hood, Blue Ribbon Comics, Top Notch Comics, Shield-Wizard Comics, the Hangman, Zip Comics (featuring Steel Sterling and others), Jackpot Comics, and others? If so, how many Golden Age MLJ comics, vintage originals, would you say you own, offhand?
Rik: Every comic fan thinks they want to be a comic retailer, but they don’t realize you have to sell all your favorite comics to pay the bills. I sold all my Golden Age and Silver Age comics when I had my comic shop which was before they were worth what they are now.
1st: You also have a Shield G-Man Facebook Group, wherein you recreate FREE full-color Shield badges and cards based on the Shield G-Man Club of the 1940s, and at your own expense! How long has that site been going, and what can you tell our readers, who are unfamiliar with this site?
Rik: In 2003 I relaunched the Shield G-Man Club. I hand-made badges and membership cards, initially the Club had 15 members. In 2018 I took the group to Facebook. We have 2,600 members today. The group is an unofficial fan club and we don’t sell anything. If we do any fan projects they have to be for the members, by members, and for free. It’s a Facebook group for fans to talk about the Mighty Crusaders it’s not about giving things away.
1st: You wrote a tell-all book about The MLJ and Mighty Crusaders characters entitled The MLJ Companion, along with fellow writer Paul Castiglia. It’s an amazing book, jam-packed full of interesting and often little-known information. I’ve read it cover to cover at least three times! When did you and Paul start writing that book, and how long did it take? Did you have a publisher in mind, when you wrote it?
Rik: Having successfully published several “Companion” books spotlighting Golden Age publishers like Quality and Fawcett, John Morrow of TwoMorrows approached Archie about doing an MLJ book and Archie agreed to it. John then contacted Paul Castiglia to write the book, and in turn, Paul recommended to John that I collaborate on the project with him. John contacted me and offered me a contract. I have never written a book before, I mostly did interviews at the time. Paul was a buddy and he edited the book and co-wrote with me. We asked John how many pages he wanted. He told us just to cover the superheroes and we would be fine. He sent both of us copies of the Quality Comics Companion so we would know what he had in mind. I wrote the first outline using the www.mightycrusaders.net website as a guide. I turned in the outline to Paul, he looked it over made corrections and additions, we passed it back and forth until we were happy with it, and turned we turned it in to John. John then went to Archie Comics for final permission and approval. That process took about a year. Once everything was approved and we got the go-ahead it took about a year to write the book. Additionally, Paul had done a story on the Fox for J.C. Vaughn and J.C. was nice enough to let us reprint that as well. Paul and I put together everything there ever was about MLJ Comics. We turned in everything, including art files. John looked at it and said we wrote too much and the price of the book would be too high with this many pages. Paul and I went over everything and removed the fluff, so it was at a reasonable size without leaving out anything important. Our book designer Jon B. Cook was also a big fan of MLJ Comics. During the production phase, he added a few things we didn’t have and condensed other things, and wrote some pieces himself, becoming the third partner in the book. Between book design, final approval from Archie Comics, and printing that took another year. Three years in total from the time I was first contacted to do the project and the time I had a print copy in my hands.
1st: Do you think you will ever write another book? And if so, have you had any thoughts on what a future project might be about?
Rik: At the moment G-Man Comics takes up a lot of time, I’m also working on some packaged corporate comics for Spooky Ninja Kitty. So, I haven’t thought about doing another book yet. Of course, I wasn’t planning The MLJ Companion until they made the offer so you never know.
1st: You attend, it seems, many Comic Book Conventions, mostly, I think, at the huge San Diego Comicon. Do you go every year? And, do you attend other Comicons, as well? How long ago did you start doing that, and what do you mostly shop for, when you go there?
Rik: I have attended the San Diego ComicCon for more than 30 years. Originally as a fan, but once I started writing for the CBG, I got a press pass and have attended every year as a member of the press ever since. I have been to WonderCon every year since it moved to Anaheim. Ferdinand Salas used to host Comic Cons in Southern California, when I was a retailer I got a table from him every month. Bruce Green did a monthly convention at the Shrine Auditorium and I was there every month too. I had a regular booth at the weekly Fank ‘n’ Sons Collectibles Show in Walnut when I was a retailer. I’ve been to the Long Beach Comic-Con, the New York Comics, and Wizards World.
1st: You are also, I think, a guest speaker at either all or many of these Comicons. What topics do you talk about, on these Comicon panels?
Rik: At the San Diego ComicCon, WonderCon every year since 2012 I have done a “How to Get News Coverage” panel for small press publishers. I was the Public Relations Coordinator at Archie Comics for a decade and I notice that the guys at the small press section of ComicCon didn’t know how to get any coverage for their Indie Comics so this panel is a group of comicbook journalists telling them what they need to submit to get coverage, how to submit it, where to submit it, which sites will cover them etc. Additionally, whenever approved I also do a panel on the Mighty Crusaders. It isn’t every year but many years. This year I was selected to be a judge on the Eisner Awards, so that was a fun experience.
1st: Thank you, Rik, for agreeing to do this interview with me, for First Comics News dot Com! I’m hoping you enjoyed participating in it as much as I enjoyed conducting it! Thank you, Brother Rik!
See G-Man Comics’ latest Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/g-man-comics/g-man-comics-christmas-special