My Secret Comics Origins: Miss Fury
Over a year ago, I was contacted by Eliot K Daughtry, an artist and writer, with whom I shared the experience of being approached about drawing a revival of the Miss Fury comic when we were very young teens.
Tom Long was a well-known figure in fandom going back to the 1960’s. I think he was about 30 years older than us, and he quite enjoyed his fandom celebrity. His fanzine Graphic Showcase premiered the work of many notable creators such as Stephen Hickman, Mike Kaluta and Berni Wrightson. Some of these old magazines are collector catnip.
‘Zines weren’t considered “professional” venues by many, but some paid more than small press outlets do now. Also, ‘zines like Graphic Showcase had higher print runs and better production values than many independent comics do today. Just about anything that didn’t come from a major publishing house was considered a ‘zine back then, and a decade after notable self published comics made moolah in comics shops, older, snobbier fans and pros still called them fanzines. To about 1995, as I recall.
Anyway, while at a small local convention I was approached by Mr Long who offered me a contract – $20 a page – and the chance to work on the comic Miss Fury, which I’d never heard of, and knew nothing about until many years later. In the pre-internet era, there was simply no way to find out about this stuff, and keepers of fan lore like Mr Long were revered.
Originally created by Tarpe Mills, the 1940’s era comic featured a sultry Catwoman-like heroine.
My work was already appearing in small zines, and I will try to dredge some of them out of the attic. But Miss Fury was my first real paying comic book gig, and what the heck, I was being discovered by the guy who discovered Berni Wrightson, so yay.
I don’t remember the exact date of all this, except that I was just at or near 16, and worked on this thing off and on for over a year. I didn’t talk about it much to friends, because I didn’t want to look like a doofus if I got ditched, since I wasn’t sure I was good enough at that time. I mean, if his standards were Kaluta and Wrightson, I felt pretty outclassed. And this guy wanted me to do Kaluta style art. The most I can remember about this job is having heart palpitations over the struggle to draw 1940’s era cars.
After meeting and speaking with Mr Long at another convention about a year or so into the gig, I was very disappointed with the direction the story was taking: too porny for me. Mr Long was asking me to draw things I would not legally be able to buy.
I wrote Mr Long a letter of resignation, and returned whatever advance he paid (it wasn’t much.) Alas, he kept all of my art, except for this. This would have been drawn sometime between ages 16 and 18. I think you can see how I was trying to pull off a Kaluta look with the art.
I can’t recall if this is Miss Fury herself, but I think it’s actually a nemesis named Lady Bluefire. When people asked me about my early work, I would often reply “I worked on something called Lady Bluefire,” because that is all I could recall. I simply didn’t have a very good memory of all this, but Eliot sparked my fading software.
Here is our correspondence.
Hi Colleen –
I know you from comic events in Richmond VA in the early 80’s. At the time I was a young teenager doing comic ‘zines and you were just starting A Distant Soil. We tabled together a couple of times, and after I moved to Northern VA, I lost contact.
I changed gender and my name from Elaine to Eliot almost 20 years ago.
I had the honor of dinner with Trina Robbins tonight and was pleased to talk with her about the Eisner nomination for the Miss Fury project
A few years ago I gave Trina a proof binding that was given to me by one of the guys involved in comics in Richmond – he was kind of strange and had approached me about doing a remake of Miss Fury. I seem to remember he had approached you as well. I don’t remember his name anymore – I think my mom was not comfortable with me working with him.
Do you remember who it was? Was he kind of strange as I remember?
Anyway, it all made me think of you, and made me wish that I hadn’t lost contact oh so long ago.
Your current work looks fantastic! Glad to know you are still making really great stuff.
How nice to hear from you, and how kind of you to remember me.
I’m sorry, I really don’t recall you at all, and didn’t do conventions in the Richmond area, except for one show when I was a kid, which I attended with my mother. Is it possible you have me mixed up with someone else? I only did one or two Richmond shows in my whole life, and never lived there, so maybe it was someone else?
Anyway, yes, I do remember the Miss Fury project, and the fellow’s name was Tom Long. He was definitely a strange guy. He paid me $20 a page to work on that job, but don’t know what happened to the art. He made me very uncomfortable and I quit.
He also hired people like Mike Kaluta and Steve Hickman to work on his fanzines. Small world, hunh?
I can’t believe I actually heard from someone who remembers this guy! I think people assume I made up that weird story, LOL!
So nice to hear from you about this! How strange it all was!
Thank you for your kind comments.
I’m pretty sure we met in Richmond, but it is possible that there were shows in N. VA or in the Norfolk area that I attended. I was an early teen at the time – too young to drive. I hadn’t met another young woman who read comics, much less made them. We had a couple of conversations. You wouldn’t have a good, clear reason to remember me. I just remembered talking to you about the Miss Fury material – and the guy Tom Long.
I’m glad that we can confirm for each other that this happened, even if Tom Long was creepy. It seems really strange to me as an adult that he would approach at least 2 young women to do work on a project like Miss Fury. He offered me $10/page – but I never completed anything for him. He kept several pages of my work that were not part of the Miss Fury project. I had a series of meetings at his house – 3 I think. He never did anything that I could call assault, but I can’t say I feel all these years later like he had good intentions.
I don’t have any copies of his fanzines, but I do remember that he seemed to publish a lot of strange stuff.
I looked at the obit you sent, too. Thanks for sending that. Comforting in a strange way.
Do you know Trina? I’m assuming you do. I was at dinner with her and Steve because our mutual friend Fly is in town and we are all connected via Fly’s Peop’s project. I wouldn’t be surprised if you know Fly too.
Impressed with how fast you responded and hope it is worth revisiting the strange connection.
Cheers, and best wishes
I also recall being too young to drive and never went to a show without my mother unless accompanied by an adult from my publishing company. Alas, a couple of those adults weren’t trustworthy people, and after a few bad incidents, I recruited my mom as chaperone once again.
I did attend a Richmond convention when I was 16, so this was probably where I met Eliot. I’m amazed anyone can remember me from back then!
I am actually very happy to get your letter, because I have told a number of people about my strange early experiences in comics, and sometimes people think I am exaggerating. Nope!
I now have confirmation from a second party that this happened. I am so happy to have this!
Tom Long did a number of small press ‘zines going back to the 1960’s, and he’s credited with discovering a lot of name artists. I will never forget being creeped out by his behavior. He never did anything directly, just gave me the crawls.
I do remember him going over, in great detail, what he wanted me to draw in his story, and as it progressed, I could see it was soft core porn. He wanted me to draw the character getting her blouse ripped off and getting whipped by Nazi’s. I mean, really, you hire an underage girl to draw this stuff?
Do you mind if I share some of your remembrances of this? I’d like to blog about it.
I have publicly credited him with giving me my first gig in comics, which is true, but nothing was ever published. I had no idea he’d approached another girl, but I have a vague memory he once approached a teen boy, even younger than me.
Yes, I know Trina, but not that well. I see her every five years or so!
I’m totally fine with you sharing the story. I’m glad to have a name to put on the person – and I’m sure Trina will find the anecdote pretty fascinating.
Your recollection of what Tom was looking for with Miss Fury matches mine. I’m glad the project never got going – I’d much rather remember the Tarpe Mills work as is 🙂
Eliot K Daughtry
I want to emphasize that neither of us were ever touched by Mr Long, but his invites to meet at his house and his attempts to get us to draw soft core porn were just beyond inappropriate and would probably get one arrested, since it would classify as contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mr Long seemed to have absolutely no awareness of what he was doing as being dicey, and I recall his feelings being very hurt when I told him I would no longer work with him.
Inviting an underage girl to your home unsupervised is just a really bad idea, even if you don’t have nefarious intentions. It just looks bad, dudes. And Mr Long was not the only adult man who had boundaries issues that I encountered in my early days.
Anyway, the early days of comics fandom were girl-deprived as Eliot recalls, and yet we were sought out over and over again to work on ‘zines and do commissions. Some people used to rail that we got an unfair amount of attention and prospered because of it.
Not all attention is good attention, people.
Both Eliot and I ended up becoming professional artists.
So, there it is.