MADMAN!

(No, not Harvey Kurtzman!)

There are quite a few, well, bizarre super heroes who have been created throughout the years by twisted, sensory-deprived comic book professionals working through the long hours in their lonely attic and basement studios, the phrase "the check is in the mail" ringing mockingly in the hollows of their minds. And, face it, you have to be just a little bit reality-deficient to work in the comics field in the first place. There's Pig-Iron (The Swine of Steel), Rubber Duck, and Doctor Bong, to name just a few looney 'toons. But over all proudly stands Michael Allred's Madman.

So who is this Madman? Originally he was just a "nobody" like you and me, but after being hit by a car the former corpse was brought back to life by Dr. Egon Boiffard, who named him Frank Einstein (being fond of Sinatra and the physicist). The re-animated human now has enhanced senses, agility, and a mysterious psychic power. Frank also wears a costume, based on Mr. Excitement, a favorite super hero of his, to hide his hideous scars.

Curiously enough, a car soon hit Professor Boiffard himself, who subsequently went mad after becoming addicted to "brain-expansion medicine." Other characters in the Madman cast include Joe Lombard, who worked next to Frank when he was a private investigator. Josephine, the "love interest," accompanies him on most of his adventures. There's also Dr. Gillespie Flem (sounds like "phlegm"), who became good friends with Frank after he helped him track down six Flem clones. Dr. Gail Gale, one of Flem's assistants, was abducted by beatniks and was tattooed all over her head. Experiments to remove them resulted in her head turning invisible -but the tattoos remained (kids, don't try this at home!). And let's not forget Mott the Hoople, a female refugee from the planet Hoople, who has fallen in love with a beatnik helping Flem and Madman.

Madman was originally to be called "The Spook," but that was dropped after Michael Allred discovered that name was in use. Madman first appeared as his alter-ego, Frank Einstein, in an eight page story called "For the Record" in Creatures of the Id, debuting in 1990 thanks to Caliber Press. That same year Frank reappeared in a four issue series, Grafik Muzik, also published by Caliber. When Frank finally put on his super hero suit (sporting a snappy Captain Marvel-style lightning bolt), he appeared in a three issue Madman mini-series published by Tundra. The second trilogy, also from Tundra, was called Madman Adventures (1992-93).

Currently the third series, Madman Comics, now up to issue twelve, is published by Dark Horse Comics. The Harvey Award winning artist/writer has also illustrated a number of Vertigo titles, like The Geek and the Prez issue of The Sandman (#54), and most recently penciled pages for a Green Lantern special issue. Allred has found time to produce another Dark Horse series, Red Rocket 7, the story of seven alien clones that wander through the decades of rock n' roll history. Allred also issued a CD, The Gear: Red Rocket 7, which he describes as "Mod Metal," influenced by the early Kinks and The Who. As if this wasn't enough creative activity, Allred worked on two films with Shane Hawks, Astroesque and Eyes to Heaven. A Dark Horse comic book prequel to the latter film, Feeders, written by Hawks and illustrated by Allred, hit the comic shops this October ((1999)).

Madman has launched numerous comic book collections and collectible merchandise, like a Figures '98 Premiere Madman action figure, the Wizard Exclusive Madman action figure, and the Gig Blast Madman with accessory pack, as well as Madman magnets and cutouts. The likelihood is that there will be a lot more Madman memorabilia generated if the Madman movie, to be directed by Robert (The Faculty) Rodriguez, materializes - production is still off in the future. Meanwhile, a big surprise popped up a few months ago when Allred learned that his comic book concept G-Men From Hell was finally in production. Allred had optioned his story of two escapees from the infernal regions to producer Rick Albert literally years ago and then heard nothing more about the matter until Albert called with the good news. Filming, which began on October 21, is scheduled to finish at the end of November.

Although the movie is based on an incomplete storyline from the 1991 Harvey-nominated Grafik Muzik series, Allred is satisfied with the screenplay, written by Robert Cooper with a finish by Albert and Nicholas Johnson. "It's amazing to me. Everything that I did on that is in this but they've somehow built this really cool story around it. They've filled in the blanks." Allred's concept for the unfinished comic story was that two deceased criminals, Mattress and Crept, are languishing in Hell until they discover a convenient exit and flee back to Earth with hopes of earning their way through those Pearly Gates as private investigators. Christopher Coppola (brother of Nicolas Cage and nephew of Francis Ford Coppola) is the film's director.

Michael Allred's Madman will continue to run as a Dark Horse title, but Allred has recently launched his own publishing company, AAA Pop. The Atomics, a Madman spin-off featuring The Mutant Street Beatniks, will debut in full color as its first title this January. Other inhabitants of the Madman "Snap City" universe, such as Cool Cat and "It" Girl, may eventually get their own titles or specials. For a further look the hip zaniness of Mike Allred, readers can check out his new website.

Despite his work in film and music, and unlike those creators who use comics as a stepping stone for other media, Allred plans to stay in field, because, in his words, "you can do anything in a comic book, and it's possible for one person to do a comic book. It's the purest storytelling art form there is...."

--Steve Stiles