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When I think of old time sci-fi the words pulp and noir come to mind, followed closely by camp and cheese. In Vanguard Productions’ Space Cowboy by writer J. David Spurlock, the pulp and noir are definitely well represented. The main character is a man lost in time named Rick Montana, think a cross between John Wayne meets Han Solo all wrapped up in a nice Mal Reynolds package. Basically think, the coolest space cowboy imaginable.
Everything about Space Cowboy screams 1940’s radio serial. I can imagine Ralphie Parker rushing to the radio excitedly tuning into Rick Montana: Space Cowboy each week. Along with the epic and expansive story Frank Frazetta’s art is the perfect compliment, capturing the look and feel of classic 1950’s sci-fi films. I loved reading this book; I had a real hard time putting it down once I got started. It is an epic story and the black and white art work really added to the tone, feel and overall greatness of this book.
If this is the first time you are hearing about Space Cowboy don’t fret, after you finish this article you can visit this link; HERE, to make your purchase. You will be happy you did, it’s a great read and an exciting and epic story of a man lost in time and space protecting the galaxy from evil and tyranny.
After I finished reading Space Cowboy I was lucky enough to interview author J. David Spurlock and he was very gracious to answer my questions about Space Cowboy, his history in the comic book industry and what is next for Rick Montana.
Now, on to the interview…
ScienceFiction.com: Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got into comics (reading, writing and publishing)?
J. David Spurlock: Born in Memphis, raised in Texas — Wikipedia had some things right… except they list books I wrote as books I published. Ive published sooo much more than that! I studied Commercial Art under Bud Norton Hemedinger at Skyline Career Development Center in Dallas in the 1970s. I wanted to learn new techniques and be the first to introduce them to comics. Bud had studied at Burne Hogarth’s School For Cartoonists and Illustrators in New York in the 50s. He was there a bit after all the famous guys like Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, and Al Williamson. That school is now one of the top art colleges in the world and was renamed The School of Visual Arts. I ended up teaching there after I moved to New York in the 1990s.
When I first moved up, I taught at the Joe Kubert School. I had taught at the University of Texas for 10 years, before that. Anyway, after a year teaching at the Kubert School, Joe Orlando got me to teach at SVA. That’s where I met Carmine Infantino, Klaus Jansen, Walt Simonson, Joey Cavalieri, Jack Harris, Sal Amendola… look em up, all great people. I had already been close with Joe Orlando and Marshall Arisman, who is the head of the Masters Illustration department. But that’s not the question you asked.
I was a child of the 60s and grew up reading Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin, and eating up the art of Jack Kirby, Steranko, Buscema, Wally Wood, Neal Adams, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, John Romita, Gene Colan—the greats! When I finished school in Dallas in the late-70s, before FedEx and faxes took over, you still had to live within commuting distance of New York to really work in comics. So, I went into advertising and Bill Sienkiewicz got to introduce all the cool new illustration techniques to comics instead of me (laughs)! I did write, draw and published one issue of a wild, almost-underground kinda comic around 1980, called BADGE #1 featuring my character Bleugene, who was a Viet Nam vet turned hippie living in the rough Dallas ‘hood called Oak Cliff (where both I and Stevie Ray Vaughn lived in real life). ‘Gene crashes one night and wakes up in another world—far-out stuff ensues (laughs). As I had no distribution contract, BADGE failed commercially.
ScienceFiction.com: Even though you have yet to show his origins can you explain to our readers what brought about Rick Montana: Space Cowboy?
J. David Spurlock: I continued as an illustrator and graphic designer and art professor in Dallas but, the love of comics never left so, very inspired by my associate and teacher, Barron Storey, in October of 1990, I launched Vanguard Publishing with one issue of a local arts magazine called VANGUARD MAGAZINE which featured my work and other Texas illustrators including Don Ivan Punchatz. I spent much of ’91 researching comics as a business instead of as an art form. In ’92 I started work on the first issue of TALES FROM THE EDGE—or simply, EDGE. That’s where I introduced Rick Montana, The Space Cowboy. I used to describe The EDGE as old weird stuff meets new weird stuff; a combination comics anthology and avant-garde art magazine. The old weird stuff was inspired by my love of the 1950s EC sci-fi comics WIERD SCIENCE and WEIRD FANTASY. The new weird stuff was cutting-edge illustrators including Barron Storey, Marshall Arisman, Bill Sienkiewicz and George Pratt doing a bit of art for art’s sake.
ScienceFiction.com: Aside from 1950’s science fiction movies where else did you draw inspiration for Rick Montana and the other rich characters in this story?
J. David: 1940s sci-fi movie serials — especially the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers ones with Buster Crabbe and then 50s sci-fi comics by the likes of Wally Wood and Al Williamson. I knew Al well and loved him as if he were my father. The whole thing is very much a tribute to Al, his work — both science fiction and westerns. Kind of like Indiana Jones as a cowboy but looking like Buster Crabbe zipped off into space and time. A lot of people thought The Space Cowboy’d evil nemesis, Dr. Xyclopse, was inspired by an old fanzine character called The Eye buy I actually never took note of The Eye until people started asking if Dr. Xyclopes was in any way inspired by him.
ScienceFiction.com: When I was reading Space Cowboy I got a great sense of nostalgia for the old sci-fi radio serials; can you talk about how you captured that tone?
J. David Spurlock: It’s in me. I go to that place… “Return with us now to another daring adventure with Rick Montana, the SPAAAAACE COOOWWWBOOOYYY.” (Laughs)
ScienceFiction.com: Dr. Xyclops is a very cool villain; can you talk about how you came up with the idea for him? And aside from turning Cindy into a Cyclops what is his master plan?
J. David Spurlock: Thank you, Brian. Glad you like him. What could be better than an evil Dr. with a head that is a giant eyeball! And could anyone be more dastardly than to go about trying to insert his evil serum into the sweetest girls in the universe?
ScienceFiction.com: Finally, when can we expect to see more of the adventures of Rick Montana?
J. David Spurlock: Well there’s another issue out with another fantastic villain I dare not spill the beans on. We are working on the origin story now but other projects like THE ART OF NEAL ADAMS and the new VANGUARD FRAZETTA CLASSICS series keeps taking me away from the drawing board. I also just wrote a great book for Random House/Watson-Guptill on HOW TO DRAW CHILLER MONSTERS, VAMPIRES & ZOMBIES! Im also working on a collection of classic 1950s sci-fi comics by Wally Wood called STRANGE WORLDS.
ScienceFiction.com: I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions. I really enjoyed your story and the art in the book, once I started reading it I found it hard to put down. If there is anything else you would like to add please feel free.
I’d like to invite everyone to join me on VANGUARD PRODUCTIONS Facebook page.
Well there you have it. If you are not excited to check this book I don’t know what to tell you. It had a great story, great art and also played the part of time machine transporting me back to the 1940’s sitting in front of the family radio waiting for the next installment of the SPAAAAACE COOOWWWBOOOYYY.
Now to the matter of the contest…
Seeing you’ve just read the review and interview, tell us what you think in the comments section. That’s it! Then on Friday 3/25 we will randomly select one winner to get an autographed copy of the Space Cowboy comic. All you have to do is leave a comment telling us what you think of our review/interview and you are entered to win. Our only restriction is you must live in the U.S. for shipping purposes. Good luck!