For Your Consideration: DC Universe by Mike Mignola

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

DC Universe by Mike Mignola

DC Universe by Mike Mignola


Today, he’s best known for his supernatural, gothic works that best works with his unique style. Yet, Mike Mignola’s earliest work for DC Comics tended more towards the science fiction before it got grounded. His moody, atmospheric Gotham by Gaslight and expansive Cosmic Odyssey are the works that showed his growth as an artist but they are far from the only works he produced for the company. Coming this spring is DC Universe by Mike Mignola which shows both ends of his artistic spectrum.

His first work for the company was a Who’s Who page I assigned him but his former Marvel Comics buddy, Mike Carlin, began giving Mignola steady work starting with Superman: The World of Krypton miniseries. With interest in the John Byrne-led reboot in Superman running high, DC launched three minis to cover Kal-El’s life starting with a look back at his ancestors on Krypton. Written by Byrne and inked by Rick Bryant, the story begins 1000 years in the past and a conflict involving clones that sparked a millennium-long war, ending only in the days before the planet’s destruction. We explore the L family which evolved into the Els, ending with Jor-El, Lara, and their young son. To Byrne, Krypton was not a very nice society and Kal-El was fortunate to escape the cold, heartless civilization. The miniseries also delved more into the culture including the age-slowing body suits and warsuits that became part of the lore. Mignola’s art is expansive while Bryant’s technical detail was crisp.

Superman #18

Superman #18


From there, it was an easy leap for Carlin to use Mignola on science fiction-tinged fill-ins, starting with Superman #18, guest-starring Thanagar’s Hawkman and Hawkwoman. The first sense of the supernatural tone of Mignola’s work, interestingly came in #23’s first post-Byrne story where Roger Stern introduced us to the Silver Banshee. This was also the first DC collaboration between Mignola and P. Craig Russell.

Mignola was one of several artists to tell another Krypton-inspired tale in 1989’s Action Comics Annual #2. Stern partnered with writer Jerry Ordway and George Pérez in a story that gave us the threat from Mongul but also introduced us to the Eradicator. Mignola shared the art with pencillers Ordway and Curt Swan; and Pérez as Mignola’s inker. The issue also included a two-pager, “How I Spent My Super-Summer Vacation” produced by Pérez, Ordway, and Mignola.

They partnered again for the four-issue Phantom Stranger miniseries which DC has previously attempted to collect but has wound up cancelling the orders before publication. This well-regarded story from Paul Kupperberg is finally getting a return to the public eye.

Phantom Stranger #1

Phantom Stranger #1


“I wanted to ground this story in a more human place,” Kupperberg recalled when I first wrote about this series for Westfield. “The story I originally pitched…was essentially Phantom Stranger as Jesus. The Lords of Order say it’s over, the Stranger is left to wonder why he has been forsaken, and left to the tender mercies of mankind to judge him. I’ll admit; I definitely played off of Denny’s Irish Catholic upbringing when I pitched him that one!

“I needed ‘real’ people to put together with the Stranger, not a lot of magical and super-powered characters.”

Carlin then enticed Russell to ink the story creating the strongest visuals the Stranger had had since Jim Aparo drew his adventures a decade earlier. In fact, Kupperberg first wanted Aparo as artist but proved unavailable. “But as brilliant an artist as Jim was, I think in the long run, Carlin’s instinct to go with Mignola, was the best course. Carlin knew from working together at Marvel where he’d just come over from to take the DC job. It was so different from much of the look of DC books at the time, which made it really stand out.”

Russell told me over at Back Issue!, “The appeal was simple: I loved inking Mike’s work. He was an obviously rapidly evolving major talent and until he rightly assumed inking duties on his own work I had the pleasure of inking nearly 300 pages of his work.

“At the time Mike was feeling his way into his own unique style and was playing around with a more classic illustration style, more cross-hatching and intricate detail. I was simpatico with that and even added to it in places. That approach would be very out of place today with Mike’s mature style.

“All the visual flourishes that accompany a story of the supernatural are fun to explore. This series had that. Also city busses.”

Despite the battle against Eclipso, the series featured some of the writer’s patented dark humor and ended on an optimistic note.

Beyond that, Mignola also worked with Canadian creator Tory Nixey on Batman: The Doom that came to Gotham and teamed up again for “The Gasworks”, a Batman Black & White story in Batman: Gotham Knights #36.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #54

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #54


Mignola collaborated with Editor Dan Raspler on a one-off tale set in a mausoleum that ran in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #54. He coplotted the story and illustrated it with moody color from Mark Chiarello,

Interestingly, Mignola never did much with the titles that eventually formed Vertigo which makes the inclusion of this exception a very nice addition to the collection. “Shaggy God Stories” was a 10-pager that ran in Swamp Thing Annual #5. There, Neil Gaiman spun a yarn featuring the extra-dimensional Floronic Man, recently featured in the Millennium event, and the Parliament of Trees.

Mignola has a very strong, dynamic design sensibility which was put to work on numerous covers across the years and across the line. According to the solicitation, dozens of these covers will be included but a complete listing was not released.

His contributions to DC may not compare with his independent work, but they were important building blocks in assembling a career as one of today’s most acclaimed and respected artists.

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DC Universe by Mike Mignola

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database

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