HOW AVATAR PRESS SAVED MY LIFE, Part 4: Reconstruction

Creator Talk is one of Avatar Press’ newest online exclusives, featuring the real life experiences of a wide range of comic book professionals. Artist of the upcoming Garth Ennis series, Streets of Glory, indy creator, and frequent colaborator with Warren Ellis and John Russo, Mike Wolfer participates in the debut of this all new feature on In the first three segments, he’s plotted the many twists in his career as an artist, writer, creator, and publisher. Wolfer now goes into his work with Avatar Press, a relationship spanning most of the decade Avatar Press has been established. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

HOW AVATAR PRESS SAVED MY LIFE, Part 4: Reconstruction
By Mike Wolfer

It was a time of great unrest. Nineteen Ninety-Six. The comic book industry was littered with the corpses of idealistic indy publishers, struck down before their prime by the ravaging, black vacuum created by the rapid retreat of comic book speculators abandoning the market.
William Christensen knew that it was the perfect time to launch Avatar Press. And I believed him.
With my own sales floundering but still strong enough to maintain interest, William offered to publish WIDOW, in a “safety in numbers” tactic. With his extensive knowledge of the industry, garnered from his years as head of Comic Cavalcade and his association with WIZARD MAGAZINE, William began collecting a solid core of creative allies, bringing with them established properties and reputations. I gladly got on board.
The question was, “What do we do with WIDOW?” The series had gone through several transformations since its inception, between color and black and white, “mature readers” and “all ages.” How to make a smooth transition from Ground Zero Comics to Avatar Press was an interesting conundrum as well, as we did not want to confuse older readers or disorient new ones.
After a bit of brainstorming, we decided to give the fans what they wanted… And then some.
Exploitation or not, WIDOW had always been known as a no-holds-barred, erotic horror tale and as evidenced by the reaction to the all-ages WIDOW: METAL GYPSIES, the readers wanted their Emma to be a nude one. First things first: Recap everything that had gone before and wrap up all old storylines in WIDOW #0, a tale originally slated as a FANGS OF THE WIDOW ANNUAL at Ground Zero. Next came the three-issue WIDOW: THE ORIGIN, a revamping and continuation of the tale first presented in the WIDOW CINEGRAPHIC SPECIAL. Avatar’s company-owned, flagship character PANDORA met WIDOW in two cross-overs, after which our favorite spider-girl met, teamed-up with or killed former London Night Studios characters Razor, Poizon and Lethal Stryke in a tale serialized in six issues of THRESHOLD.
But the most controversial (and most anticipated) incarnation of the tale of WIDOW was set to take readers totally off guard. With several new pages of art per book, Avatar reprinted every issue of WIDOW to date in a shocking, X-Rated format, not surprisingly titled WIDOW X. New characters and subplots were interwoven into the existing stories, expansions made to certain fondly-remembered scenes and previously concealed secrets exposed. It was the WIDOW that Emma’s fans had been secretly hoping for since her first appearance in 1992, appearing in scenes previously only possible by placing the WIDOW Collectible Figure produced by Bolt Entertainment in impossible positions.
It wasn’t just about WIDOW, however. William had other plans for me, an agenda that he envisioned from the outset of our working relationship. Somewhere, he got the notion that he could groom me for other projects, attaching me to increasingly higher-profile series. Finally, someone was steering my career in the right direction, with advice that was always sound. It was about time. But what exactly did William have planned for me?
“How would you like to work with Warren Ellis?” he asked.
I think I may have replied, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Although Warren was planning on writing a different series for Avatar, after examining my work and analyzing my strengths, he retooled a SATANA script previously rejected by Marvel Comics. Apparently, the story’s concept was just too graphic for their delicate readership. But Warren knew that at Avatar Press, anything goes.
And STRANGE KISS was born, like a lizard screaming and clawing its way out of the bloody anus of a hospitalized old man. Oh, wait… That was actually in the story…

To be continued…

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