1993: Madman Adventures

Madman Adventures (1993) by Mike Allred and Laura Allred

I was a huge Allred fan back in the Graphique Musique/Graphic Music days, but I lost track of him soon after, and never read his Madman stuff, for some reason or other.

He explains in the introduction that for the first time, his comics look like he wants to.

So I assumed that this was some sort of new beginning or something, but nope: We’re just dropped into a dream sequence at random, and then…

… we get the best action sequence ever.

Man, the artwork here is so fresh and good looking. Allred’s artwork can sometimes be a bit stiff, but here it’s so lively and attractive. Lovely colours from Laura Allred, too, of course. So I can understand what he meant in that introduction: If I’d made something like this, I’d be pretty proud, too.

Best love scene ever.

But… as much as I enjoy being dropped into the action without any explanation, Allred gives new readers little chance to catch up with what’s been going on. We probably don’t need it, but if I’d never read any Madman stuff before, I’d be pretty puzzled. (I’ve read some of the later stuff, here and there.) Like: Who are all these people, anyway?

Is Madman channelling Zippy?

We get a small handful of different adventures in this collection, and they’re all fun, told in a way that zips along, with gorgeous artwork. But there’s something slightly off sometimes, like when in this goofy story, the villain (an old scientist woman) disappears under some lava. It’s… “well, OK”?

It just seems off for something that’s this whimsical. Or perhaps it’s not whimsical enough, so her being killed off like this feels like more of a real thing that should have an impact, somehow?

I don’t know. It’s a fun book, anyway.

Comics Scene Volume #2, page 27:

Madman himself isn’t the psycho-
pathic kinkoid his name might suggest,
and the 1990s superhero code might
demand. He’s a sweet-tempered amne-
siac named Frank Einsteini who has a
face full of scars (mad scientists resur-
rected him after a car crash), a heart
full of wonder (he confronts new men-
aces with “Gosh'”) and a closet full of
costumes (he rarely wears the same
one twice). Playful would best describe
his exploits.
The all-ages sensibility comes easily
for Allred, a father of three whose ear-
lier comics were altogether darker. “I
was doing fairly esoteric, semi-under-
ground work before,”
says Allred,
referring to books like Grafique
Musique, Dead Air, Creatures of the Id
and The Everyman. “When my eldest
son wanted to take some of my work to
school for show-and-tell, I said, ‘Uh,
I’m not sure if they would like it.’
“I realized I wasn’t really enjoying it
that much either. I thought about the
comics I loved, like Jack Cole’s Plastic
Man, The Fox, Matt Wagner’s Grendel,
Bernie Mireault’s The Jam, the old
Fantastic Four…l wanted to do some-
thing in that spirit.”
When Tundra published Madman
#1 in 1992, though, its hero wasn’t
quite his modern happy-go-lucky self.
He sometimes behaved like, well, like
a madman, at one point yanking out
someone’s eyeball and popping it in
his mouth. Still, the three-issue,
two-color series had its wacky side.
Madman bopped the naughty with a
yo-yo, and danced the Batusi, the
swim and the jerk in the flip-action
The second three-issue series,
Madman Adventures, had day-glo
color from Laura Allred, Michael’s
wife, a former art major and lifelong
painter who manages a jewelry shop
full-time. Allred calls the series “a
burst of enlightenment—I was doing
exactly what I wanted to do.” No more
eyeball munchies—Frank Einstein
mellowed into a gentle goof, swooning
after his girl friend, the freckly Joe,
while tussling with robots, dinosaurs,
secret agents and ghost tribes.
Unlike Madman, Madman Adven-
tures wasn’t intended as a trilogy; the
back of #3 plugged the next issue’s
story, “Horror on the High Seas.” But
then-publisher Kevin Eastman sold
Tundra, his money-losing “alternative”
imprint, to Kitchen Sink, a bastion of
independent comics. Allred says other
companies courted him while he
waited for Kitchen Sink’s offer, and
there was even talk of a special Image
imprint to publish the book.
The best offer came from Dark
Horse; Allred says he consulted with
Eastman before accepting, “because he
really did right by me. Kevin said to do
what was best for me and the book.”
Once Allred signed, Dark Horse blitzed
the market with Madman promo piec-
es, retailer contests and such hoopla.
“Retailers looked at Kitchen
Sink/ Tundra as artsy, and appealing to
a little more selective crowd,” says
Allred (for “more selective,”
“smaller”). “On the other hand, work-
ing with Kitchen Sink/ Tundra proba-
bly gave Madman an extra push of
respectability. ”

Rich Kreiner writes in The Comics Journal #164, page 53:

Madman Adventures represents a distinct
improvement. It’ s shorter, better crafted, better
balanced, and more constrained. Allred plainly
has a clearer idea Of what he wants to do, and
here enthusiasm does carry the day. The plot is
a relatively steady escalation through to an
endi ng that makes your normal deus ex machina
resolution seem j ohnny-come-lately. More con-
fidence is shown in dialogue and art. A surer
sense Of direction allows a more natural flow Of
focused, throwaway jests. Allred avoids facile,
movie-grade embodiments Of foul eee-vil. The
character of Madman is more at peace in his
made-up world; he is happier in this series, and
so are we. Where the uneven deli very in the first
series stiffened our allegiance to reality, here it
is weakened. (Though I still wish Allred would
get a certain body of this world’s information
and knowledge straight: in the Adam and Even
myth, it’s applefirst, fig leaves second.) As has
been the case before, the addition Of color adds
clarity and a visual decisiveness to the art,
Allred’s most polished and conventional to
While the second issue is consumed with a
quirky time-travel story, the first, with its more
mundane focus, shows Allred at his most irre-
pressibly representative — that is, careening
back and forth between the stoopid and the
inspired, the clichéd and the delightful. Take
the early sequence involving a meeting with
street beatnicks (funny!), a fight (dumb! con-
fusingly choreo-
graphed!), andhis
reward (funny!).
Since the reader
has already met
most Of Allred’s
Legion Of Un-
usual Characters,
the wild action
and ridiculousex-
planatory dia-
logue can unfurl
without fresh
weirdos continu-
ally popping up.
Madman at the
handsofhis lady-
love’s father is a
fine sequence
where idiotic op-
timism meets a
true-to-life terror.
In Madman’ s
escapades so far,
the twin drives of
his personality,
lunacy and be-
nevolence, have
yet to approach
the frontiers
scouted by, re-
spectively, Bob
Burden’s Flam-
ing Carrot and
Mireault’s The
Jam. Still, in
stooping to a
superhero mock-
ery, at least Mad-
man represents
Allred’s self-con-
trolled power
dive into a hell of
his own making.
And, to be fair, it
is not without its
moments… just
not so many as
one might wish.

Oh, Allred landed in the Swipe Files, but denies swiping?

Here’s the entry… doesn’t look extremely swiped to me.

Here’s a review of the book:

Allred follows that up with mad scientists, an invisible woman, time travel, robots, and dinosaurs. Those first two episodes are fast paced, fun, fun, fun and more fun. Then we have a road trip, but the dream sequences and psychedelic experiences of this final chapter are a more acquired taste. They’re still beautifully drawn, every panel a mind-expanding pop-art masterpiece, but for anyone wanting a little more story with their trippy hallucinations and chase scenes it might leave a little to be desired. In time Allred would learn to parcel out the real weirdness in smaller doses, and the strip would be better for it.

The Madman stuff has been reprinted many times, but as that page above mentions, it can be difficult sorting through all the different editions to find what you’re looking for.

This is the one hundred and fifty-first post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

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