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The Wild Stars artwork shown above without text is 2001-2015 by Michael Tierney.

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History of the Wild Stars -- The Nineties

michaelphoto2 by Michael Tierney

In the Nineties I was ready to really start hitting the publishing road. It was a time of unusual opportunity for small press publishing. And a lot of money was there to be made for those who took advantage.

There are several reasons why I released no comic books in this time period, which I won't go into here. The dedication in the front of the Wild Stars: Book of Circles graphic novel tells as much of the story as I should. Instead, I'm going to focus on the positive as best I can, considering the times.

In retrospect, the Nineties turned out to be a pretty terrible time for comics. The decade started out as a Boom period, but, like with the Black & White Boom and Bust of the Eighties, the Bust was quick to follow.

Current wholesale value for books published during this turbulent time runs about four cents a copy. Or by the pound or by the gallon. Certain ones I've actually burned in my fireplace. Quality and thin content had a lot to do with this. Massive overproduction was another big part of it. Combine this with what one fellow Overstreet Price Guide Advisor and columnist for The Comics Buyer's Guide estimated to be nearly twelve-thousand failed comic book stores over a ten year period, and the market is still glutted today.

No Golden Age here. Definitely a Dark Age.

But that doesn't mean I quit working on Wild Stars.

Still determined to draw the comic myself, and hoping to overcome the print industry's reproduction limitations, I tried a new art process and switched to using duo-shade art paper.

Duo-shade was once a main staple of newspaper cartoonists. Once the inking part of the process is completed, gray tones can be created by using a combination of two liquids, which brought out different types of shading. It made for quick work.

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Wild Stars Volume 3 #1 was completely drawn in one month using this process. Presented here for comparison is one of my original, previously unpublished pages, right next to the same page later redrawn and reproduced directly from the pencils by artist David Brewer. This was the version used in the actual 2001 publication.

This was when I realized two very important things. With Mac computers and Photoshop, the print industry had been revolutionized. It was as if the entire pre-press facilities of the Fast Print shop that I'd managed back in the Seventies had been shrunken down to fit inside a box. And not just that, but streamlined in major ways. Hours of production time had been compressed into the work of minutes. The only limiting factor that remained was simply the processing time of your computer. For an example, the logo for the very first issue of Wild Stars took the better part of a day to create with pen and ink on a drawing board. The updated version shown next to it took only minutes.

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Suddenly, computer typesetting was a breeze and reproducing pencil artwork no longer impractical. In order to bring out all the shading details, I still had to skew the scanner settings in much the same way that I'd skewed the camera settings for the Wild Stars portfolio in the Eighties, and The Hands of Time in the Seventies. But this was easily accomplished.

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Shown above is one of my incomplete pencil pages from V3#2. This was when I came to my second conclusion. The magnificent final cover by the legendary Frank Brunner for that issue will give you a hint into what I was thinking.

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Much like the decision to no longer print my comics on my own printing press, I'd decided that it was time to start hiring the artwork process out. Admittedly, telling the story was always my main goal, and I only drew in order to tell that story. But I never practiced at my art like I did my writing, and the final product showed this.

In 1998, I released the limited edition hardcover of the Under the Wild Stars novel, which I'd circulated throughout the decade. Several editors and agencies had requested full copies (this was now the digital age), but no sale was ever made.

Wild Stars: The Book of Circles - Recalbirated - 25th Anniversary Edition

So, I decided to go into a new direction, and started looking for experienced artists to better help me tell my tales of the Wild Stars in the New Millennium.


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