Happy birthday to Mike Grell, who turns 63 today. To celebrate, here are my top-5 favorite Mike Grell comic-book runs.
I’ve actually been on a Mike Grell kick lately; I had liked his “Green Arrow” a lot, and his “Legion of Super-Heroes,” but had never read his “Jon Sable, Freelance” until recently, when I read the entire run. So perhaps because it’s fresh in my mind, I’ll say:
1. Jon Sable: Freelance #1-44
Sable mixes James Bond with Mike Hammer, according to Grell, and I’ll buy that description. Throw in some Olympic training and big-game hunting in Africa, and you have about the manliest comic this side of Tarzan. After losing his family, Sable becomes a bounty hunter and gun for hire. Some really action-packed stories throughout. Grell draws through issue #44; the series continued through 56. More recently, the Jon Sable stories “Blood Trail” and “Ashes of Eden,” available in trade paperback, have been written and drawn by Grell.
2. Green Arrow Longbow Hunters 1-3; Green Arrow 1-80
Grell’s “Longbow Hunters” recast Green Arrow as a serious urban hunter; no longer did boxing glove arrows and silly villains appear in the series. Green Arrow was called “Oliver Queen” or similar throughout the series, making it feel more realistic than most superhero tales. Grell drew the “Longbow Hunters” as well as wrote the miniseries. He wrote all 80 issues of the mature-readers “Green Arrow” series, and drew some of the issues.
3. First Issue Special #8; Warlord 1-71
Warlord was Air Force pilot Travis Morgan, who fell through a hole in the earth, to a “hidden world” inside Earth called Skataris. There, he became a Warlord, fighting for the freedom of the people of the hidden world. Part Conan, part Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Warlord” may contain some fantasy cliches, but the exuberance in the expression of them makes the series worth getting your hands on.
4. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes 203-224, 235
Mike Grell’s Legion may today look like a very 1970s version of the future, but Grell drew some sexy Legionnaires for sure.
5. James Bond: Permission to Die
Grell followed up an adaptation of the 1989 “License to Kill” James Bond film with the original James Bond story “Permission to Die,” which he wrote and illustrated. The now hard-to-find “Permission to Die” is of the better adaptations of Bond in comics; it’d be nice to see Grell take on the 007 character again.
- Matt Price