Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Puma Blues

The Puma Blues
by Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli
STEPHEN MURPHY:
(from the Panel-To-Panel interview, February 2013)
...Puma is my first published work and Michael's as well. We actually worked together on a couple of short stories first though, just to see how we'd get on together. Those have never seen print. How did Puma start? That was a long time ago, something like twenty-five years now, and half a lifetime away. Puma actually began life several years before I met Michael. I was taking a "comic creating" class in Northampton, Massachusetts. I think it was through the long defunct Northampton Art Guild. The teachers were two very talented local cartoonists, John Hayman and Brian Turner. The class' final assignment was to start an actual comic book. I can't say precisely how it came together for me but at that point in my life I had been spending most of my free time hiking the Quabbin Reservoir and, I suppose, doing a fair amount of daydreaming. One of the things or stories about Quabbin was the increasing circumstantial evidence suggesting that the area was either being visited by a mountain lion - a puma - or that the watershed area was actual home to one. I think that possibility, which I saw as both romantic and melancholic - a lone puma out and about in the shadows of man - struck a chord deep within myself and gave voice to my sense of isolation and alienation. At any rate, I wound up calling it The Blue Puma, writing the first few pages and even illustrating them in my own cartoony way. The class ended and a few months later I got a job at Moondance Comics, a comic store in Holyoke, Massachusetts. I continued developing the story during my free time, changing the title to The Puma Blues. Michael was a regular customer, someone whom I was a little afraid of at first - he can be very off-putting at first, a defense mechanism of his - but when a fellow employee told me Michael was an artist I got up the courage to talk to him and before long we warmed to each other. One day Michael gave the store a clock he had made: a basic clock face mounted on a beautiful piece of wood (more a slice from a tree showing both rings at the center and bark at the edges) upon which Michael had painted a very dark image of Batman. It was amazing. I soon got up the courage to ask if he'd like to work on some comics together and before long we did (those short stories mentioned earlier). We then started spending some time together outside of the store and at some point I explained the whole Puma series concept, which Michael strongly identified with. Feeling we were kindred spirits we tackled the project...

...Moondance had Dave and Gerhard as guests one day. Michael and I, knowing this in advance, decided to screw up the courage to show Dave the first eight or so finished Puma #1 pages, as it had been announced that Sim was going to be reviewing portfolios for future A-V titles. Michael and I waited in line with the other hopefuls and dreamers. As soon as Dave read the first three pages he said he'd publish it and that Michael and I were the next Alan Moore and Barry Windsor Smith. No shit. And, obviously, at least as far as I'm concerned, not quite. Few can even come close to Alan...

The Puma Blues was a comic book written by Stephen Murphy and drawn by Michael Zulli. Published first by Dave Sim's publishing imprint 'Aardvark One International' and later by Mirage Studios, it ran from 1986 to 1989, stretching over 23 regular issues and a single "half-issue" minicomic.

5 comments:

Eddie said...

The Puma Blues!!!! YES!!! I haven't read it for years, but in my personal pecking order, I think I would put it on the same plateau (perhaps a few notches higher…?) than Sandman. I've never forgotten that that was where I (and probably many other comic readers) first learned about Roswell, years before it ever became fashionable or part of the popular lexicon among the general public through the X-Files, the internet, etc.

One of the most amazing comic series EVER

Anonymous said...

I can see why Dave liked the Puma Blues; it was in the same spirit as Cerebus in many ways.

- Reginald P.

Geoffrey D. Wessel said...

I remember when this series was around. The flying manta rays left an impression on me. Always wish I'd read more of it but it's more or less gone now...

--- Geoffrey D. Wessel

(ps Issue 3 of my OWN self-published series KEEPER is OUT NOW - http://atypicalcomics.wordpress.com/keeper/ )

David Birdsong said...

I had the whole thing,even the mini comic, and waited in vain for them to finish it. Too bad they couldn't keep it going.

Rev'd '76 said...

If there were a continuation of it today, or even simply a reprint containing the remaining material (a la Young Gods / Freebooters) I would be in Vanaheim. This is one of those books which, like Rare Bit Fiends and the lamented Tyrant, stopped right as it was finally finding its feet.

There is nothing sadder than an unfinished symphony.

And hey, that mini-comic: wasn't that a marvelous addition to the overall tale? I wish more books still had the urge to gamble on side-notes like that.