1975 was a crazy-- and exciting-- time in my life. I was in my sophomore year at Vocational high school (Machine Drafting shop). I'd spent the 2nd half of 1974 working in my spare time on an increasingly-detailed number of home-made comic-book stories. And starting in January 1975, I began to follow my brother's lead by knocking out a growing number of "mini-comics". More and more new characters, series, etc. It's no wonder I eventually developed a fondness for amateur fanzine comics. There's a freshness about such things often missing from the more professional comics, especially anything that's been running for 10 or more years.
TALES OF THE ZODIAC was an "anthology" mini-comic series specifically designed to showcase new ideas. Following stories featuring a street-fighter, a kung fu character, a Vietnam war comic (!!), and a super-hero, I tackled something that had been gestating for a few months: THE WIERDLINGS. Like most of my best creations, this one sprang from a variety of sources, mingled & merged in my mind before exploding back out into a new form.
It all started with a couple of sketches of a group of monsters, led by a costumed human. The monsters themselves were inspired from various sources, including episodes of LOST IN SPACE and STAR TREK, and something I'd seen in a Jim Starlin CAPTAIN MAR-VELL comic. In fact, the word "weirdling" (which I deliberately changed the spelling of) came from a Starlin CM comic, a reference to monsters created by Thanos and the Cosmic Cube to battle the hero. The costume worn by their human leader was inspired by the costumes of both DEADMAN and IRON FIST.
But it's the leader, in his civilian identity, who turned out to be the most interesting and complex element of the series. I'd long been a fan of Steve Ditko's DR. STRANGE, and wanted to do something like it. Hence, Professor Wierd-- alias, Professor Willard Wier. But what really inspired his appearance and personality was not Ditko's character, but rather, a character on yet another TV show-- DOCTOR WHO. Oddly enough, it wasn't "The Doctor"
I was inspired by. At the time, Jon Pertwee's early stories were being run in Philadelphia, and Pertwee's Doctor took a long time to grow on me. No, it was the show's recurring villain that caught my attention-- "The Master"! Actor Roger Delgado proved more likable and charismatic than the show's hero-- and he was the bad guy!
I have to admit, looking back on these comics many years later, I realized that I had never quite captured Delgado's face or personality on paper. But what I had done surprised even me. Because as written & drawn in these early stories, Willard bore a positively uncanny resemblance to Anthony Ainley's "Master", who did not debut on DOCTOR WHO until years after I did my comics! I have since brought Willard back for new stories, and ever since, I've based him on Anthony Ainley.
I used to joke that this series answered the question, "What kind of character would be 'worse' than a machine-gun vigilante like The GUN!?" The answer, of course, is a magician who uses an army of monsters to attack street criminals. That's right. The WIERDLINGS spent most of their time fighting street crime. Which of course, is just not "fair". As Willard might say... "Heh heh heh."
The "surprise", of sorts, in reading the first episode, is when you realize that this nasty, viscious character the story focuses on, is actually the HERO. Yikes! Heaven help the criminal element...
(Continued in Part 2)
Story & Art Copyright (C) Henry R. Kujawa
All prominent characters are Trademarks of Henry R. Kujawa