Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of ANAMAX and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
A few days later Andy, Adam and I attended a “brainstorming” meeting at Marvel. My brain was stormed just entering these hallowed halls of comic legend. One not seeped in Marvel myth and mystery, might see it merely as a sweat shop. I recall row after row of drawing tables crammed close together, like desks in a one room school house or a high school drafting class. Hunched over them was an army of men of all ages, perspiring, no doubt, for coolie wages, and each aspiring to reach the heights of comic stardom. The walls were haphazardly decorated with giant cutouts of Spiderman, the Hulk, and many other Marvel Super Heroes. There was an electrifying feeling of fun in the air. These guys were glad to be there.
We gathered in an adjacent conference room around a large oval table, writers, artists, art directors, and important dignitaries, discussing ANIMAX for hours. It was kind of like a cattle auction, designed to see who among them were most excited by the heifer on the table, and which writers and artists wanted to step forward, to bid on her, and own her. Meanwhile they milked me for ideas, and took extensive notes.
We spoke a lot about how violent it could get. Could there be death and destruction, or would no ANIMAX be harmed in the production of this comic? We left with the impression that no holds were barred. Marvel was excited and willing to go "wild", with our blessing.
They set to work, based only on what we gave them, the glossary, my drawings and the notes that they had taken. From these they generated the rather fabulous cover drawing you see below. Alas cover-wise it was all down hill from there. Pass your mouse over the pencil drawing to see it change to ink before your eyes.
The casual viewer might assume that the Animax Comic book was a contrived concoction, cooked up by Schaper as a vehicle to sell their vehicles. Nothing could be further from the truth! Marvel’s services could not be hired. They only did what they believed in, and miraculously, they believed in ANIMAX. My partners had pitched the property to them within a week of selling it to Schaper, and Marvel bought it, simply because they liked it. They licensed ANIMAX from Kiscom and paid an advance and a royalty for the privilege. Naturally, the fact that Schaper planned to produce a toy line helped in that decision.
Then something happened, Marvel got a look at what Schaper was doing and changed their mind. Maybe it was the baby blue boar that did it, the stingy paint jobs, the slightly pre-school look about it. At any rate, Marvel took it down a notch, from a full fledged “Marvel Comic” to their “STAR” line for younger readers. And thus redrew the cover, to better match Shaper’s watered-down Obliterator. And so it was that Product Dynamic’s arbitrary reinterpretation of my drawings had RAMifications that changed the look and destiny of ANIMAX.
This letter, more or less, explains it. Marvel thought the Schaper product necessitated changes. They had also written a very benign origin story, that did little more than introduce the characters and situation to a would-be future reader. This never published story will be presented in its entirety on the page that follows this one.
Move you mouse over the original version of the first cover, below, to see the final cover appear. Not only have the vehicles been altered , but the art work is decidedly inferior. Even the tiny drawing of Max Action, firing the Lion Laser in the upper corner, has been replaced by a disarming pose without a weapon.
When the letter above was written in early March of 1986, Strange things were happening at Marvel. What was intended to be Issue Number One of Animax was abandoned, and a substitute had to be created. The writer who had requested the assignment called and eagerly discussed it with me. He had a way-out Idea that I thought was nothing short of Brilliant. The first issue of ANIMAX would begin with the death of our hero, Max Action, who would then be brought back to life again, brand new, through the miracle of cloning. Wow! What an original way to start a story. I loved it!
He also introduced some female characters of his own creation. I thought that was a good idea too. I was so impressed with this young man and his original ideas, I said: "Just Do It! You don’t have to consult with me, just do Anything you want to do!"
Ultimately, there proved to be a poignantly prophetic irony in this story of Death and Transfiguration, for when the First Issue of ANIMAX finally appeared, in the bleak December of that year, the Schaper line was dead already.
Throughout the year that preceded ANIMAX Comic’s posthumous introduction, Marvel generated three more issues, then shuffled them around. Issue Three was switched to Issue Two.
Issue Four, no doubt originally intended to be one of many, became the “FINAL ISSUE".
Marvel did their best to give Animax a chance to survive. Even though the toy line was gone, they published the four finished issues. The original Issue Two, which was devoted to Blow Out, became Issue Three. Here are a few of the alternate cover sketches that led to the final choice.