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average writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
New Paltz Comix 1 _ New Paltz Comix 2 _ New Paltz Comix 3 _ not available
New Paltz Comix #1
New Paltz Comix #2 New Paltz Comix #3 New Paltz Comix #4
New Paltz Comix

1973-1977 / Moods Publishing Empire
New Paltz Comix is an ambitious comic series launched by Michael T. Gilbert during his senior year at State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz. The first issue was originally supposed to be published in early 1973 by the university student newspaper at New Paltz. They went so far as to shoot the film negatives for the printing, but then the newspaper's staff blew the printing budget on an end-of-the-school-year party! Afterwards, the hung over staff promised Gilbert they'd print the book the next year, but since Gilbert was set to graduate before then, he split with the negatives, printed the book with his own money, and sold the book door to door around the New Paltz campus.

I'm guessing this unexpected adventure has afforded New Paltz Comix a soft spot in Gilbert's heart, though I'm sure it felt like a pain in the ass at the time. The series took on different titles for its second and third issues (therefore also appearing in other sections of the underground library) to emphasize the different thematic content from issue to issue. There was also a fourth issue published in 1984, but I don't have that one.

The series features over two dozen contributors and many collaborations between creators in the three issues I have. The weaker work hurts the overall review score, but I'm sure Gilbert would not do anything different if he could do it over again. Like some other independent publishers, his intent was to provide a showcase for unknown artists and writers, not to produce the most awesome professional books ever. As stated in his editorial in the second issue, "there's a huge amount of untapped talent, ignored by straight and underground companies, that we will continue to actively search out."

Gilbert also sought out artists willing to experiment with graphic media, best exemplified in the second issue but evident throughout the series. Individual book reviews will critique the varying degrees of success with this objective, but Gilbert should be commended for opening doors for comic creators who didn't fit conventional parameters.

It should not be overlooked that New Paltz Comix also offers some terrific work in the three issues, from Raoul Vezina's spoof of Warner Brothers cartoons in the first issue to Mark Roland's ethereal space adventure in the third. And any critical review of the series cannot overlook Larry Todd's magnificent cover artwork for Iron-Soul Stories, which is, in and of itself, justification for owning the comic.

Before publishing the final issue, Gilbert had already contributed work to Star*Reach, Slow Death and Quack. Gilbert is probably best known as the creator of Mr. Monster (aka Doc Stearn), a character originally created by the illustrator Fred Kelly for a "Canadian White" comic book in 1946, which Gilbert stumbled across as a child and never forgot. The publisher (Bell Features) let the character fall into the public domain, and years later Gilbert reinvented Mr. Monster into a new character who earned his own comic title. Wikipedia has a brief but touching story about Gilbert presenting Kelly, who hadn't earned a dime on the character in over 50 years and was over 80 years old, with a royalty check for his original creation of the Doc Stearn character.

Gilbert has written comic story scripts for Disney comics since 1990, as has his wife Janet Gilbert. Among many other comic projects, Gilbert also wrote and drew Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, which looks back on sixty years of Batman adventures. To say the least, his comic book skills have improved since the days of New Paltz.

Based on the quality of its content, New Paltz Comix may not be one of the finest underground comic series ever, but Gilbert never intended it to be. It is one of the better series that gave unknown comic creators their shot at the limelight and, at the very least, to share pages in a comic book with artists who sustained notable careers in comics.