When was the last time you read a comic book? It’s been about 35 years for me. That was until yesterday when I had the pleasure of spending a couple hours getting to know New Bern residents, Michael Eury and Rose Rummel-Eury.
Michael Eury is the Editor-in-Chief of two magazines – Back Issue and RetroFan. He’s also an accomplished author of a number of books!
Michael’s latest accomplishment was winning the 2019 Will Eisner Award for Best Comics Related Periodical/Journalism…what an honor!
I really enjoyed meeting Michael Eury and Rose Rummel-Eury! They’re a Dynamic Dou! They complement each other and they both have so much to offer locally and to society in general. Both are accomplished writers, share a love for history, have a strong sense of community and volunteerism, and I’m sure they have many other things in common that we didn’t get a chance to talk about. They also have a beautiful cat, Miss Edgewood.
Rose was excited to share the sweet story of how they met, “In 1984, I managed Monkey Business Singing Telegrams and Michael came in and auditioned and she hired him! He delivered messages.” Michael’s true passion was to be in the Comic Industry and Rose was ready to take the journey with him! Rose said, “In 1986, we packed up and drove North with $1700, with no place to live and no job, we ended up in Wilmington, Delaware, and we were there until he got a job with Comico in Norristown, Pennsylvania”.
The Interview with Michael Eury and his Comic Industry Journey
What really attracted Michael into comics was when Adam West as Batman premiered on television on January 12, 1966. Michael said, “It was brand new and I had never seen anything like it – I was eight years old. Batman popularized superheroes. I got sucked into it and it was camp, it was satire. That’s why it was so successful for a while – because it was part of this camp movement of the ‘60’s where stuff was supposedly knowingly bad, so bad that it’s good. It was so over the top, but kids like me believed it. I see that today, some of these actors who play these characters in the movies and they’ll go to children’s hospitals in costume and when they’re around kids, you’ll see the kids’ looks of wide-eyed amazement”.
When I asked what inspired him to get into the Comic Industry, he detailed the exact moment when he really knew what he wanted to do when he grew up! He said, “I was in the eighth grade with an Algebra book in hand and had a Superman comic inside. I was reading the indicia – I read the fine print and saw the words, Julius Schwartz, Editor, and I’m thinking, this would be a cool job. That was in the early 70’s. I wanted to do that, but when I was graduating High School, there wasn’t any way to learn how to do that.” How many kids really know what they want to do when they grow up? Some adults are still searching. The takeaway is to find what your passion is and do what you love. It’s may be a lot of work, but you’ll be doing what your truly care about!
Knowing there wasn’t a direct path into the comic industry, he said, “I went after my second love, which is music. I was a trombone player and I went to East Carolina University, got a degree in music education and taught briefly. It wasn’t right for me, but I minored in English and those skills ended up helping me get into publishing.”
I asked him if he was a writer and designer, he said, “I always liked to write. I used to draw, but I wasn’t good enough as an artist to become a professional, but I still think visually. I always wanted to do it, so I found my way into the publishing industry.”
Breaking Into the Comic Industry:
Michael explained, “In 1986, we moved from Charlotte to Wilmington and I started to write for a local newspaper. There was a magazine called Amazing Heroes which was a Trade Journal for the Comic Book Industry and I submitted an article and it got accepted. That opened the doors and I started writing for them. That gave me the opportunity to interview some of the editors, writers, and artists who were with Marvel and DC Comics and I was on the phone with them, I got to know them, and found out when the job opportunities came open. I spent about a year and a half at a publisher called Comico in Norristown.”
Back Issue Magazine launched in 2003. Michael Eury was determined to share the history of the comic books he grew up with during the 70’s and 80’s – also known as the Bronze Age in the Industry.
When we started talking about Back Issue, Michael said, “As I got older, what fascinated me was the history of comics. That’s the core of the magazine. Each issue has a theme”.
He showed me the August 2019 issue and said, “The theme is “Black Superheroes of the 70’s. The cover artwork was drawn in 1974. It looks a little unpolished by today’s comic standards, but it’s raw and that’s what Luke Cage was all about when he was created. Luke Cage was basically Shaft as a superhero. It was created in 1972. He had a big afro, was an African American guy, and had a lot of attitude. Some of the black characters that were created in the early 1970’s all kind of suffered from the angry black man syndrome. That’s how they were characterized. They were written by exclusively white writers.” I asked, “So, they didn’t know anything about black culture?” He replied, “Well, they were well intentioned and did their best, but interestingly, black artists were being hired in the 70’s. They were some of the earliest people of color to work in comics.”
Michael went on to say, “I’m fascinated by this stuff. Comics history is American history. I do a presentation on African American superheroes. I’ve done it at libraries, a few Comic Cons, and at Pembroke University. Their history is the same as civil rights. When I was at DC Comics, I asked my boss, why are all the iconic characters white? and he said because they were created by white Italian and Jewish men who created what they knew. They were all created in the late 30’s and thru the 40’s…Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, all those who had been around for a long time. Even starting in the early 60’s, when the Marvel Universe started with the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, the X-Men – well, they’re great, but they’re white guys. It wasn’t until 1966 when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the writer/artist team of Fantastic Four, introduced the Black Panther, that a black superhero emerged. They introduced a major character of color in the comics during the Civil Rights era.”
“The Black Panther movie is the number three movie in the box office of all time. It was the right time for it because it followed about eight years of these Marvel movies building up to it so you have this giant audience that had already been grown. Then you had a very positive superhero of color that finally said to a lot of black kids who wanted a hero that looked like them. It was a very positive message.” It’s apparent in the August 2019, that Michael and his team are working to explore the history and shed light on this important topic.
I asked, “How do you choose each issue’s theme?”
“Sometimes it’s easy. We have a Facebook group and some of the themes have been recommended by readers and writers, and sometimes I tie it into an anniversary. Issue #113, which came out in June, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Batman movie starring Michael Keaton, which came out in June 1989. We interviewed the Executive Producer who brought Batman to film; we interviewed the Screenwriter, Sam Hamm; we interviewed Billy Dee Williams, who played Harvey Dent; and we had an article about the comic book adaptation of the movie, and a few articles about how the movie affected comics”.
Michael revealed a very moving, intimate, and spiritual revelation when he shared his private struggle with Adult Onset Hearing Loss…“Last winter was the 40th Anniversary of my favorite movie, Superman, starring Christopher Reeves…my absolute hero. He was an inspirational figure from that wheelchair.” The athletic actor was paralyzed in a 1994 horseback-riding accident. Michael said, “Christopher Reeves was the one who’s inspiration got me to stop being depressed about my adult onset hearing loss and start taking action.”
“In October, I’m the guest speaker for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) – New Bern Chapter meeting at McCarthy Court in New Bern. The topic is ‘How My Hearing Loss Made Me a Superhero’. It’s inspirational and probably will have some people crying. I hit rock bottom because of my hearing loss, I was depressed, angry, and got so mad at God that I threw my Bible in the trashcan. I really felt forsaken.”
I asked him how he found ways to cope and he replied, “I found the Hearing Loss Association of America and they provide communication strategies and the biggest thing that I found is that there are a whole lot of people like me and I wasn’t so isolated anymore. It was the day Christopher Reeves died that my life truly changed, though. I’m absolutely convinced that I was touched by his Angel. I think God used him to send me a message because I had been broken. I was so moved by his example. He spent nine years in his wheelchair. He couldn’t take a breath without a respirator, he couldn’t move his arms, much less his legs, but still, he did so many things for other people as an advocate for people with spinal-cord injuries. That day I stopped bellyaching why me? and I instead asked what do I do next? It led me to the Hearing Loss Association of American, which then led me to community involvement. What a great blessing… and that’s my superpower.”
Michael appeared on the cover of the HLAA magazine as Clark Kent transforming into Superman in the Summer 2011 edition. You have to see it!
Going on their 17th year anniversary, “Back Issue Magazine is a freelance team effort. The publisher is TwoMorrows, owned by John and Pam Morrow. It was originally an advertising agency, named “TwoMorrows” because they’re two designers. John loved comics and started The Jack Kirby Collector magazine. Jack Kirby was the co-created Captain America, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, most of the Marvel characters, and some DC Comics characters. He drew big, exciting images; he had an explosive imagination and it showed in his work.”
I asked him how he puts Back Issue together. He does all the editorial work here and considers himself a coach as the Editor-in-Chief and sets the editorial tone. It’s important that readers understand that the tone of the magazine is positive. He said, “We might occasionally handle something with a critical eye, but I always caution people to write it like you’re writing a critical analysis of your own work or as if that person you’re critiquing is reading it.”
“It’s cool that we’ve got to capture stories of people who wrote them. I’ve conducted interviews with artists who I grew up idolizing as a kid and now they’ve passed and in a handful of cases, I got to know them as a friend. There’s an intimacy about comics. There’s a connection of belonging. A lot of people who read comics were people feel disenfranchised, so the world of superheroes and comic books gave them something they felt a part of.”
I really had a blast talking with Michael about all the different comic books, characters, genres that I grew up with, and life in general. He’s an incredible storyteller. I felt like a kid again talking about the old comics brought back wonderful memories from my childhood. He also shed light on the backstories and things that I never thought of related to the people involved in bringing joy to our lives through comic books! Michael graciously gave me a copy of his recent issues of Back Issue and RetroFan yesterday and I’ve felt like a kid again, reading the history and remembering the good ol’ days! I encourage you to consider ordering print or digital issues at TwoMorrows.com as comics can lift your spirts and be a temporary escape to everyday life!
He’s an accomplished author of numerous books: Hero-A-Go-Go!, Captain Action – The Original Super-Hero Action Figure, The Batcave Companion, The Krypton Companion, Comics Gone Ape!, The Justice League Companion, Dick Giordano – Changing Comics, One Day At A Time, The Supervillian Book, The Raiford Troutman Story, Legendary Locals of Concord, Legendary Locals of Cabarrus County, and Images of America: Concord.
Michael’s love for comics, the historic value, and his tireless work were instrumental in winning the 2019 Will Eisner Award Winner for Best Comics Related Periodical/Journalism as the Editor-in-Chief, Michael Eury of Back Issue Magazine! If you didn’t know, the Will Eisner Award is the Comics Industry equivalent of the Oscars. How awesome is that?!
Who was Will Eisner and What is the Will Eisner Award
Who was Will Eisner? Michael described Will Eisner as “A comic book artist and writer. He created the comic character called The Spirit that was really popular in the ‘40’s into the early 50’s. It was a comic book that was distributed as a ‘funny paper’ in the newspaper along with the Sunday funnies. With Superman and Batman, you had to buy a comic book to read their adventures. The Spirit was an insert in the Sunday paper, so he had some of the biggest distribution and visibility back in his day. It was about a guy who was an investigator who died, came back from the dead, wore a mask as The Spirit. Eisner was a very talented artist. The Spirit wasn’t adult, but it leaned more toward an older reader. Later, Will Eisner created the graphic novel, which is a longer narrative told in a comic book fashion. So, he developed this reputation of being one of the Pioneers of the Industry and one of the beloved Founding Fathers. The San Diego Comic-Con developed the Award. It’s voted on by your peers…so it’s comic book professionals – anyone from artists, to the retailers, to the executives. People who are in the business.”
Michael was humbled, but excited to receive this exceptional award. It was announced on Friday, July 19, 2019. Michael has been nominated three times. He joked, “Alright, it will either be third time’s a charm or three strikes and you’re out. And there it was”. The third time was a charm for Michael and we are very happy for him!
A Little History on Michael and Rose:
Michael grew up in Concord, NC, where he was the Executive Director of the Cabarrus County History Museum, and a Veterans Museum, where he curated exhibits, wrote a wide variety of books, was a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Rotary Club, Church, Friends of the Library, and managed to continue his passion as the Editor-in-Chief of Back Issue! That takes an expert in time management, true commitment to his community, and passion leading his love for comics!
Although we set up the interview to congratulate Michael Eury on this tremendous accomplishment after working so hard spanning 30+ years, I would be remiss not to recognize Rose Rummel-Eury, as she’s an accomplished author and very active in our community!
Rose is the co-owner of Yesterday Forever as she’s also very passionate about bringing people’s stories to life! Whether it’s for your family member or yourself, Rose will help you publish your story as an autobiography!
She’s also highly involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America – New Bern Chapter! She’s very passionate about preserving history and caring for feral and rescued animals.
They moved to New Bern last year after Hurricane Florence clobbered our City and Eastern NC. Michael said, “It was a sobering time to move here, but we also saw how our community came together to help others!” They wanted to downsize and enjoy life in New Bern where Michael’s Mother and Uncle grew up. Michael’s very familiar with New Bern and would come here one weekend a month when he was a kid.
Michael and Rose are down to earth, fun, compassionate, and very creative people and it was a pleasure getting to know them!
Get your copy of Back Issue Magazine at TwoMorrows.com!
Thank you, Rose and Michael for taking the time to share your passions with us!