A Tale With Claws
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in a regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Paul Kupperberg and Pay Boyette’s Catgirl…
Paul Kupperberg & Pat Boyette’s Catgirl
In the 1980s, comic book superstar Paul Kupperberg first joined forces with the legendary Pat Boyette to bring a Silver Age heroine back to four-color life in the Catgirl story, “The Black Queen.” But, it has taken this lost tale over three decades to finally see print thanks to Charlton Neo Comics.
According to Kupperberg, the origin of this lost tale begins with a computer – or rather stories about them: “In 1982, I had written a custom comic book for DC Comics entitled Superman in “The Computer Crimes of Metropolis.” The 30-page story co-starred Alec and Shanna, ‘The TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids,’ a pair of middle schoolers who help the heroes crack crimes being committed by Lex Luthor with their Radio Shack desktop computer. ‘The Computer Crimes of Metropolis’ (with art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte) was DC’s third (I believe) and final licensed comic with the Tandy Corporation. The following year, Archie Comics picked up the contract with Tandy and, as I was the last man to write the comic for DC, Archie editor Victor Gorelick called me in do the same for them.
“In 1984, I wrote the first two of the 10 TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids (starring Alec and Shanna) comics [that] Archie would subsequently package for the Texas corporation, both with art by Dick Ayers and Chic Stone.”
“While I was busy toiling away on the Whiz Kids,” added Kupperberg, “Archie Comics was also trying to get its new Red Circle superhero line of comics off the ground (circa 1983-1985), starring revivals of such Golden Age heroes as Black Hood, The Fly, The Shield, and others. Despite some good stories and great art (including Neal Adams, Alex Toth, Gray Morrow, Steve Ditko, Rich Buckler, and others), the Red Circle line would never quite find its footing and quietly disappeared from the racks.
“But before it did, and since I was in the neighborhood, Victor assigned me to write a story for the 15th issue of Red Circle’s Blue Ribbon Comics, an ongoing showcase title to test new concepts. The feature was Catgirl, based on a minor character from an earlier, 1960s-era attempt at an Archie Comics superhero revival. First appearing in The Adventures of the Fly #9 (November 1960), the Catgirl was Lydia Fellin, an immortal who defends animals from humanity.
“I don’t remember how we arrived at the version of the Catgirl featured in ‘The Black Queen,’ but she probably bears little or no resemblance to her 1960s incarnation. This is pure jungle action/adventure, with more than a little sprinkling of sorcery throughout. Here, Catgirl is the immortal ruler of a primitive African society facing a supernatural threat, not an over-the-top PETA member trying to liberate big cats from zoos.”
But, although everything seemed greenlighted for the story to see publication, fate had other ideas.
“Blue Ribbon Comics was cancelled with its 14th issue,” Kupperberg explained, “along with the rest of the Red Circle titles. It would never see print. Except ‘The Black Queen’ had been completely penciled, lettered, and inked before the hammer dropped. And all three jobs had been expertly handled by the same man: Pat Boyette.”
Boyette, for those that don’t know, was the artist of Charlton’s Peacemaker and The Phantom, and a short but memorable run on DC’s Blackhawks. Although the issue never saw print, Gorelick sent Kupperberg a set of reduced Xerox copies of the story and its cover.
“At some point in the 1990s, I came across those Xeroxes again and made low-resolution scans. . . then promptly lost the Xeroxes. In 2016, after posting some of the art online, my Charlton Neo compatriot Mort Todd suggested that perhaps Archie Comics might be so kind as to allow our small press to finally bring ‘The Black Queen’ to publication. I posed the question to Archie Comics President, editor, and pal Michael Pellerito, who passed the request up the chain to Publisher/Co-CEO, Jonathan Goldwater, who came back with a delighted, ‘Sure!’
“So, a mere 35 years [after] its creation, we’re finally able to present this lost, unpublished work by the late, great Pat Boyette, along with two more previously unpublished Boyette gems, ‘Rogue Elephant’ and ‘Jungle Jax’ (formerly ‘Jungle Jim’) in The Trophy Hunter,” both originally written by Joe Gill for Charlton Comics.”
“Thanks go to the aforementioned Mort Todd, who learned that no good suggestion goes unpunished when he had to–in addition to coloring the story–reconstruct the low-rez scans of the entire Catgirl tale to bring them up to snuff for publication. And, of course, an extra special thank you to my friends at Archie Comics for their permission to print this lost classic story: Jonathan Goldwater, Michael Pellerito, and the still talented and lovely Victor Gorelick!”
Besides bringing this long, lost tale to print via a Kickstarter campaign, Kupperberg is also working on a memoir and a young adult novel, as well as Paul Kupperberg’s Guide to Writing Comics from Charlton Neo Comics (morttodd.com). He is also writing two new online series for Archie Comics, The Golden Pelican and Rogue State, his mystery novel set in the comic book industry of 1952, The Same Old Story, and short story collection, In My Shorts. All are available on Amazon or from Crazy8Press.com. He’s also on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at PaulKupperberg.com.
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved