The other day I was folding laundry in the living room and I could hear sporadic sputterings from the television down the hall in the living room. If you leave the cable box on pause for too long it suddenly decides to switch to live t.v.. It must have been some sort of news show because I heard the announcer interviewing someone from a small town who was a volunteer fireman. A few minutes later, when I was putting towels in the linen closet I heard the announcer say that the volunteer fireman was also a volunteer for the police department.
Anyone who’s known me for an extended period of time (or anyone who worked in the First Comics Chicago offices during the late ‘80s) knows where my mind immediately went.
FIRECOP! He’s a Fireman, he’s a Cop, he’s FIRECOP! (I like to say it with a George W. Bush twang to it. It's funnier that way.)
Half the fun (and sometimes all the fun when you were waiting for distributor checks to arrive) of working at a small comic publisher in the 1980's was digging through editorial submissions. As a comic writer it was a great experience because it's better to learn from someone else's mistakes before you make them yourself. Some submissions were pretty darn good. Most were so-so. A percentage were hopeless, and then there were the really good ones--the ones that were clueless. Some people were so deluded they would copy some drawings of Captain America or Superman in blue ballpoint pen on notebook paper and really think they were good enough to get work in comics. (These were the ones who usually called the office wanting to know if their work had been reviewed yet.)
I don’t recall who was responsible for opening unsolicited submissions at First Comics. I was pretending to be Production Manager at the time, so I’m sure that I missed out on most of it, but everyone in the office knew when the latest issue of FIRECOP! arrived in the mail.
Comic book series proposals usually consisted of a single page series pitch, a script for an issue or two, some character art, and three or four pages of panel-to-panel continuity. The creator of FIRECOP! either didn’t know this or didn’t care. His work used to come in complete, drawn and lettered on 120-page college composition books.
If I recall, each issue centered around FIRECOP! wandering the streets of the city until he came across a crisis that required either a fireman or a cop. After figuring out which skills were needed, he would put them to use, save the day and continue wandering along.
As you might imagine, the artwork and the writing were several levels below sub-par, and at times simply idiotic. You could tell if someone had just read an issue of Firecop because of the streams of laughter tears running down the sides of their faces. At first I thought this was the work of someone mentally challenged, but as more and more issues showed up, I began to doubt that. The thing of it was, these just weren’t pages filled with aimless scribbling, this was the work of someone making an honest (albeit hopeless) attempt at being a comic book creator. The books were ridiculous, but there was an almost admirable quality to them. They must have taken a lot of time and effort.
I don’t know if it was the FIRECOP! guy or not, but there was another regular contributor to First who used to include photos of himself with his submissions. The content of the photos always seemed to be the same. It was him at different places around the world (mostly Europe, I believe) holding a beer in his hands. In the same package there would be a photo of him with a drink on a ferry, and on a railcar, and in a crowded pub. For the life of me I can’t remember the connection, if there ever was one.
All I know for certain is that if I’m being robbed at the same time my house is on fire, I know who I’m going to call. Hey, FIRECOP!