All illustrations are © Kevin O'Neill & Pat Mills
First arc of 6 issues, 28 pages each, published in the US by Epic Comics (an adult subsidiary in creator own of Marvel Comics) between October 1987 and April 1989. This story has been subsequently untitled Fear and Loathing for the US paperback in June 1990. For the 6 original comics, the paper quality is superior to all comers at the time (glossy), and Kevin O'Neill uses direct painting for that first story.
A note to the French edition (3 volumes between September 1989 and May 1990): covers, 2nd, 3rd and 5th of cover were previously unpublished (more about this edition here).
In Italy, this story has been translated in paperback form in 1991 by Play Press (go here for details) ...
... and more recently in 2014 by RW edizioni (go here for details):
In Spain, it's the original 6 comics format that has been used in 1991 by Comics Forum:
These comics come with soft glossy covers and excerpt from the interior illustrations on the back covers. For the first issue, the theatrical opening page is missing but on the other side, it contains a full editorial page by Lorenzo Diaz to present the context of the comics to Spanish readers. The translation is credited to Eduard Solé.
Note that this story has been reprinted in September 2013 in one volume by ECC ediciones (see here for details):
For the U.S. paperback: it is the same format and the same paper quality as the original comics. All the original covers are included.
Exclusive content: the paperback includes 8 pages of an unpublished prologue, a short genesis of the hero and his universe. The last unpublished page, was conducted in order to cover the closure with the first episode. Note that this prologue will also be offered to readers of British magazine Toxic! (# 14 and 15: for the occasion untitled Rites of Passage), but in another configuration, for it serves as a flashback between "The Hateful Dead" and "Super Babylon" (with 2 other extra pages).
Below is an extract of the prologue where one can recognize the Private Eye in the foreground (from the story The Kingdom of the Blind) and the Public Spirit. Note where is one of Rubber Johnny's foot.
For other features go to this article.
In 1990, the English fortnightly magazine Strip (Marvel UK), published this story in its 12th first issues. The interest of this version is that it is in magazine format, and printed on high quality paper (glossy).
Below are sketches and interview of Kevin O'Neill for Strip #1.
Note that Strip #6 has first been printed on low quality paper, the newspaper kind, and has been reissued correctly and given away free of charge with Strip #9.
Here’s the Graphitti Designs edition, limited to 1500 copies signed by the authors. That US release (1990) includes the entire contents of the Epic paperback, and the second story Marshal Law Takes Manhattan (here simply untitled Crime and Punishment). Moreover, this beautiful hardcover edition with faux leather on cover, contains 16 pages of editorial material, including among other things, preparatory sketches and reproductions of the exclusive French material. For other features go to this article.
More recently, this story has been collected in 2013 by DC in its Marshal Law Deluxe edition.
For a list of its features go here.
As for the UK paperback, released by Titan Books in 2002, it has the full contents of the US paperback, prologue included, only the preface by Clive Barker has been replaced by a foreword by Pat Mills and it has a different cover (first volume of the French edition). In addition, that paperback presents O’Neill’s extra illustrations dated 1995, planned for a film project eventually abandoned. For other features go to this article.
In the streets of San Futuro, a mysterious flying superhero, the sandman, is murdering women disguised as Celeste, the heroine star with powers of seduction tenfold. Marshal Law’s investigation, leads him to suspect Celeste’s companion, the Super Patriot, hero of the nation and incidentally the one person he hates the most.
The main purpose of this first story is to pinpoint the abuse of the American dream through the glorification of supposedly heroic acts of war. The main target here is personified by the hero of an American uchronic nation, the Public Spirit, a Superman look-alike (but more generally an iconic synthesis of classic superheroes).
With this story (and following) it is the true experience of Vietnam veterans that Mills wants to confront to the myth of the American hero. It is no wonder that Mills has made the Public Spirit an astronaut, who, as of Neil Armstrong in 1969, held all the public attention, while at the same time, true American heroes lived hell fighting a dirty war in Vietnam.
Having accurately analysing the impact that Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns* and Alan Moore's Watchmen will have on a long term, the authors with that first story have theorized and even prophesized the change of tone that the comic industry will know in the next decade (more cynical atmosphere, characters with a stronger "dark side”). This idea is illustrated in the book by showing the transition between 2 super heroes’ role models, when Public Spirit’s son eventually recognises Marshal Law as his true father/mother figure.
*Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill are using in that story some of the naration technics developed by Miller (and also by Moore), like for example the coloured shaped caption that permits to identify and follow the train of trought of multiple protagonists.
References to comic characters
There are actually few of these types of references. Explicit references to Marvel or DC super heroes are much more numerous in the following stories. This first arc focuses mainly on the archetypal symbol that represents the Superman look-alike Public Spirit. So, for this first adventure, it seems that most of the costumed heroes are creations of the authors.
Page 1 and 2 of the first episode, we can cross the Shadow, a character created by Walter Gibson.
In page 2 of the third episode, there is a reference to the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents (the founding event that will make him the Batman). Another reference to that event can be found in the name of the street, in panel 2 of page 7 of the same episode ("Crime Alley").
A few Spider-Men, Plastic Men and Batmen in page 23 of episode 4.
Some Aquamen/Submariners in page 26 of episode 4
Biblical, religious and mythological references
Being textual or visual, there are very numerous religious references in that first story (Pat Mills when he was a child went to a catholic school, and he did not appreciate the experience).
Virago: it's a Latin word that means, in the Bible, "woman". It is the name given to Adam's first wife, the one create from his rib, a name which was later translated as "Eve". In the world of Marshal Law, Virago, along with the Super Patriot, are the first 2 super heroes created from Dr. Shocc experiments, subsequently, they could also be considered as brother and sister.
Public Spirit civil name is Buck Caine. Cain in the Bible, is one of the 3 sons of Adam and Eve, the one who kills his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy. He then will be banished by God and marked, so everybody who tries to kill him dies. "The Mark of Cain" is the title of episode 5, where the Sleepman tries to kill his father, and dies by the hand of Marshal Law (the hand of God?). Cain also married his sister and they had a son Enoch. In Victor Hugo’s poem "The Consciousness", Cain is followed by an eye that always reminds him of his crime. As the mask of the Sleepman shows only one eye, the Sleepman can be seen as a reminder to the Public Spirit of his past crimes (i.e. killing Virago’s look-alike). If you're not convinced, just re-read pages 22 et 23 of the second episode …
The Public Spirit is also often compared to the new messiah throughout the comics (see Nemesis reference).
In episode 5, the Sleepman's childhood is told in a visual style that contrasts with the general atmosphere of the comics (pages 1, 7 and panel 5 of page 12). There are also plenty of Christ-symbols, like halos or crucifix (pages 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 16).
Nemesis is the goddess of vengeance and may also be associated with a person, a punisher or an avenger. The name is also associated with anger. In the penultimate page of chapter 6, "anger" and "revenge" appear on Marshal Law's outfit, for he is the true incarnation of the goddess. Of course, Marshal Law is also the personal Nemesis of the Public Spirit, his archenemy, his black star, the one that will eventually lead him to his fall. For that matter, Marshal Law is clearly the negative twin of the Public Spirit. If Buck Cain is the new Messiah, then Marshal Law is clearly the Antichrist (notice the red inverted cross on Marshal Law's mask).
Judas S. Cariot and the Scapegoat characters (no comments).
The opening panel of the third episode: of course there is what causes the bombing but there's also what is bombed.
Episode 3, page 22, episode 4, pages 13 and 14 (no comments).
The name of the creator of super heroes, Dr. Shocc, refers to shock therapy (ECT or electroshocks), developed for psychiatry treatments in the late thirties. Outside the psychiatric area, the shock treatments rapidly shows potential for CIA's interrogation techniques, a theme much more developed in the second story. We could also have a political reference here, related to the infamous "shock doctrine".
There are also obvious visual phallic symbols, along what is literally discussed about that topic in the comics. For example, take a quick glance at the 4th panel of page 13 of episode 4.
Warning, spoiler on some clues scattered here and there about the identity of the villains: episode 4, page 12, panel 3: "... It’ll be up the walls the mood I’m in" (Virago is literally capable of flying) and panel 5 (no comments). Page 15, panel 2: Danny looks into a small mirror in which we only see one of his eyes like on the mask of the Sleepman. The mirror is positioned near a bird’s cage (the Sleepman is one of the few superhero who can fly but he is not allow to do it).
In the first panel of the first comic, the Sleepman can be seen in a form of a shadow on a building on the right?
Have you also noticed where a blind character wipes himself in the first section of page 24 of episode 4?
The Sandman foetal cover of episode 5 is not an unprecedented iconic figuer for Kevin O'Neill. He has already used this idea to illustrate a cover for “Nemesis, The Warlock”.
Page 16 of the last episode: Marshal Law made an ugly gesture after being locked in the toilet.
Some juicy quotes
Firts episode, page 13: "I'm a hero hunter...I hunt heroes...haven't found any yet", and its conterpart on the last episode, final pages: "I'm a hero hunter...I hunt heroes...haven't found any yet. But I know where they are" (i.e. the cemetary).
First episode, page 15: "Lot of people say I hate super heroes...that's not true, you know...well, all right...it's partly true...okay, it's true". That quote get also its conterpart in the last episode, page 24: "Now I'd never dream of hitting a man when he's down...that's true, you know...well, all right...it's partly true...okay, it's a lie".
Last page of episode 3: "If you're the new Messiah...I'm going to be the one to drive in the nails".
There is an obvious Dirty Harry's side to the Marshal, especially with that kinds of saying: "If it makes you feel better, I took out ten of them" and "Smile when you call me an asshole".
About Lynn Evan's super heroes thesis: "I didn't understand all the article, due to the angle of my forehead, but I got the general idea...in fact, it tied in with my own theory...I'd suspected for some time american's greatest hero was a dickhead".