Twenty years ago, Mike Allred created one of the most beloved independent comic book characters of all time. MADMAN, also known as Frank Einstein -- or Zane Townsend, depending on how well you know him -- first appeared back in 1990's "Creatures from the Id" from indie publisher Caliber, followed soon by "Grafik Muzik" and the very first three-issue "Madman" miniseries. In the two decades since, Allred has continued Frank's adventures across a number of different minis and ongoings at a series of publishers, from Caliber to Dark Horse to his current home at Image Comics.
To celebrate Madman's twentieth birthday, Allred and Image have joined forces to create the 264 page coffee table book titled "Madman: 20th Anniversary Monster." The hardcover, which hits stores in December, pulls double-duty, not only reprinting every pin-up ever done by another artist of Madman -- featuring everyone from Jack Kirby and Frank Miller to Frank Frazetta and Alex Toth -- but also new stories by Allred as well as creators like Matt Wagner, Peter Bagge, Darwyn Cooke, Erik Larsen, David Mack, Los Bros Hernandez, Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Frank Quitely and plenty more. CBR News spoke with Allred about how the book came together, what it was like scoring pin-ups throughout the years by the likes of Jack "The King" Kirby and whether or not the writer/artist ever dreamed Madman would still be kicking around after two decades.
"I wish I could remember," Allred replied, answering the question about the character's longevity. "I'm sure I had huge daydreams about a significant creation, but I have to think I was only happy to get it published. It was only this year, realizing it will have been 20 years this March, that my mind has been tripping about the time that has passed."
"It was about a year ago talking with Jamie Rich and Jim Valentino at a book signing that the upcoming milestone was brought up," Allred said, crediting the creators with helping shape the final form of the anniversary celebration. "I think it was Jim who suggested [having] 20 different creators doing a strip to commemorate a special book. I had just gotten my comps of the 'Wednesday Comics' collection, and the plan was drawn to make it my ultimate dream book. Jamie is always making great suggestions and helped steer the whole project, including writing a nifty framing sequence. He is our unsung hero. He's been my go-to guy since Bob Schreck left Dark Horse. I couldn't do it without him."
The new stories collected in "20th Anniversary Monster" not only feature a series of different creators playing in the Madman sandbox, but also different characters from throughout Madman's history. "I wanted to show Frank Einstein's progression with his inner circle, show some history, even doing a three page call-back with the original two-color look, ultimately addressing his relationship with Dr. Flem, who constantly takes him for granted," Allred said.
While Allred would not name a specific favorite collaborator from the book. "Like I'm gonna take that bait," was his exact response, though he did say seeing Los Bros Hernandez -- Jaime, Gilbert and Mario -- do Madman was a treat, considering how influential they have been on his creative life.
"I'm blown away by all of them. But on an emotional level, I'd have to say that having all three creators of 'Love and Rockets' each doing a strip was the most gratifying. I wouldn't have even attempted making my own comics if not for their influence and inspiration. I consider most of the contributors my dearest friends. Other artists, I greatly admire and hope to know better. I can't look at this book and not puzzle how it actually came to exist."
The writer/artist has always had luck when it came to getting big name creators to draw his character. Some of the all-time greats have done pin-ups of Madman over the past 20 years, with Allred telling CBR that many of them were the result of good timing and comic con conversations.
"I just asked," Allred said. "Kirby was a mainstay at Comic-con [International in San Diego] every year. I wrote a fan letter to Toth, and he responded with his first Madman drawing without me even asking -- and then, he began mentoring me! Frazetta was a miraculous 'right place/right time' situation. He made a rare appearance in San Diego, and Frank Miller actually introduced me to him and talked me up to him. Before I knew it, he'd agreed to draw a Madman picture for me. At the time, he was only going to pencil something. He later told me he had so much fun with it that he couldn't stop himself and inked it all up. I love it."
Fans of "Madman" no doubt know that Allred has not done a new story featuring Frank and the gang since 2009's "Madman Atomic Comics" #17 because he's been busy drawing "iZombie" for Vertigo with writer Chris Roberson. Still, Allred said he will always eventually return to Madman.
"It's my 'Peanuts,'" Allred said. "It's my favorite place to be. I've found myself happiest working on Madman stories at my own pace just for fun while growing and thriving on collaborative projects at the same time. Currently playing in Madman's Snap City while rockin' it with Chris Roberson on 'iZombie,' I'm in my 'happy place.'"
So, fear not Madman fans, Allred plans on returning to his baby in the near future. "While I'm doing 'iZombie' monthly I still want to do at least one "Madman"/"Atomics" special a year," Allred said. "'Madman Adventures,' the first full-color series, was originally envisioned as a series of volumes, each with a self-contained adventure largely inspired by the world-traveling Tin Tin books. I want to re-visit that."
"Madman: 20th Anniversary Monster" lands in stores on December 14.