Brand Echh: Cobalt Blue #1

The rise of underground comix publishers in the 1960s provided an object lesson to many would-be comics creators of the period. They showed that it was possible to create and distribute comics of your own through alternative means without the need of being allied with a big company like Marvel and DC. While the undergrounds were bastions of free expression, well-known for the degree of sex, violence and drug humor that could typically be found within their pages, what followed them was relatively austiere by comparison. In the mid-1970s, as the Direct Sales marketplace of comic book specialty stories began o coalesce into a network, a number of publishers turned up to provide material that was an alternative to that released by the “big two”. These publishers were collectively known as “ground level publishers”, as they weren’t undergrounds but shared more in common with their four color newsstand brethren.

One of these publishers was Power Comics, which released half a dozen issues of an anthology series by the same name and a few other one-shots and spin-offs. Power Comics wasn’t really about self-expression so much as it was a place where hungry young creators eager to show off their chops on home-grown super hero properties could begin to ply their trade. They didn’t make many inroads, but one of the characters debuted within the pages of POWER COMICS went on to have a long and varied career through several additional publishers. That was Cobalt Blue, who made his debut in POWER COMICS #2 in 1977.

Cobalt Blue was the creation of Mike Gustovich and Kevin Hyde, a pair of newly-graduated high school students who had conceived the basic idea during their school years. Set in the far future of the 26th Century, Cobalt Blue was created as a centurion super-soldier for the Empire of tomorrow, but who found himself an outcast and an outlaw on the run. He escapes to the present, where he gets involved in a series of super heroic-style adventures, and where his super-soldier attributes give him defacto super-powers. Gustovich is best remembered as the guiding mind behind his similarly long-lived creation the Justice Machine, and there are themes in common between teh two works of government operatives being turned on by their overseers after they learn the truth about the authority that they serve. (For those who are interested, we covered JUSTICE MACHINE in depth here:)

Gustovich clearly felt a strong connection to this character, and so he brought the series back a few times over the years. Most immediately as a flip-book in the last few issues of the Noble Comics’ JUSTICE MACHINE series., then later at Innovation and others. Eventually, he redid the entire story as a graphic novel.

As a product, Power Comics’ releases were a bit on the crude side. They didn’t carry slick covers, and the paper they used was course and rough. The printing was only so-so. They felt more like fanzines than legitimate comic books somehow. And the work itself was of a fanzine level, not yet rising to professional standards. But Gustovich would get there in the course of time. And you can forgive a lot given the obvious enthusiasm with which the strip has been created.

After appearances in POWER COMICS, Cobalt Blue graduated to a dedicated self-titled one-shot of his own. Intended as the first of a series, no second issue ever materialized, at least not from Power Comics. And even though he is the title character and the lead feature. Cobalt Blue only occupies 8 pages of this debut release. This story had clearly been crafted for an issue of POWER COMICS and was repurposed on its own.

The back-up strip was The Mask by Bill Messner-Loebs, a creator who would go on to do a variety of other things in the future. He was a longtime writer of WONDER WOMAN and THE FLASH and he also created the independent series JOURNEY which was published by Aardvark-Vanaheim and later Renegade Press.

One thought on “Brand Echh: Cobalt Blue #1

  1. I vaguely remember Cobalt Blue but that’s it. I know I read every Justice Machine comic I could find way back so I guess that’s it. Gustovich was an early favorite.


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