During the 1980s I was a big comic book collector. I loved going to R and K Comics in Santa Clara, California, and just looking and reading all the comics available. From my memory, that was an especially rich time for comic book collectors. Both Marvel and DC comics were going through a second rennaissance, with great creators like John Byrne, Alan Moore, George Perez, and Arthur Adams reviving flagship comics like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Teen Titans, Swamp Thing and Spiderman. Frank Miller was doing amazing work with his Batman series, the Dark Knight. And independent comic companies were publishing high quality comics like Love and Rockets, Mr. Monster, Raw, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With all these great comics fighting for collectors’ attentions, my favorite comic was a quiet comic that DC comics produced that recieved relatively little attention. It was a comic book created by Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano and it was called ‘Mazing Man.
‘Mazing Man was a short eccentric fellow named Sigfried Horatio Hunch III, who wore a cape and an odd helmet, and went around his Queens neighborhood and did good deeds for his neighbors. His best friend was Denton Fixx, a dog faced comic book writer with a dour attitude, who initially pooh-poohs ‘Mazing Man’s do-good attitude until ‘Mazing Man rescues a baby from an onrushing truck. Rounding out the cast were an endearing assortment of friends and neighbors that weaved their way in and out of Denton’s and ‘Mazing Man’s lives. There was K.P., Denton’s sister, a lonely bachelorette who pined for the right mate while working as a dental assistant. Guido was the macho neighbor of Denton’s, who thought he was more attractive to women than he really was, and worked as a shoe salesman in 3 stores at the local mall. Brenda and Eddie seemed to be the perfect couple, married right after high school, and they acted as the firm rock that the other characters could turn to when their lives spun out of control.
The stories that Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano spun in ‘Mazing Man were gentle tales of the slice of everyday. Long before Seinfield mined the “nothing” of everyday life, ‘Mazing Man was mining the same mine and finding gold. One of my favorite early stories is one where ‘Mazing Man and Denton spend the night looking for a hamburger joint to get a midnight snack (shades of Harold and Kumar). In another episode, the friends spend a day watching a Mets game, back in the day when they had Gooden, Strawberry and Carter. It seems like nothing happens in these stories, but I enjoy watching the characters interact and grow as they learn to tolerate each others quirks and mature and grow emotionally attached to each other.
Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano were an accomplished writer and illustrator team that did really subtle work on this comic. Rozakis writing is gentle and humorous, not the laugh out loud kind of humor of a television sitcom, but the kind of humor that comes from the everyday situations of the characters. Though ‘Mazing Man was a humor comic book, Rozakis introduced serious themes in the lives of each character: one character is tempted to stray from her marriage; another character feels trapped by the monotony of his job; a few of them struggle with the loneliness of a single life; almost all of them deal with unfulfilled dreams and the settling in of life. Stephen DeStefano’s artwork is wonderfully whimsical and detailed. He knows how to delineate each character and give them wonderful comic touches, and the inking of Karl Kessel captured the scratchy detail of his pencil art well. As the comic progressed, both the art and the writing improved and evolved in unexpected directions. I always looked forward to the next issue each month.
Unfortunately ‘Mazing Man lasted only 12 issues. Three special annual issues followed, but as far as I know, it has never been revived. Which is sad. ‘Mazing Man was not a revolutionary comic. It offered no radical new vision like Love And Rockets or Raw. It didn’t break new ground in storytelling, like Alan Moore’s Watchman comics. ‘Mazing Man is more like a gentler version of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, a slice of life comic about people we care about.