NPR and a team of comic book veterans to revive the Golden Age superhero Micro-Face… no, really



After decades in limbo, the legendary and iconic superhero of the golden age Micro-Face is finally relaunched by the equally legendary comic book publishing giant, the NPR Planet Money Publishing Group …

OK. Hold on.

We know you’ve never heard of Micro-Face. Hell, neither did we a few days ago. But he really was a golden age superhero.

And the NPR Planet Money Publishing Group isn’t really a thing either. At least that wasn’t a thing until recently. And for how long is that still one thing to be seen.


Cover of The Mysterious Micro-Face # 1 by Jerry Ordway (Image credit: NPR)

Give us a few moments to explain. Suffice it to say, you can order the character rebirth The mysterious micro-face # 1, written by Alex Segura, drawn by fan favorite artist Jamal Igle, with main cover and a character makeover of legendary veteran Jerry Ordway, colored by Ellie Wright and lettered by Taylor Esposito at present.

As to how it all happened …

It all started earlier this year when Segura, the novelist, comic book author, ex-DC and Archie Comics executive, and current senior vice president of sales and marketing of Oni-Lion Forge was approached by his friend Kenny Malone, reporter for National Public. Radio’s (NPR) popular Planet Money podcast, which focuses on explaining complex business and financial matters in an entertaining and fun way.

You know I don’t know sometimes how I end up with projects like this [laughs]. I think it’s pretty well known that I like challenges. The pleasure for me really comes from putting the art together. I’m using new tools and I’m changing things up a bit visually. I also like the idea of ​​bringing the comics to a non-traditional comic book audience – like Planet Money listeners.

Jamal Igle

Malone wanted Segura to be a guest on an episode as part of a series on intellectual property in comics, detailing how characters can be very profitable through media and licensing.

Malone and his co-host Robert Smith came up with a “big idea” for the podcast – actually buying a character from an established comic book company, then trying to license it for TV, movies, and merchandise for many. silver.

Also at Archie Comics at the time, Segura’s role on the podcast was to provide his perspective as a comic book setting depicting iconic characters. Malone and Smith actually asked to buy a lesser-known Archie character, a request that Segura had to turn down.

The mysterious micro-face # 1 by Jamal Igle (Image credit: NPR)

“I think I said ‘I’m not allowed to say yes, but I can definitely say no’,” Segura recalls, explaining to the hosts of Planet Money that “any character, from list A to list D, is a big story far from being a billion dollar franchise. There was no benefit for a business to sell intellectual property. We are in an age where you want more intellectual property, not less. “

And while the episodes went well and the audience response to the series was positive – their ambitious vanity was not fulfilled – they were unable to acquire a character.

Segura then suggested an alternative path …

“The golden age of comics is littered with lost characters and ideas that now reside in the public domain – which means that the copyright and original trademarks have expired and are now in the public domain. ‘enough time has passed so that they cannot be renewed, ”explains Segura.

Thus, for characters of this kind, the basic premises are within everyone’s reach. You can create a new work based on the original idea, then copyright and trademark your version of the public domain character. Malone and Smith embraced the idea and with that in mind set out to find their own superhero.

What they found was the very obscure superhero named Micro-Face who made a dozen appearances in the 1940s, created by writer-artist Allan Ulmer. Ulmer was an illustrator of magazines and newspapers such as The Shadow, The Green Hornet and Tarzan and went on to draw comics and covers in the 1940s and 1950s for publishers such as Holyoke Publishing (Blue Beetle), DC (Dale Evans) Comics), and Marvel precursor Timely Comics (Red Warrior) before his career turned to fine art in the 1960s. He died in the 1980s.

1943’s Clue Comics # 1, the beginnings of Micro-Face (Image credit: public domain, remember?)

Created in 1943 for publisher Hillman in Clue Comics # 1, Tom Wood AKA Micro-Face had audio powers (no, he didn’t have a very small face… we’ll get to that in a moment) and the guys from Planet Money liked the idea that a commercial podcast for a public radio station was going to have an audio-centric character.

Because Segura has a background as a comic book writer, editor, publisher, and all-around Swiss army knife of comic book creation, Malone and Smith asked him if he would write a new Micro-Face story and help out. to set up a team creation.

“It was such a unique, weird and fun project – meta and interesting – that I couldn’t say no,” says Segura.

“When we first settled on Micro-Face, I explained that we kind of had three paths to take,” says Segura, “We could either continue the original Micro-Face adventures as if time hadn’t passed. not elapsed and make it into a period piece or we could relaunch the character as a modern and new idea without any connection to what came before it. “

But the one that really resonated with Segura and the guys on the podcast was a third option – creating a new version inherited from Micro-Face, one that tied into the story of the original but was a new character set to the modern era. Oh, and they also thought it would be cool if the story touched on the public domain “universe” of heroes in a fun way to read, but also a fun meta commentary on IP.

The mysterious micro-face # 1 by Jamal Igle (Image credit: NPR)

“Since this is an NPR / Planet Money comic, we also wanted to make sure it contained a fair share of information,” says Segura. “Not like an educational comic, but a story that landed in the business world. But the idea that we could add to the legacy of Micro-Face while engaging in this fun exercise just felt right. thing Kenny and Robert did that was really great was they contacted Allan Ulmer’s daughter and got her blessing to continue the story. It’s a really heartwarming part of the podcast. “

Many details can be heard on the podcast or you can read the transcriptt including Segura’s first reaction when he discovered Micro-Face (“That’s an unfortunate name.”)

Despite this initial reaction and the meta-context of the entire project, Segura says his cover of Micro-Face is never ironic or mocking the idea.

“We’re playing the story straight,” he explains, saying he liked the idea of ​​playing with the legacy of the original character while also wanting to create a new Latinx hero. Sam Salazar, a radio reporter in New York City, finds out he’s the grandson of the original Micro-Face. He learns this as he tries to track down the person raiding (in business) in WWII era small businesses for reasons unknown. As Sam delves deeper into financial crimes he discovers his own legacy and circumstances get crazy enough that he has to put on the helmet and do good itself. “

The mysterious micro-face # 1 by Jamal Igle (Image credit: NPR)

The headset is the source of the superhero powers of Micro-Face (a phonetic game on “microphone”). A sort of surround sound projector before its time, Micro-Face can produce sound effects to scare and disorientate criminals. As described in the podcast, in an original first story, he projects the sounds of oncoming police cars to confuse the criminals he is fighting.

Segura whose next prose novel Secret identity talks about a fictional comic book company and murder interfering with the creation of a superhero, acknowledges that Micro-Face fell into the public domain because it didn’t hit readers during its creation, but also takes into account the advice of its character designer and cover artist Jerry Ordway.

Looking at the few panels from the original comics, I approached the redesign as a way to keep the kind of goofy look, but streamline it a bit. The glasses and voicemail were pretty much the same, but I thought some of the skin tone of the new version should be shown, as it seemed like a big story point as to the ethnicity of the new character. .

Jerry ordway

Ordway was surprised he had never heard of Micro-Face, as he considers himself very familiar with the golden age of comics, but as he voiced on the Planet Money podcast, he thinks he is. ‘there aren’t really any bad characters.

“You can always find something useful,” agrees Segura. “And for me, the idea of ​​this hero existing in the past was secondary to who the guy under the helmet was. I wanted to play with the personal legacy as much as the heroic legacy, I guess. Right from the start, we realize that Sam has become the person he is because of his grandfather. His grandfather was Sam’s real hero. So when he learns he has put on a big microphone headset and banged criminals, that’s just the icing on the cake – and the boost he needs to become a hero himself. “

As for the direction of the project from here, Segura believes there is potential for Micro-Face.

Cover of Mysterious Micro-Face # 1 variant by Jamal Igle (Image credit: NPR)

“Part of the uniqueness of the project is that it is only sold through NPR – you can only get it through their store,” he explains. “I think that leaves a few key markets untouched, namely comic book stores, bookstores and digital. Orders have been really, really strong, so I think there’s a market for more, or everything. the least of the versions that go to retailers and the like. These are things that NPR is considering, I think, so we’ll see.

As to whether they’ll be outnumbered, Segura says he doesn’t want to say too much, but that it’s written as the first issue of a new series.

“Time will tell where we go beyond this first 40-page comic, but I’d love to be a part of the sequel,” he says. “It was so much fun.”

No, Micro-Face is not on our list of best non Marvel or DC comic book superheroes or our list of best helpless superheroes. But hey, maybe one day.



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