My Penciled Pages for Ms. Mystic #1

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Below are images for the entire issue of Ms. Mystic #1, Continuity Comics 1987.

It contains 16 of the 17 pages I’d drawn (the page count for a DC book in 1977), from a plot by Neal Adams.

The pencils for this issue were completed in the summer of 1977.

Neal Adams first published my work under the Pacific Comics imprint in 1982, claiming it was his creation alone and that I’d only contributed a vague “assistance”.

In this 1987 iteration under his own imprint, he changed that credit to “some layouts”.

Josef Rubinstein, designated to ink Ms. Mystic #1 for DC Comics in 1977, who had also seen the pencils for the first issue, recently made a statement about it, on Facebook:

There’s this battle of words going on between Mike Netzer and neil Adams about who invented and who really owns the comic book character Ms Mystic. I was only on the periphery of most of this and without going into personal feelings about the individuals, the one thing that I can state unequivocally is that I was asked to ink the Ms Mystic book penciled by Mike Nassar (his name at the time) for DC comics. Then the implosion happened and that job never came to being. I was surprised and disappointed to see it several years later inked (I thought only inked) by neil Adams for another comic book company. I saw Mike’s pencils for the comic and they were far beyond layouts. They were finished pencils ready to be inked. You can extrapolate from that what you will.

In the images below, the pages I penciled (inked by Adams), are in full color.

The cover and pages that Adams added (to fill out Pacific’s and Continuity’s larger page count) are of a lighter opacity.

A few additional images and comments are interspersed in the page lineup.

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In addition to the core concept for Ms. Mystic, and her basic visual attributes before the final inclusion of zippatone to the costume – the sword she wields was my contribution and design. In the original plot, she was meant to fire beams from her hands, in the way Neal had first drawn her. 

I designed and added the sword on the page where she made her first costumed appearance, which Neal did not use in the finished book (more on that below). The sword however, remained – and was later featured prominently on this cover.

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The Starspawn Portfolio below, that preceded Ms. Mystic was a small venture. Robert Keenan was a friend of, and recommended by, Sal Quartuccio, publisher of Hot Stuff. This was his first publishing venture. The story of Starspawn was created by Keenan. The art and character design were mine – thus the co-creator credits.
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When Vince Colletta asked if I’d like to pitch a female character to DC’s new publisher, my first thought was of a mystical character, a Gaia or spirit of the Earth type. She’d have lived through previous incarnations, the latest of which was a witch burned at the stake. Her senses and powers would become an amplification of the myriad forces of nature – including her own human nature.

I returned to the studio and began some designs, where I built on the look of Starspawn. A full body tight costume with minimal design interruption of the full figure.

Starspawn was a small and limited venture that reached a relatively small portfolio market. This was a good opportunity to continue that direction towards a wider comics readership.  I had drawn a few such images when Neal Adams came back, saw the studies, and asked what I was working on.

I explained the offer from Vinnie, the idea for the character and showed him the first designs, based on Starspawn, as a springboard for the new character.  I suggested the name “Earth Angel” but he didn’t react to it at the time.

I was surprised when he suggested we do it together and at how we had suddenly become co-creators for a new creator-owned property for DC, that Neal said he’d negotiate with, for a better deal. The next day he came in with the first drawing and name for Ms. Mystic. The name played on the mystical basis I described to him the day before. His Ms. Mystic design was firmly based on my original drawings, ala Starspawn – with mainly the addition of the zippatone and antennas.

Though some have said that the similarity between Starspawn and Ms. Mystic is negligible, most everyone looking at the first splash page of Issue #1 next to the Starspawn figure on the portfolio cover (above) – can see they are one and the same, only seen from opposite views.

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Why Deadman appears in the splash was covered in a previous post. Here it is again: “In this first-page splash of Ms. Mystic, penciled in the spring of 1977, I hid a sort of Easter Egg in the lower-right corner. Deadman.

Though it’s barely visible on the printed page, anyone who has an issue of Ms. Mystic 1, by either Pacific or Continuity, can perform this test themselves. Simply scan the image and punch up the light intensity (levels, in Photoshop or other image editing software).

Neal inked the Deadman head on that page, while the entire job was being inked for Pacific. He tried to obscure it, even more than I did, so there wouldn’t be a claim of misappropriating Deadman by DC. It’s obscured so that’s it’s barely discernible. And even so, Neal could say it’s not conclusive.

But in 1981, digital image editing was not as available to everyone as it is today. Back then, hiding Deadman this way was a safe bet. Not anymore. Anyone can see this same result, on their own copies of the actual comic book.

Neal could say that he added this element to hint at a possible crossover with DC, as he did with Superman/Ali. The problem here is that this Deadman head is clearly penciled by me, and part of the overall design of a page that I composed and penciled very tightly. Most anyone who knows our work, can see that this Deadman head does not have the same feel that Neal’s own Deadman heads do.

This adds another layer of hard-copy evidence refuting Neal’s lies about this project and about myself.

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Neal Added 7 pages for the Continuity Comics publication. He cut and expanded the story by interspersing the added pages throughout. This was the first added page. The dialogue was not yet written when the pencils were finished – so it’s likely Neal scripted it after the pages were added.

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In my original pencils, Neal removed my version of this page. Ms. Mystic was front and center, occupying the upper 2/3 of the page, wielding here sword as she suddenly finds herself in a battleground.  The choice was because this was the place to showcase the character.

I felt it was a disappointing storytelling choice to change it to the composition above. The robot claw wheel becomes the main attraction, instead of our protagonist’s first appearance, which is lost to us in the robot’s menacing presence.

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Neal expanded this one page sequence into two pages. He removed the bottom panel in the original art of this page, and moved it into the bottom panel of the next page. He filled the gap with this sequence of the robot falling and almost taking Ms. Mystic with it.
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Neal’s sequence is a good addition to the story, given he had room to expand on the original page count.
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This was how that original page was penciled.

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In the original plot, Neal wanted to wait a few issues to introduce Ms. Mystic’s past witch incarnation, where she was burnt at the stake. He wasn’t really crazy about it. Though he added it here, the idea was not developed much further in subsequent issues.

This was a good element for the more mystical character Ms. Mystic was originally meant to be. The witch chapter was the last station in series of Ms. Mystic incarnations that go back to the dawn of human intelligence. It was apparently less suitable for the more sci-tech direction Neal took it later.

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This was the last page cliffhanger in the original story. Ms. Mystic is down, felled by a new threat that’s boasting to do the same to the rest if they don’t evacuate the factory area. 

The next pages were added to allow Ms. Mystic to eliminate the threat before she loses consciousness again.

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A great deal of hard work and love was poured into these pencils. Besides having a well earned achievement of my early career in comics erased by Neal Adams’ fraudulent takeover of my property, he also claims he did most of the penciling for this issue, when it was, in fact, some of my best finished pencil work of that time. Joe Rubinstein and many others still remember.

I can hardly imagine a greater treachery that an artist could do to another.

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