Comics – Planarian Man

My first adventure into the world of comics was also at a newspaper. In 1994, Mark Cramer let me bring Planarian Man to the pages of the Nemaha County Herald. I pitched him a “pilot” series based upon evil planarian robots from the future attacking the Planarian Patrol, but after he okayed it, I quickly lost interest in that storyline. I struggled to think of a way to make the debut when the idea hit me: I’d kill off Planarian Man in the very first story.

The “Death of Planarian Man” story arc ran weekly in the Herald, introducing readers to the various core members, supporting cast and arch-nemeses of the Planarian Patrol. It was built as if the paper had picked up a comic series that had been running for years, with references to past battles, lost teammates, and an origin that still hasn’t quite been officially written to this day. It closed out in the early summer of 1995, and in August, we re-formatted and compiled the strips in comic book form. “Planarian Patrol #1” was released in September.

I don’t remember what inspired me to do a second series. I remember that I ended the first series with no real ambition to start it up again. But something triggered my imagination, and “Heck froze over” to ignite the second story arc in the fall of 1995.

Starting off with a well-deserved vacation that immediately followed the events of the first arc, “The Power of Uranus” introduced readers to Blueface the Pirate Planarian and the Uranus Boy Land theme park. I had learned a lot from that first year of the series, and this second arc was superior in terms of art and story. It was also quite a bit longer. Running Tuesday in the Auburn Press-Tribune in addition to Friday in the Nemaha County Herald, “The Power of Uranus” continued into the summer of 1996. Like its predecessor, it too was compiled into comic book form and released in September 1996.

I moved to Lincoln in the fall of 1996 to begin college at the University of Nebraska. My cousin was friends with the owner of Zero Street Records, and through that connection, I was able to sell the Planarian Man comics at the store. Fast forward to 1999 – I was hired by opinion editor Mark Baldridge to be the new editorial cartoonist at the Daily Nebraskan. A few months into the job, he realized I was the guy who made those comics he’d picked up years before at Zero Street.

Mark and I convinced our editor to let us run a brand new series, picking up where “The Power of Uranus” left off. It would run daily in the Daily Nebraskan, counting down the last month of the calendar year, prompting the informal title, “Planarian Man vs. Y2K.” Mark brought back the Russian Midget, introduced several new characters, tied together series 2 and the unwritten series 4, and managed to use the planarian robots from the future that hadn’t been seen since the pilot strip five years earlier. This series was never officially released in comic form, but I put together a homemade version to be given out at the 2002 San Diego Comic Book Convention (that’s the cover to the right).

The only copy that I specifically recall giving away was to Michael Jantze, creator of “The Norm.” Mark and I had convinced the editor of the DN to bump “The Norm” for Planarian Man based upon our perception of the series’ unpopularity. We quickly found out how wrong we were, as 100% of the letters the DN received about Planarian Man were extremely negative, with many of them demanding the return of “The Norm.” I met Jantze at ComicCon, so I thought it was only fitting that I give him a copy of the series that proved his popularity at UNL.

Since then, there has been an attempted collaboration to write the unfinished series 4, a “Planarian Man vs Galactacor” team up with Scott Eastman, and a few attempts at animated cartoons and screenplays. Nothing has been finished, but in theory, I will always be working on more Planarian Man stories. I’m trying to complete a definitive origin while also writing the next story in the series. I have enough other obligations at the moment that I feel guilty dedicating too much time to it, but Planarian Man will always be my regenerating flatworm baby.