TITLE: The Maze Agency Issue #1
YEAR: December 1988
COMPANY: Comico Comics
Writer/Creator: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Adam Hughes
Inker: Rick Magyar
Letterer: Deborah Marks
Colorist: Julia Lacquement
Editor: Michael Eury
In 1988, writer Mike W. Barr created The Maze Agency for Comico Comics. Inspired by mystery stories in the ’60s and submitting his stories to mystery magazines, Barr would work at DC Comics in hopes he could get a mystery comic book made. But there was no interest at the time.
It wasn’t until he read an early issue of “Ms. Tree” from Eclipse Magazine that he was inspired to create a detective comic strip and several years later, “The Maze Agency” was born.
While I recently wrote about the modern IDW Comics version of “The Maze Agency” which gave a modern look to the characters, especially Jennifer Mays’ counterpart, Gabriel Webb.
The Comico Comics series would last for seven issues and when Comico Comics ceased all publications, the series moved onto Innovation comics for the remainder of the run for issues 8-23 and lasted through 1991.
With the challenges that independent comic book companies had in the ’90s, the series had a hard time finding any footing.
Alpha Productions featured a Maze Agency story in the anthology, “The Detectives” issue #1 in 1993 and a prose story in “Noir” issue #1 in 1994. Caliber Comics released the series for three issues in 1997-1998 and IDW Publishing did a mini-series in 2005/2006 and reprinting the original issue s#1-5 in TPB. While a second prose story appeared in the anthology, “Sex, Lies and Private Eyes” by Moonstone in 2009.
But the earlier issues of “The Maze Agency” was rather interesting because it would feature the artwork of a young Adam Hughes. Hughes who had no formal training in art was given his first major comic book job working on Comico Comics “The Maze Agency” and wanting to ink in his own work, co-creator/writer Mike W. Barr suggested that he produced pinups on each issue’s back cover as an advertisement for the next issue to practice inking his own pencils. Hughes would work on “The Maze Agency” for a year before moving on to DC Comics in 1989. And later would be known for his work on “Gen 13: Ordinary Heroes”, “Wonder Woman” and “Tomb Raider” and would become one of the most respected artists since then. His artwork is no doubt unique but for those who want to see Hughes original work, “The Maze Agency” is the best way to find it!
“The Maze Agency” is a comic book series that revolved around former CIA agency, Jennifer Mays who runs a private detective agency. Assisting her is true-crime writer and amateur sleuth Gabriel Webb, who happens to be Jennifer’s boyfriend.
And as with many detective agency comic books, there is always a police officer also trying to solve the case and often in odds with the detectives and in this series it’s Detective Roberta Bliss, a NYPD homicide detective. While she and the Maze Agency work together, they also often find each other in odds, especially when it comes to sharing information.
The first issue revolves around Jennifer Mays and Gabriel Webb working on a case which involves a mysterious art thief who steals frames but not the paintings.
When the artist receives a letter that the Rogue has returned and has selected his paintings to steal, the Maze Agency are brought in to make sure it doesn’t happen. But somehow someone enters the Blakemore Gallery an shoots one of Maze’s security guards and the frames were stolen.
Will Jennifer and Gabriel find out who was responsible for the shooting and theft?
Similar to how I felt about reading “Ms. Tree”, “The Maze Agency” was a series I followed and own the entire Comico and Innovation series (unfortunately, I could never find the complete Caliber Comics version).
But if you love mystery stories, definitely give “The Maze Agency” a try!