Comics / Cult Favorite

Mike Grell on The Return of Jon Sable

By Philip Schweier
September 16, 2004 - 15:50

In the days of the burgeoning independent market, one of the first comic creators to take advantage of the fledgling creator-owned market was Mike Grell.

With the advent of First Comics, Grell, a longtime illustrator for DC, offered a new hero. Jon Sable, Freelance, a mercenar/ bounty hunter, debuted in 1983

Jon Sable ran for 56 issues, one of First Comics’ longest running titles. Since the company’s demise in the early 1990s, many of their titles have been consigned to memory, along with Cheers, Squeeze, and other relics from the 1980s.

But now, Jon Sable is returning.

“I’m pleased to announce that JON SABLE, FREELANCE will be returning to comics in a brand new miniseries from IDW,” Grell announced on his website. He goes on to say that work on the new series has already begun and is scheduled to appear in March 2005.

Fans of the original JON SABLE, FREELANCE series can look forward to seeing old favorites, such as supporting cast members Sonny Pratt, Eden Kendall and Myke Blackmon. “And Grey Adler,” he adds.

Whether the return of Sable will extend beyond the initial mini-series remains to be seen. “Like anything else, an ongoing series will depend on sales,” says Grell.

However, Sable fans old and new will be able to enjoy the re-release of material originally published by First Comics. “We’ll be packaging the stories in albums,” Grell elaborates. “The actual page counts haven’t been set yet, but since my story arcs were usually 2-4 issues, each album will probably contain 6 or 8 issues.”

Grell offers much of the credit for Sable’s resurrection to longtime friend and Sable editor Mike Gold. “We’ve actually been working on putting this deal together for more than two years,” Grell explains. “The first shoe had to drop before anything else could happen.”

That shoe came in the form of another title previously published by First Comics. Creators John Ostrander and Tim Truman struggled to free up the rights of GRIMJACK, allowing IDW to republish their original material. “They kicked open a lot of doors along the way,” says Grell.

“Meanwhile, I’ve been performing my own CPR on Sable with my novel.” The book, entitled SABLE, was published by Forge in 2000. Featuring a cover illustrated by Grell, it retold Jon Sable’s earliest adventure in greater detail.

Grell states that a second novel is in the works. “I always had faith that Sable still had life in him. I never gave up, and continued to work on material, including another novel with more planned.”

His efforts also include a screenplay, which he says came within a hair’s breadth of the greenlight before 9/11 caused all the foreign backers to pull out.

The film would have been the character’s second foray in film. In 1987, Jon Sable appeared in a television series starring Lewis Van Bergen.

The show coincided with the relaunch of the comic book at First under the pen of comics vet Marv Wolfman. Retitled SABLE, it ran an additional two years.

Ever respectful of another creator’s efforts, Grell states, “ I don’t disregard or discount Marv’s work, but I won’t be including his storylines in any of the material coming from IDW.”

Grell has his own ideas for what’s taken place in the world of Jon Sable since he stepped away from the comic book over 15 years ago, but he prefers to keep mum for now. “You’ll have to read the new series to find out. I won’t be delving into every aspect, but I’ll touch on some things that make sense to the readers.”

In the meantime, Grell’s work will soon be seen on the cover for the upcoming Shooting Star Anthology #6. “I have a couple of other new comic projects up my sleeve, which I’ll be developing over the next year or so,” he says.

“Plus three novels in various stages of completion, a screenplay I’m trying to peddle, and a new website – – which I hope to have launched by the end of the year, a project that will allow me to explore a totally different direction with my art.”

Maggie the Cat, a recurring character from JON SABLE, FREELANCE, was featured in her own limited series from Image in the early 1990s. The series was aborted after the second issue due to the drastic drop in comic sales at the time. “I’d love nothing better than to finish out the Maggie storyline,” Grell says, “But time will tell.”

On his website, Grell states that he is very excited about the new miniseries. “Not only is SABLE my favorite among all the characters I’ve ever created, he’s also the right kind of hero for today’s world – less than perfect but doing his best, willing to face any danger for what’s right, and absolutely relentless when he’s on the hunt.” •

Last Updated: December 24, 2020 - 09:44

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