Jeff is back! Here’s another MY FIRST ISSUE… featuring Jon Sable!

16 May

by Jeff Polier

My First Issue of Jon Sable

Jon Sable, Freelance #1

June, 1983
Cover of "Sable"

Cover of Sable by Mike Grell

Contrary to My First Issue being the first issue, I did not start reading Jon Sable, Freelance in 1983. At age ten, I would have been far to young to read this particular title. I didn’t actually have a copy of the first issue, either. I had a trade paperback containing the first five issues. The first issue is a “done in one” and the rest of the issues comprised a single story. Since #1 was the first issue in that TPB, I’ll call it “My First Issue.” Unlike most of the titles I’ve written about, I actually don’t know how I came to have this particular comic. I rather suspect that it was a bargain at the Portland Comic Book Show but I just don’t know. I’ve long since given that original TPB to a friend since I have the individual issues now. My copy of #1 is signed by series creator Mike Grell. The cover, story, pencils, and inks were all by Grell.

            I do like the cover of the first issue. It has a clear logo. The upper parts of the “b” and “l” in “Sable” resemble the horns of the sable animal. Most of the cover has Sable in black outfit and battlemask firing his gun in front of a nighttime cityscape. The lower quarter of the cover is a close up of Sable (also firing his gun) with his head in cross-hairs. The cover sends a clear message: this is an action comic. I find it interesting that Grell had the cover art done a long time before the comic’s June ’83 publication. The signature at the bottom says “Mike Grell ’82.”
            “The Iron Monster” starts rather low key. A TV interview is being conducted with children’s author B.B. Flemm. Flemm has curly blond hair, a mustache, wears glasses, and is quite witty. His children’s books are about a colony of leprechauns living in Central Park. As Flemm exits the studio, the news turns more serious. The President and First Lady are expected to appear at a ceremony outside the United Nations the next day. A reporter interviews police Captain Winters about the security and suggestions that have been made that would have security being handled by a private agency. Winters defends the NYPD despite a recent incident where a high-profile case was solved by a private citizen, Jon Sable.
            While the interview with Captain Winters is being conducted, we see Flemm return home. His home? Kind of. He removes the blond hair, mustache, and glasses to reveal Jon Sable. Sable ditches the suit he was wearing as Flemm for more comfortable clothes and goes downstairs to his private “Hogan’s Alley”—a shooting range with pop-up targets. With the targets and innocents controlled by a computer, Sable expertly shoots the villains and avoids the civilians. He ends the exercise by putting four bullets through a drawing of the head of B.B. Flemm.
            He receives a notice of an intruder in the house just as he is finishing his training exercise. Three men have messed with the private elevator and are in Sable’s (very well decorated!) living room. Sable swings down from an upper level and nails one of the intruders in the head with a well-placed boot. He tosses another intruder into the indoor water feature and slams the third intruder into a wall, head first. The only one of the intruders still conscious is the one in the water. Sable grabs him by the hair, points his gun at the intruders head, and gives a simple instruction: “Talk to me.”
Cover to Jon Sable Freelance #7. Art by Mike G...

Cover to Jon Sable Freelance #7. Art by Mike Grell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outside, it is snowing as Sable approaches a parked car. He joins the passenger in the back seat. Although his face isn’t clearly shown and he isn’t named, it is clearly President Ronald Reagan. The intruders were three of the President’s best men—a test of Sable’s capabilities. Reagan wants Sable doing security at the very public event the next day because there has been an assassination threat. Reagan refuses to cancel the event because he’s a politician. (And, yes, that is a slam on politicians of all kinds, not just ones that make President!)

            The President offers Sable three incentives. One is, of course, payment. Another is that the suspected hitman is Milo Jackson, a name that seems to mean a lot to Sable. The third is that, thanks to the Library of Congress, Reagan knows that Sable is also Flemm and knows that Sable has worked very, very hard to keep that a secret. If Sable doesn’t accept the assignment, that secret won’t be one for much longer. Sable accepts the offer but in lieu of money he wants two things. The first is a carte blanche to operate without interference from Captain Winters and the NYPD. The second is a favor to be named later.
            Back in his home, Sable takes a book about the 1972 Olympics off the shelf. Within it we see one page with his picture. The picture on the opposite page is Milo Jackson. A flashback shows that Sable and Jackson were both mercenaries in Rhodesia in 1979 (remember, this story was only four years after that!). A man with no honor, Jackson turned on his own comrades just because someone else paid him to. Sable only missed out on the slaughter because a broken arm had kept him at their base. Sable hadn’t seen Jackson since that event.
            His reverie is interrupted by a telephone call from a very shapely brunette. It is Eden Kendall, his literary agent and one of the few people that he has willingly shared his dual identity with. He asks her not to book him on any more shows. She points out that his books provide him with a huge amount of money. There is a new artist for the next book, Mike Blackmon, and Sable wants to meet with them to discuss a couple of art problems. Eden tells him that’ll happen next week and then invites him over for a drink. Sable turns her down, much to her regret…and his.
            Sable follows up a lead and goes into Survival Specialties, a shop specializing in outfitting weekend warriors. He hopes that the owner, Maxie, may have a lead on Milo Jackson. It is three AM when he arrives and as soon as Sable enters the dark shop, he is knocked out from behind by Jackson. Jackson leaves Sable on the floor and uses a hand truck to wheel out a crate. When Sable comes to, he sees that Maxie has been wounded in the abdomen. Maxie is only able to tell Sable one thing before he dies: “I…Iron Monster–!”
            An hour after he entered the shop, police are on the scene Survival Specialties. Sable called Captain Winters to try and convince Winters to cancel the U.N. event. The President won’t but as head of security, Winters has the authority to pull the plug. The problem is, of course, that Winters hates Sable. He uses the fact that Sable is carrying a gun to arrest him on suspicion of the murder of Maxie. Never mind that Sable has a license. Never mind that Maxie was stabbed, not shot. Winters just wants Sable out of the way.
            Twelve hours later, Sable is back on the street and investigating where the U.N. event is to take place. Winters has, of course, refused to cancel the President’s visit based on Sable’s say-so. Some workers are cleaning grafitti off of a wall. Another worker is filling two small holes that are in the wall. These holes weren’t there the previous day and are within an inch of each other.
            Sable tells one of the men who attacked him in the loft—one of the President’s men—that the holes were created by an Iron Monster. It is a “free rifle” that can shoot a five inch group at one thousand yards. It doesn’t matter how many people the Secret Service have at the event because Jackson can be a very, very long ways away and still hit his all-too-public target.
            At five o’clock and with one hour to go, another agent takes Sable to an empty room in a nearby building. It has nearly everything that Jackson would want for his assassination attempt. It has a great view of the U.N., the flags the fly outside of the United Nations would help him gauge wind drift, and lights from the TV cameras would help illuminate the target. The only problem is that the target wall—the place where Reagan will be standing—can’t be seen from that room. Sable realizes that Jackson must be shooting from the high rise construction sight next door.
            Sable takes an elevator up the complete floors of the neighboring building but climbs the remaining floors rather than risk a booby-trapped service elevator. It is six o’clock and the President is taking the podium, Jackson is taking aim, and Sable drops a girder onto the would-be assassin’s position. Sable has, for some odd reason, taken time to apply the makeup that comprises his battlemask. Holding Jackson at gunpoint, Sable asks him “Why?” Whether talking about the assassination or Rhodesia just a few years past, the answer is the same. Jackson does it for money. It is all he cares about. And that’s when he detonates the booby trap behind Sable.
            Sable is hurt but not dead. Jackson’s ego demands an audience and he wants Sable to see the murder. Sable remains doubled over while Jackson prepares to take his shot. The reason he remained doubled over is so that Jackson couldn’t see him take two small blades from his belt buckle. Three things happen at once. The President releases a white dove. Jackson pulls the trigger. And Sable upsets the shot by cutting Jackson. The President looks quite surprised as the dove disappears in a cloud of red blood and white feathers.
            In the epilogue, Sable is in CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He purges the connection between Jon Sable and B.B. Flemm from their computers. Then he returns he borrowed key to the President. “Well?” asks the President.
            “Paid in full, Mr. President!” responds Jon Sable.

I truly enjoyed this story and the others in that old trade paperback. It didn’t take long for me to acquire all the back issues. Most of them were to be found in quarter boxes at comic conventions. I’ve bought, I think, every appearance of Jon Sable since that time, too. I think it is safe to say that I have every comicbook appearance of the character. I also have the novel Sable that Grell wrote a few years ago. Unfortunately, I have never seen the TV series based on the character.

One Response to “Jeff is back! Here’s another MY FIRST ISSUE… featuring Jon Sable!”

  1. The Hook May 17, 2012 at 12:06 #

    Very cool! i remember this book – and theTV series!

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