From a 'Puma Blues' cover. Artist: Mike Zulli.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Aardvark One International
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Stephen Murphy (writer) and Mike Zulli (artist)
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Cartoonist Dave Sim's publishing activities started with his own Cerebus the Aardvark, then branched out to include Ms. Tree, Journey, Flaming Carrot and more. Most of those titles were taken over by Renegade Press, run by his ex-wife, Deni Loubert, in the mid-1980s, but Sim did venture into …

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… one non-Cerebus title later on. His Aardvark One International launched The Puma Blues, written by Stephen Murphy (the Archie Comics version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and drawn by Michael Zulli (Shade the Changing Man), with a cover date of June, 1986.

The story was sort of a near-future (it began set in 2000, 14 years in the readers' future) eco-fable, with Murphy's stories not always adhering to tradtional story construction and Zulli's often very detailed artwork concentrating heavily on wildlife, not all of which was the same as that in the readers' world. (A 1995 terrorist-related incident had resulted in the nuking of New York City, giving rise to many mutated animals, such as airborne manta rays.) The unconventional storyline followed U.S. government agent Gavia Immer (which also happens to be the name of a species of loon found mostly in Canada) as he sets about the job of caring for the environment.

Puma Blues won a great deal of critical acclaim from the likes of Alan Moore (Watchmen, Halo Jones) and Neil Gaiman (Miracleman, The Black Orchid), but wasn't extremely popular with the general public. Some reviewers said it was "too preachy". This made it vulnerable to economic manipulation when controversy broke out.

In 1987, Sim made a business decision to handle distribution of High Society, a graphic novel version of a Cerebus story arc, in-house, rather than go through the regular comic book distribution system. Diamond Distributors decided that if Sim reserved the right to choose which of his publications to sell to them, then it would reserve the right to decide which publications to buy. But instead of deciding not to distribute the popular main Cerebus title, they chose to drop the less lucrative Puma Blues.

Diamond later achieved monopoly status in comic distribution, and even then had a large market share. Faced with being cut off from many customers as a pawn in a dispute that didn't really concern them, Murphy and Zulli took Puma Blues to Mirage Press, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turties publisher that later took on Usigi Yojimbo and Xenotech. The first Mirage issue was #21. Mirage also published collected editions in 1988 and '89.

Mirage continued to publish the title until #26, which came out in 1990.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Stephen Murphy and Mike Zulli.