As Comic-Con approaches, a Tribute to Classic Comics

Written by Richard Hay

Comic-Con 2013 is on! Hamster Vice and classic comics. Our Richard Hay pays a tribute to classic comics. — Marvel Comics, DC Comics and…Blackthorne Publishing? Superman. Batman. Iron Man. Spider-Man. Wolverine. Hammy, Ben, Wolph and Isis?

As Comic-Con 2013 approaches it is worth writing a little bit about comic books.


Image credit: Richard Hay

Back in the 1980s a comic book artist by the name of Dwayne Ferguson (who now goes by Hunter Wolf on Twitter and Google+) started out by creating a comic book series called Hamster Vice.

Characters in the comic included: Hammy Hamster, who was the guns-blazing, desert-eagle-totting shoot-first-ask questions-later front man; Ben Shepard, the science specialist second-in-command who blew things up; Wolph Stormbringer, who used a sword called Caliber-X in lieu of a gun; and Isis Sandstorm, the CSI specialist of the team. These were not the fuzzy friendly hamsters most of us think of as harmless pets. These were violent action packed anthropomorhized super cops.


Image Credit: Dwayne Ferguson (now known as Hunter Wolf on Google+)

Hunter was kind enough to give me permission to use his cover art in this story as long as I mentioned that he is working on a relaunch of Hamster Vice. His comics can be found for sale on and he also runs an Illustraion blog at

I was young when Hamster Vice first appeared in comic stores, but it was clear to me that Hammy was inspired by Sonny Crockett from the TV show Miami Vice.

The Hammy Hamster group faced enemies like the Rumble Roach, Emperor Moth, Kingfin, Mandok Spydor, Queen Mosquita and the Demon Roach.

My personal favorite enemies were the Snailiens, who appeared in episodes five and six of the comic series. I especially liked how the hamsters were fired in the fifth episode for being too violent. And later they were screened at the unemployment office by an undercover horse agent who made arrangements for them to fight the Snailiens offworld. As it turned out, the Snailiens they encountered were part of a simulation test to see if they could handle the real Snailiens.

It was like a combination of Aliens and Miami Vice.

Can you spell AWESOME?!

I even remember my favorite joke in the series. The Hamsters were investigating a crime scene and there was this snotty muck residue all over everything. Hammy took a look around and said, “Yuck.” And then Ben Shepard said that the muck reminded him of college food.

So sure, Comic-Con will be awash with folks dressed as DC and Marvel comic book heroes and heroines. And there will not likely be anybody dressed as Hammy Hamster. Also I do not really know much about the furry subculture, but it may have started with a series like Hamster Vice, which anthropomorphizes hamsters and insects to play human-like roles.


Image credit: Richard Hay

Now my point is not simply to cull out pleasant comic book memories from my childhood. It is to make a point. Before the 24-hour news cycle and 20-second snippets for similar attention spans and the always-on entertainment world we have now, there was a slower time. When books were the primary source of knowledge. And comic books were a major way for art and culture to be communicated. Most of the glitzy superhero movies we see today were born out of comic book serials. Modern special effects and computers dazzle the eye with brilliant versions of what used to be drawn by an artist in faded color in a paper comic book.


Image credit: Richard Hay

Every  flea market used to have at least one booth with boxes of old comics waiting for someone to buy them for less that $1 apiece usually. Every now and then you would have special editions in plastic and you would have to pay extra for those. Or a graphic novel with high gloss ink and crisp illustrations. The point is that not every comic book was a super famous series with ties to the huge brands of DC and Marvel. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some fun comics out there with quality storylines off the beaten path.

Remember that when you go to Comic-Con or watch the live streams or read the reviews online with zany photo galleries. Think of the fact that sometimes it is easy to go down the road and dress up as an established character. But there are many unsung characters and classic comics whose stories are waiting to be discovered. Maybe at a flea market?

Richard Hay is the senior science editor at  He’s a staff engineer in network testing at Google. Email him and let him know the sort of stuff you’d like him to cover here on He’s and +Richard Hay on Google+.