The Maze Agency
Jennifer Mays & Gabriel Webb

Created by Mike W. Barr

One of the longer-running P.I. comic books was The Maze Agency, which ran for twenty-three issues in the early nineties, plus several specials, one-shots, and the like, making it the second-longest running English-language P.I. series, after Ms. Tree. The stories tended to the more traditional Golden Age mystery, particularly the Ellery Queen/impossible crime vein, rather than taking the hard-boiled approach, but they're good, satisfying yarns, nonetheless. And the characters were refreshingly contemporary; definitely not throwbacks to a past era.

The New York-based Maze Agency is owned and operated by JENNIFER MAYS, ex-CIA operative and former poor little rich girl. Young, drop-dead gorgeous, cooly professional and extremely efficient, she often finds her boyfriend/lover, GABRIEL WEBB, tangled up in her cases. Gabe's a true-crime writer, a sloppy, impulsive good-hearted Joe who can't believe a girl like Jen would even give him the time of day, never mind love him.

But she does -- Jen and Gabe's relationship, complete with witty back-and-forth right out of the Nick and Nora playbook, serves as the foundation of this series. It's a real relationship, suitably adult, and their differences make them an interesting, appealing and very effective combination. She's always dressed impeccably; he tends toward raggedy jeans and Patrick Henry University (his alma mater) sweatshirts. She never has a hair out of place; he usually needs a shave. She works out and is a member of the New York Smal Businesswoman's Club; he's a couch potato and bookworm. She drives a classic red and white 1955 Corvette; he drives a multi-hued old clunker. She's ready to slug it out with the bad guys, he'd rather call in the cops. Imagine Moonlighting with plots. Imagine David and Maddy as adults.

And rounding out the cast are a slew of colourful characters: Lieutenant Roberta "Bobbie" Bliss, tough, ambitious, gum-snapping NYPD Homicide cop; her partner, overweight, stogie-chomping "schlub" Seargeant Stubbs; Ashley Swift, owner of Swift Investigations, Jen's former employee, tall, elegant, cold, she's not content to be Jennifer's business rival--she wants Gabe, too. And in a nifty bit of role reversal, there's Sandy, Jen's long-suffering "male" secretary. And let's not forget Jen's constantly bickering parents.

It was a great series,but in the dog-eat-dog world of indie comics it didn't last more than twenty or so issues. Still, in the world of comic books never say never.

The series has proven, like Jen herself, to have had serious legs. A new Maze Agency story popped up in 1993 in The Detectives, an anthology of comic book detectives, a short story appeared in 1994 in the first issue of Noir, andnd Caliber seems to have brought it back for at least a few more issues at leastin 1998.

And in 2005, IDW not only resurrected the series once again, but began publishing an ambitious series of trade paperbacks that will supposedly reprint the entire series.

EVIDENCE

  • "Breaking computer security...picking locks... you're really a role model for private detectives tonight, Babe!"

-- Gabe, "Double Edge" (#6)

  • Gabe: "He (Ellery Queen) doesn't investigate for the money, Babe. Guys like us are intrigued by the nature of the crime."
    Jen: "Us?"

-- "The English Channeler Mystery" (#9)

  • Jen: "Actually, you've got the makings of a good operative, Gabe; some professional training combined with that mind of yours and..."
    Gabe: "No thanks, Babe. Two people in love should never work together."
    Jen: "Who ever said we were in love?"

-- "Murderer's Mask" (#12)

  • Gabe (later): "Ten thousand dollars an hour, huh? What's my cut of that?"
  • Jen: "Your cut? What ever happened to `business and romance don't mix'?"

-- (ibid)

  • Jen: "Young boys are essentially hormones with feet."

COMIC BOOKS

  • THE MAZE AGENCY
    (1988-89, Comico)
    7 issues, colour
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Adam Hughes, Rick Maygar, Joe Staton, Greg Shoemaker

  • "The Adventure of the Rogue's Gallery" (December 1988, #1)
  • "Murder-The Lost Episodes (January 1989, #2)
  • "The Case of the Vanishing Vehicle" (February 1989, #3)
  • "The Return of Jack the Ripper" (March 1989, #4)
  • "Death Warmed Over" (April 1989, #5)
  • "Double Edge" (May 1989, #6)
  • "Hearts of Glass" (June 1989, #7)

  • THE MAZE AGENCY
    (1989-91, Innovation)
    16 issues, colour
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Adam Hughes, Rick Maygar, Robb Phipps, John Calimee, Scott Clark, Rob Davis, Franchesco, Mary Mitchell, Mike Okamoto, Michael Oeming, Darick Robertson, John Tighe, J. Trent, Mike Witherby

  • "A New Lease on Death" (December 1989, #8)
  • "The English Channeler Mystery" (February 1990; with ELLERY QUEEN, #9)
  • "Deadly Anniversary" (March 1990, #10)
  • "Twas the Crime Before Christmas..." (April 1990, #11)
  • "Murderer's Mask" (May 1990, #12)
  • "The Adventure of the Bleeding Venus" (June 1990, #13)
  • "Before Midnight" (July 1990, #14)
  • "Too Much Bliss" (August 1990, 15)
  • "If Books Could Kill" (October 1990, #16)
  • "Terrible Swift Sword" (December 1990)
  • "This Murder Comes to You Live" (February 1991, #18)
  • "The Adventure of the Mystery League" (March 1991, #19)
  • "The Problem of the Devil's Bedchamber" (May 1991, #20)
  • "Valentine's Slay" (June 1991, #21)
  • "Magic and Monsters-and Murder" (July 1991, #22)
  • "Crime in Eden" (August 1991, #23)
  • "Mysteries and Murder" (unpublished)

  • THE MAZE AGENCY SPECIAL
    (1990, Innovation)
    One issue only
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Rick Maygar, Joe Staton, Alan Davis, Arnold and Jacob Pander
  • "Morning: What Goes Up"
  • "Afternoon: Murder by a Hair"
  • "Evening: The Oog that Bit Back"
  • "The Mile-High Corpse"

Reprint of original sample mini-comic flogged to publishers back in 1986.

  • THE MAZE AGENCY ANNUAL
    (1990, Innovation)
    One issue only
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Adam Hughes, Rick Maygar, Darick Robertson, Keith Aiken, Allen Curtis .
  • "A Night at the Rose Petal"
  • "Moving Stiffs"
  • "Murder in Mint Condition"

Reprint of original 1988 preview story, distributed at 1988 San Diego Comics Con.

  • THE DETECTIVES
    (1993, Alpha Productions)

  • "The Adventure of the Chinese Dissident" (#1, April 1993)

  • THE MAZE AGENCY
    (1997-98 Caliber)
    Three issues
    Black and white
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Gene Gonzales

  • "The Death of Justice Girl" (July 1997, #1)
  • "The Adventure of the Realm of Silence" (1998, #2)
  • "The Two Wrong Rhoades" (1998, #3)

  • THE MAZE AGENCY
    (2005-06 IDW)
    Monthly
    Writer: Mike Barr
    Artists: Ariell Padilla

  • "The Crimes, They Are a'Changin'" (Part One) (November 2005, #1)
  • "A Beautiful Crime" (Part Two) (December 2005, #2)
  • "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Doomfish" (January 2006, #3)

SHORT STORIES (PROSE)

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • THE MAZE AGENCY: ANNUAL ONE.. Buy this book
    (1990, Innovation)
    Written by Mike W. Barr
    Artists: Mike Ploog, Scott Rockwell

  • "Murder in Mint Condition"

  • THE MAZE AGENCY: VOLUME ONE.. Buy this book
    (2005, IDW)
    Written by Mike W. Barr
    Art by Adam Hughes, and Alan Davis

Collects issues 1-5, the little seen #0 and the 1988 San Diego Comic Con promotional story.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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