FW Presents The Maze Agency!

Thanks to Fire & Water patron Michael Crouch for suggesting this topic! Shag, Siskoid and Paul discuss the late 1980s series The Maze Agency! Created by Mike W. Barr, and illustrated by a young Adam Hughes, it was a true “whodunit” mystery series. We discuss the art, the mysteries, and the realistic and developing relationship between the two protagonists. Along the way, we also share its publication history and mini-bios for Barr and Hughes. Come join us – the game is afoot!


Image gallery for this episode:

For Back Issue #2:

For Mike W. Barr:

For Adam Hughes:

Music: Ellery Queen Mysteries

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21 responses to “FW Presents The Maze Agency!

  1. Well… guess I’m going to be tracking down some issues of The Maze Agency.
    I’m a huge fan of “fair play mysteries. Got my start reading those Encyclopedia Brown books way back in 3rd grade. It was tough to resist the temptation to turn to the back of the book right away and see the solution to the mystery, but I held back. I wanted to see if I could figure out how that dastardly Bugs Meany pulled off his caper. Aside from a couple of stores, I usually solved the case. I moved on to Sherlock Holmes, reading all 4 novels and 56 short stories. My track record for solving those cases was not nearly as good, but I did ok.
    I did see some episodes of Ellory Queen starring Jim Hutton. A fine show that always gave the audience a chance at solving the case. Queen would announce he’d figured it out, then break the fourth wall and ask the audience if they had to. Then they’d show clips of key moments from throughout the episode, and go to a commercial beak giving you a little extra time to solve the mystery before the big reveal. Monk and Psych are two recent series that took at least some inspiration from Ellory Queen.
    The Maze Agency sounds like a great series. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’m going to check it out.

  2. Thanks for a great surprise show, well done for suggesting this one Michael. I know The Maze Agency is highly thought of and I know I bought an issue at the time. I don’t recognise it from the cover gallery, though the background blue of #4 is very familiar. You three caught all the clues as to why the comic was a cult hit like a modern day Toni’s Boys.

    Mind, could not one of you notice that just as Jennifer is hot, Gabe is cute as hell? Hey, if I can appreciate Jennifer…

    More than the comic rundown, I enjoyed the chat about your experience with mystery tales. I do enjoy a whodunit, though my old flatmate Amber finally banned me from speculating as to killer and motive when the likes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent was on cos my hit rate was, apparently, infuriatingly high.

    Definitely try the current BBC Father Brown series, Siskoid, it’s really great – and its spin-off, The Sister Boniface Mysteries, is even better… of COURSE the nun in charge of convent victuals has ALL the forensic knowledge.

    Now, was it Paul who likes Magpie Murders? I hugely recommend MM author Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne Mysteries – the conceit is that Anthony Horowitz gets involved in crimes and is helped out of trouble by the rather difficult Daniel Hawthorne, a former cop who advises on what sounds like Horowitz’s old Foyle’s War drama. They’re huge fun and great if you like guessing along with Horowitz, who tends to be three steps behind Hawthorne.

    If you fancy more fantastic fare try The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is described as ‘a mind bending, time bending murder mystery’. That’s not the half of it, I love it.

    1. Thanks Martin – yes it was me who loved Magpie Murders. And since recording this episode I have already read the first two Hawthorne books and they are great!

      1. Excellent stuff Paul! We got the fourth one a few weeks back but have been saving it for our next holiday, which kicks off tomorrow.

    2. Double recommendation for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (or spending where you live, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle). It was such a great mystery with good twists and turns!

  3. What a treat this was! LOVED hearing about the MAZE AGENCY. I think the mystery genre is something that is missing from comics today. THanks for doing this show, gang.

  4. I think this the few time I’ve had the cash to pick up the comics you guys are talking about . And Amazon had the paper back and serval issue of the original run in stock at a price I can afford. So I bought some maze agency . And I’m looking forward to reading them and reviewing them for my YouTube channel Bucky749. Cause I love detective and mystery stories.

  5. I was a huge fan of Maze Agency, having bought the book when it came out. I even got the Adam Hughes issues signed by him at some early conventions before he was a “big name” (I mean, he was still a big name even then, since this was just around the time of his JLA run, but not AS big…). Unfortunately, I lost most of those issues when a couple of my longboxes were stolen in a storage-locker break-in years ago. The only one I had at home at the time was the Jack the Ripper issue, so that’s the only one I still have signed by Hughes. I’ve been rebuilding the collection occasionally whenever I’ve found an issue in the bargain boxes, though I haven’t been actively seeking them out. Now I think I might just start specifically looking for them.

    The beach pin-up that you discussed originally appeared in black & white in one of the Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Specials, and I got that one signed by Hughes as well. The Amazing Heroes Swimsuit Specials were actually pretty good…yes, there was a lot of “male gaze” pin-ups, but there was also a good mix of humor and an impressive line-up of artists in each issue. (Where else could you see Kurt Schaffenberger draw a topless woman and Charles Vess draw Asterix & Obelix in the same issue?) I believe another publisher continued the swimsuit specials after Fantagraphics stopped publishing Amazing Heroes, but I’ve never seen the post-Fantagraphics issues.

    Regarding the regrettable “sexy victim” trope on the cover of #4 (and also discussed in the Queen Bee scene in the Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast), I believe TV Tropes refers to that as the “Drop Dead Gorgeous” trope. Well, that’s TV Tropes for ya…

  6. I really enjoyed this one. This book would have been on the shelves when I was a kid, and I had gotten a lot of Comico titles back then, but I don’t remember this one too much.

    I think I prefer watching the mystery unravel for the characters more than trying to solve it myself. I gravitate more towards say, a movie like The Zero Effect rather than Murder on the Orient Express.

    Funny enough, recently I started watching Law & Order, from the beginning of the series, more out of curiosity to see how the show looked in its first few seasons than anything else. I never watched it regularly and I forgot that it’s kind of in the mystery genre as well. So by watching it, I was just prepping for this pod and not wasting my time.

    Also, it’s why I walk around the house and annoy my wife and kids by responding to them with some kind of zinger or pun in the style of the show’s dialogue, and then telling them “you just got Sorvinoed”. So, another benefit.

    There’s a good chance my wife is rethinking all of her life choices.

    Anyway, I guess mysteries have always been around, but also, I think over the last decade, they have had a bit of a comeback. With the Knives Out franchise, Mare of Eastown, anything David Tennent is in that takes place in a small seaside town, and the explosion that was online speculation about True Detective. They way people analyzed every frame of that first season was something I hadnt experienced before while watching a show, but I guess a good mystery is one that can really get your imagination running into overdrive regardless if you figure it out before the reveal or not.

    I agree with the panel that this series is unique due to the medium. A comic book mystery is rare. And I appreciated that it sounds like it subverts gender tropes and did away with the “will they/won’t they” thing.

    I also liked that you discussed the different types of mysteries, from procedural cop shows to fair play novels. I actually might seek out some Ellery Queen, seeing as it was an influence on the book, and probably eaiser to find than the comic. But I’m going to try to dig that up too.

    Thanks for wrangling the cats and putting this out.

  7. What a great subject to talk about, everyone! I loved the discussion and the joy that I could hear in all your voices for the characters within.

    The Maze Agency was title I only had heard of (mostly because of Adam Hughes), but never saw in the wild. So when Vol.3 started up in 2005, I picked up those issues, but I never found the originals anywhere. These issues discussed sound like comics I would have drooled over (for the art AND the mysteries!).

    The one show that jumped into my mind that is in the same style (male writer helping a female detective solve mysteries) was Castle, which you fellows might enjoy. It definitely followed the formula of will-they-won’t-they until it blossomed into a relationship, but it also had the inherit humour from Nathan Fillion. If you are a fan of his, you might like that show.

    Well done again on such a great topic, everyone! Keep up the great work!

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