I created HELVIS in 1988 at my parent’s house in the Jericho/Alpine community of Northeast, Mississippi, some seventeen miles from Tupelo. I drew the first 14 pages of this comic book from September 29, 1992 through February 20, 1994 at our home at 113 North Greer in Memphis. The HELVIS comic remained unfinished for 24 years. Some of the pages were printed in Jack Oblivian's “MEMPHIS' ONLY ROCK & ROLL MAGAZINE” and HELVIS appeared in the November 1989 Dallas fanzine HEY #8 edited by Dave Tosh. Several pages were also published in the Portuguese magazine CRU via the writing of Esgar Acelerado and the catalog revue SALVAO LISBOA.

This new complete edition was funded with an initial Kick-starter and the patronage of Rick and Pamela O'Brien at Xenon Arts Publishing in Memphis.

Regardless of its erratic publishing history, HELVIS remains my most intensely illustrated meditation on Elvis Presley and his boyhood interests in comic books, movies and music. The story also evokes my personal journey through the American pop culture landscape (or what's left of it). HELVIS and I might possibly share the same frustrations, the same concerns and the same love for the anti-zeit geist.

HELVIS is influenced by my worship of EC Comics (his bible), CAPTAIN MARVEL, JR. (his 'being'), and FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL! (His “look”), Big Daddy Roth (his western eye), and Memphis (holy ground).

During the making of my first film DAMSELVIS, DAUGHTER OF HELVIS (1994), George Cole and I would (half-naked) wrap ourselves in 8-track tape and pose as HELVIS for Jim Cole photos. George Cole would play the character in the title film. HELVIS occasionally appeared in foreign magazines and received an official Aurora Model Hobby Kit number (#439) from Gary Makatura at Holland Company who represented the copyright. Not bad for a character that never had his own comic book (until now!)



For the love of his daughter Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis would rent out an amusement park in midtown Memphis called Libertyland, erected in 1976 and built around a wooden roller coaster named the Zippin Pippin (est. 1922). The roller coaster was the only form of elevated rail that Memphis has ever known, taking folks for a whirl around the Mid-South Fairgrounds (est. 1852) and offering a stellar view of the Mid-South Coliseum where legends like Elvis and The Beatles performed. All this cultural history did not prevent the closing of Libertyland in 2005, the shuttering of the Mid-South Coliseum in 2006, or the utter annihilation of the Zippin Pippin by 2010 as decreed the City of Memphis.


Since I moved to Memphis in 1984, I have watched Memphis lose its cultural identity and its tax base (could this cause and effect be related?). In 1993 when I left comics behind I had placed HELVIS on the roller coaster tracks in a speeding car headed for certain doom toward a brick wall with his foot on the gas. Little did I know that twelve years later, our own city (and it's four-term mayor) would doom our cultural heroes by desecrating their monuments thereby damaging our brand as the city that created rock and roll.

In 2005 I became a founding member of SAVE LIBERTYLAND, an activist group of concerned citizens dedicated to saving the Zippin Pippin, if not the entire amusement park. I began to make a documentary called DESTROY MEMPHIS based on our preservation effort which premiered at Indie Memphis in 2016. Elvis would not be happy with the outcome of the documentary. That is to say, we lost. The coaster is gone and we lost the amusement park.

However, for the good folks of Green Bay, Wisconsin, it was a blessed gift. The city of Green Bay purchased the Zippin Pippin blueprint and naming and it is now thrilling kids of all ages, including the Green Bay Packers coach who just happens to be named Mike McCarthy. As with any decent alternate-Earth scenario, somewhere there is a Mike McCarthy riding the Zippin Pippin (it just isn't me).

All this just to explain why HELVIS materializes twenty-four years later over a Green Bay Packers game with a burning hatred toward his creator Mike McCarthy for abandoning him on the roller coaster tracks so long ago, only now to take his vengeance out on the wrong Mike McCarthy (with a few jokes about cheese thrown in for good measure).

But this story isn't over! Given time (next issue, next decade?), HELVIS will meet his new mentor SHAZAM PHILLIPS who will explain that the “real” Mike McCarthy survives in a bunker in post-apocalyptic Memphis waiting for HELVIS to return and save the city. HELVIS must then vanquish his murderous thoughts and rally a small army of characters that McCarthy had also abandoned along the way.

HELVIS is not alone, he is merely forgotten - and that can make a monster out of a man.

Mike McCarthy
Memphis, May 31, 2017

P.s.: A heartfelt thanks to the good folks of Green Bay, Wisconsin for their sense of humor and for loving Elvis more than others.

ONCE UPON THE UNDERGROUND copyright 2017 by Mike McCarthy