Max Shea (d. November 2, 1985) was an American writer known for his involvement in the Tales of the Black Freighter comic series. He later became a novelist best known for such literary classics including The Hooded Basilisk and Fogdancing.
In 1960 he was hired by National Comics for the first issue of the Black Freighter, collaborating with artist Joe Orlando. His first story was cliched and predictable but sturdy, and as he grew in experience with the comic medium, he experimented with innovative stories. Shea shared the magazine's glory with Orlando. It was the first time he received any fan-mail and this had adverse effects on his ego, seeing himself as the driving force behind its success. The moody and temperamental Shea became resentful of Orlando, harassing him with a resentful attitude and forcing him to revise his artwork. After worked with Issue #9, Orlando asked to leave the book. Orlando was replaced by Walt Feinberg. There are few records of friction between the two creators, so it is supposed that Shea learned a lesson from Orlando's departure. His writing style matured and moved away from the mainstream swashbuckling tales; his stories were dark and sinister, touching themes like mortality and homosexuality, featuring an unnerving sense of reality under metaphysical terrors. Shea worked until issue #31. His last projected 5 stories were considered pornographic by DC and were rejected. Shea left the magazine and comic books, in general, to focus on writing novels.
In 1972, Shea took up work as an art therapist at a VA hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. While facilitating an art therapy program for Vietnam War veterans suffering from PTSD, Shea was struck by their testimonials — their awe of serving under the godlike Dr. Manhattan; their guilt of committing atrocities with the Comedian; their rationalizations about going from liberators saving a people from communism to conquerors seizing a country for capitalism. Their poignant stories of shattered worldview and guilty conscience inspired Shea to write Fogdancing, which became a groundbreaking literary classic, and would later be adapted into two films as well as a television adaption. He also wrote The Hooded Basilisk, which also became a literary classic.
Secret Film Project Edit
In 1983, Shea met with Adrian Veidt at the Gunga Diner in New York, in which the latter proposed to him about a top secret film production project that requires full discretion and for him to disappear from the public eye. Shea initially refused until he saw the amount of money he would compensate for and agreed to the project.
Months after leaving, Shea was reported missing from his hometown of Boston and within two months of the same year other creative figures also vanished. Shea and other bright minds were taken to an uncharted island to work on a top-secret project, presumably a film production. He came up with the story of alien babies chewing their way out of their mother's womb.
In the last week of October, the police called off the inquiry about his disappearance because of a lack of evidence. The New Frontiersman insisted that these disappearances were linked and part of a conspiracy, although the paper blamed Cuba.
Meeting Hira Manish Edit
Shea had an affair with Hira Manish, another vanished artist. Shea is shown on the island with Manish while a Pyramid Deliveries ship is coming to take the creature away. They discuss their current project and Shea's past work as Manish sketches the face of the alien. It is revealed that Manish did the art for some of Shea's works, and they refer to the alien both affectionately and sarcastically as "our baby."
Shea and the other artists head onto a ship bearing the Pyramid Deliveries logo as they depart from the island, presumably headed for the mainland. Shea and Hira Manish hide in the cargo hold and are about to make love when he discovered a box under a tarpaulin. He lifted the tarp and realized that the box is a bomb that will go off in seconds, planned by Adrian Veidt to erase all traces of the alien project. When Manish asked what was wrong, he held her tightly, telling her reassuringly, "Nothing's wrong. Hold me." The bomb explodes moments later, obliterating the ship and killing Shea, Manish, and everyone on board.