Monday, July 27, 2009
The 70's were an exciting and revolutionary time for comic books. DC was doing great with Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams revamping Batman, bringing him back to his dark roots. Over on the Marvel side Spider-man was more popular than ever with Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. making Peter Parker's life all the more complicated. But everyone who has ever read a newspaper article on comics probably knows the names of Adams and Romita. In fact, if they watched the DVD special features on some of those Spider-man movie DVD's they would probably figure out who John Romita Sr. is pretty quickly. But there were many other incredibly talented artists doing extraordinary things in comics in the 70's who probably won't get a DVD special feature anytime soon, so I am going to, over the course of two posts, write about a couple of my personal favorites.
Mike Ploog worked on Leathernecks, an U.S. Marine Corp. magazine during the latter part of his ten year enlistment, and did mostly art and photography with a bit of writing. Ploog is best known among fans of comics from the 70's as the initial artist on two of my favorite comic books of all time, but especially my favourites of the 70's: Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night!
Mike Ploog was an apprentice to the great Will Eisner, so it's no surprise that his art was easily some of the best in the business. He initially sent in a western sample to Marvel when Eisner letterer Ben Oda and artist Wally Wood encouraged him to do so, and got a call back to do Werewolf by Night. Thank goodness for the decision to give Ploog a horror title. There is a certain knack for horror that his particular style has, which made him perfect for Werewolf by Night, and later one of the best artists Ghost Rider has ever had. The Eisner influence is clearly seen in much of Ploog's work, the issue of Marvel Spotlight #4 featuring Werewolf by Night is a great example of the heavy inked style that Eisner was so famous for. Much of the great Eisner design influences are here, but Ploog adds a little something of his own. Eisner had a very noir feel to his comics, while Ploog shows he has a real gift for making people look truly afraid. Healthy glowing smiles can all too quickly become waxy expressions of sheer terror. The innocent can quickly meet a dreadful demise at the hands of a cursed abomination. Ploog can do something few artists can, he can create an atmosphere that makes you look up from the comic book in your hands to make sure you are safe. Few can do that, and Mike Ploog does it well. Enjoy these other Ploog covers while I get busy writing part 2! Good day citizen!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Red Bee: Really just some random guy in gay pride colors with a bee gimmick.
And it sucks because: The Red Bee doesn't make any sense to begin with because bees are yellow. So right away we have a perplexing problem: if you are going with a bee gimmick, which is bizarre enough, why not be the Yellow Bee? Why the Red Bee? This is the least of the problems with this character though. Observe the panels on
the right. This guy's arch nemesis could be
Rolled-up Newspaper Man, and the sad thing is
he would be a conceivable threat to Red Bee. Notice Red Bee doesn't unleash a swarm of bees, he appears to only have one. I can safely tell you if I had a gun it would take more than a single bee to take me down, but of course this is the Golden Age so naturally this crook is a cowardly weakling who can't take a bee sting. Nothing could make this now public domain character cool.
The Whizzer: It's not what you think! It refers to super speed! Wait.... it's not what you think!
And it sucks because: Wikipedia says it best when describing this guy's origin. "The origin of the Golden Age character begins while Robert Frank is on a trip to Africa with his father, Dr. Emil Frank, where Robert is bitten by a cobra. Dr. Frank saves Robert by a transfusion of mongoose blood, and soon discovers that he has developed super-speed. Frank then decides to fight crime." I am pretty sure if I got a blood transfusion from a martial arts expert I wouldn't recover and find out that I am a total martial arts bad ass. So I am completely sure that if I got a blood transfusion from an animal that a) I wouldn't get powers, and b) I would probably die because... you know... I am human. Out of curiosity is it me, or is the rubber chicken on his head delivering this line?
The Black Condor: Raised by ravenous condors who didn't eat him for some reason. The Black Condor observed condors as they flew and somehow learned to fly without being born with this power or having any kind of wings or mechanism to, you know, fight gravity.
And it sucks because: If achieving flight were as easy as observing birds for a little while we probably would have done it before the 20th century. All the reasons this character sucks should be obvious. If you think these characters can compete with the Silver Age, you have a severe case of being brain dead.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Watchmen enjoyed a decent opening weekend of $55 million dollars in ticket sales. What bothers me is about half of that audience is comprised of people who only finished reading the Watchmen graphic novel yesterday, and by extension, of course, are all experts on graphic storytelling and the works of Alan Moore, despite having claimed that comics are childish and stupid before the first Watchmen trailer hit the web. These faux connoisseurs of graphic storytelling are quick to point out that the movie left out parts of the graphic novel, and therefore sucks as a movie. Because, you know, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are exactly like all the Batman comics ever written and didn't leave a single thing out of his mythos. That's why those movies were awesome! So shame on Zack Snyder (for some reason directors always take the blame for a movie's script, as though they wrote the thing) for leaving out all the weird EC comic tributes randomly inserted in the graphic novel, as well as Ozymandias' bizarre genetic research, the much more graphic scene of rape, the pages and pages of block text, and of course the giant alien squid. Because all of this would look brilliant on-screen, none of it goofy at all.
If you couldn't recognize the sarcasm in the last paragraph, then I am shocked if you can function in society at all. I call this poser audience phenomenon Lord of the Rings syndrome. Remember when Lord of the Rings was starting to look cool? Remember all those people who bought the books, read two and a half of the three and then said they were pissed because Tom Bombadil was cut out of the first movie? Remember those ass holes? Yeah, it's spread to the Watchmen movie now. So I ask of all people reading this blog (that's right YOU! All two or three of you), next time some jack ass claims that Watchmen sucks because it was different from the graphic novel by Adam Moore he/she read last week (yeah, someone told me they read the Adam Moore graphic novel before the movie, so that they wouldn't walk into the theatre ignorant of the source material. Good job!). Next time you see that person, ask them if The Spirit movie lived up to the Will Eisner comic of the same name, and enjoy the blank and ignorant expression that they will be incapable of preventing upon hearing the unfamiliar name of Will Eisner.... because all those so called experts on graphic storytelling that have popped up since last week have no clue who the man who inventing the graphic novel is. Because they are ignorant. Because they have no knowledge of the comic book industry or how it evolved (for even more fun with said ass holes throw names like Romita, Kubert, Ditko, The King Kirby, Schwartz, or Swan at them. Heck, ask them what they think of the evolution of comics from the Golden Age to the Silver Age and what changes the Marvel Method made to the industry) They are like a Christian claiming to be an expert on natural history. They have no grounds to complain about an adaptation of a story originally presented in a format they know nothing about. Next time you encounter these people, expose their ignorance and stupidity in front of all without mercy (preferably in front of other REAL comic book fans, perhaps the most unforgiving group of people on the planet). This is our duty. Till next time good citizens and REAL comic fans!
Image from http://www.dccomics.com/
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
But apparently all of that is going to change says Millar, starting with regular events books that will make the Ultimate universe cohesive and exciting again. Remember when you had the feeling that anyone could die at any time because it wasn't part of the core Marvel Universe? Millar wants to bring that back to the Ultimate line, and he is bringing top talent with him.
It will be interesting to see if people give the Ultimate line another chance. I think they will due to some of the great artists who are on-board with the project, who wouldn't pick up a book out of curiosity with Carlos Pacheco or Leinil Fancis Yu doing the art? These guys are some of the best in the business right now and their names lend some much needed credibility to the Ultimate line. It's a clever marketing move that will hopefully re-cement the Ultimate line's reputation for quality and a grittier take on Marvel characters. The writer's working on the project will be Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Miller, and Jeph Loeb, not a bad team by any means provided some of Jeph Loeb's seemingly manic and inconsistent writing can be reeled into something a little more coherent than Ultimates 3. Till next time citizens keep an eye out for the new Ultimate books.
(The original article at IGN.com can be found here)
Friday, February 06, 2009
What do you guys think? Is it ok for Amazing Spider-man to give a fresh face to old ideas? Or do you not find it fresh at all, merely a rehashed idea?
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Why the story telling philosophy of DC comics is giving Marvel the edge in quality and ultimately sales.
Why does Marvel have seven titles in the top ten best selling comics list? Because Grant Morrison's "vision" is to make the DCU "drained of all meaning." Grant Morrison has revealed in an interview at NewsArama that he doesn't think readers want linear story telling, characters with meaning and importance, or a universe with anything that is familiar (interview here). Instead, with Final Crisis he has dismantled the DCU of what little continuity it had left to make it meaningless and unfamiliar. The funny part of this interview is that Grant Morrison claims that Final Crisis is "more coherent" than his original idea which never happened, Hyper Crisis. Final Crisis is more coherent? What was Hypercrisis? A million monkeys on LSD with typewriters? So, apparently, a universe with no familiar characters, linear storytelling, or coherency is suppose to draw in readers.
The DCU still has a few great books though, Green Lantern has been excellent and gaining steam toward some big events and the Superman books with the "new" triangles (remember the 90's, same thing) allow the books to gel well together and tell bigger and better stories that include the whole Superman family. And although I had problems with Batman R.I.P., Battle for the Cowl looks like it will be an entertaining read that brings some attention to the Batman family. But even before Final Crisis the DCU was not really all that cohesive of a universe. The Sinestro Corp. War was an enormous event that never really bled into other books, in other words there was little acknowledgement of it in other big titles ie. Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman, or the Justice League of America.
Marvel has taken a different approach with their events. Secret Invasion, the last big event in the Marvel Universe, was felt in all the other books. While some felt that this was a bit of a marketing ploy to get readers to buy Secret Invasion I felt it was necessary for maintaining cohesiveness in the Marvel Universe. If you didn't buy Secret Invasion you probably would be a bit out of the loop, but at least we know that when the sh*t hits the fan in New York Daredevil and Spider-man are going to know about it and do whatever makes sense for that character. And to me that makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't call myself a continuity freak, trolling message boards to say "HEY! how com Robbie Robertson be at Frontline AND coverng eventz in Secrat Inversion at te same time? Its a slap in ta fac of marvel fans! i will never buy a marvel comic eva agaen becuz of yur sh*ty riting!" I realize that the decisions they make are in the service of trying to tell the best stories they can, and sometimes that means putting a character in two places near the same time, or doing some ret-con work to make a story work. Does that mean I think One More Day was totally fine? No. But I've really enjoyed the weekly Spidey comics since OMD, and really it wasn't nearly as invasive a ret-con as the three or five DC has pulled out over the past few years.
So at the end of the day if you are a Marvel fan don't worry, the grass isn't greener on the other side. If you are a DC fan, looks like things will be getting worse before they get better if they are adhering to a Grant Morrison philosophy on continuity writing. But I would still advise that you read Green Lantern, pick up the Superman books, and give a glance to Battle for the Cowl no matter what bizarre material follows Final Crisis. But don't expect the DCU to come together to form a cohesive universe, at least not yet. Grant Morrison is unfortuanately only part of the problem, I don't even think it's all his fault. Where was the editing? A good editorial team knows it's not enough to have big talent (the DCU big three being Johns, Rucka, and Morrison) but you have to know how to take the best of each vision and put it together in a cohesive way to ensure people investing in multiple books get rewarded. When they can figure that out they are in the money, because the characters and talent are there just not the editing.