Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Good Guys

Over the years I've been blessed to meet many of the creators whose work I admire and respect. With some its been a chat at conventions, others I've gotten to spend time with, such as Joe Sinnott and Dick Ayers, still others email or correspondence by post. Of the old guard, to a person they have been generous, gracious and often humble. From Stan Lee to Steve Ditko, it has been an absolute pleasure to encounter such talented and unique creators. 

One of the great moments was meeting Jack Kirby. I first saw him at the 1975 Marvel Convention, when he was introduced as a surprise guest, returning to Marvel. As he walked to the podium there was a tremendous ovation from the audience. From time to time I saw Kirby at other conventions over the years, but my last encounter was a special one. It was at a New York Con, where I had taken my little brother, Terry. I was a volunteer Big Brother for many years, and Terry grew to love comics, especially the work of Lee, Kirby and Ditko (and still does. He now has children of his own that enjoy comics!). After one of the panels we were lucky enough to talk to Jack for a moment when he wasn't mobbed, and I prodded Terry to ask him a question. Terry was a little shy but finally asked Jack how he came up with the Fantastic Four. What amazed me was how Kirby spoke to Terry like he was the only person in the room. You could tell that he really liked children and it it was a special moment that both he and I treasure.

There have been so many others: Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Dick Ayers, Jim Steranko, Herb Trimpe, Marie Severin, Roy Thomas, John Romita, all part of my childhood memories. What is notable is how many of them have a true love for the medium and praise their fellow creators more than themselves. They know comics and respect both their contemporaries and those who preceded them. There are many I wish I had a chance to meet before they passed away, but I've encountered so many who are not only professional in their job, but in demeanor as well. I salute them all, and thank them for their sincere efforts. We'll not see their like again.                     

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guest Blog by Barry Pearl

My good friend and comics connoisseur Barry Pearl has kindly consented to add his insightful commentary to my Blog this week (I added the captions on the pictures he sent, but that's all the input from me, although I'm essentially in agreement with his observations). Barry has written an excellent book on Marvel Comics that is not only insightful and thorough, but interactive. You can find out more about it here:


Barry, take it away!

I don't think I can read current comics anymore. I just finished reading 28 issues of Secret Warriors and boy, did I not like any of it. First, the artwork:  the concept that every page needs three or four horizontal panels as it if were a wide screen movie is boring. The over coloring of everything, to cover up, I think weak inking destroys ever bit of individuality in the artwork. I went through this with the recent Captain America Omnibuses. The computerized house style artwork dominates all books, nothing looks very different from the others.
Tony Isabella tells me that I should look outside Marvel and DC, but when I do I still find the same crap. (Except for the Grim Ghost, of course.)

The story jumps from one sub plot to another, so that there are a lot of continued plot lines in each book. Few are ever resolved, but when they are it takes so much time. And, events happen in other titles that are apparently necessary to read to make sense of this plot.  And, sadly, these storytellers cannot come up with any, good, original characters. They keep mining the Marvel Age, 1961-77 to death. (And Captain America). So each storyline seems to say, "Here are the characters, let's ignore their previous continuity. Time means nothing. The Howlers would be 90 years old and they still go out on another “final” mission. But the current crew of creators cannot come up with new characters that have any interest or impact. Norman Osborn, whose death created great controversy in Spider-Man nearly 40 years ago, is back and so is Baron Strucker . Both are very healthy for dead men. 

Norman Osborn -  alive and healthy

(Spoilers ahead) On the opening pages of almost every story, the author says that the Government now is the enemy. There are no longer any good guys. So I have no one to root for. As they bring back well known characters, they are all villains including Contessa Valentina Allegro De Fontaine who was once Fury’s girlfriend. Several times Marvel tried to tie the pieces of the Scorpio/Zodiac plotlines together, most notably in Defenders #46-51.  But all that is thrown out here, along with all the Steranko innovations.  Well, thrown out may be a bad term, mixed up and convoluted is more like it.  But, just like the writers borrow from the past, so do the artists, as they try to copy Steranko’s style. But they are not capable of that, so they just can copy poses.

Contessa by Steranko

Steranko "Hommage"

The story might have made a five to eight issue run in the old days. But the plot is rather weak and preposterous. Early on we learn that SHIELD is supposed to have been a component of HYDRA. This is ridiculous and it negates and ignores so much of the continuity that went before. The Howlers are brought back for a mission. The author jumps around so much in telling the story that it takes four issues to tell the fate of the Howlers. How about one, long uninterrupted segment? In reading the three Omnibuses regarding Cap’s death, I come across the same problems. First, we know Cap would not die, especially if a movie was coming out. We just had to see how long it would be before he got better.  In the second Omnibus, it is revealed that Sharon Carter might be the one who shot Cap under the influence of the Red Skull. Then not a major plot point is developed for over twenty issues!!! It goes on and on, doing nothing.  In his introduction, Brubaker, the author, states that he, himself, didn’t like the Cap stories from 1980-2000, so he picked up right where I left off and stopped reading Cap (issue #214).  How sad to know that in 30 years nothing was developed well enough to stick.

The violence is overwhelming. 
(Big spoilers): Finally there is a twist at the end that negates the ENTIRE storyline, yet there is no evidence that these new facts are real. It purpose is to put you back at square one where another Fury storyline can begin at the same place.  Fury kills Baron Strucker, violently and in cold blood. This is not the Fury I knew. He was heroic and brave and fought for a cause. No one does that anymore.  They are not heroes; they are adventurers and vigilantes, fighting for their own sense of excitement, not for the common good.  As I wrote in the introduction to my book, “The decency, humanity and humor of the original Marvel Super-Heroes was hereditary. They got it from their creators.”

Thanks again to Barry for sharing his thoughts. We both look forward to your comments.