A Roundtable Discussion on Comics (part 2)…
May 8, 2008

Part 2 of the roundtable on comics:

Joshua “Just call me Joshua Izzo” Izzo – customizing genius and all around awesome guy
Matt “Iron-Cow” Cauley – does a mean praying mantis impression
Pierre “Airmax” Kalenzaga – need to grow exactly 98 more feet for all his sneakers
Steve “Anubis8″ Morrissey – has a dog and a pick-up, but doesn’t sing country
Steve “SWASS!” Walden – knows more about old school rap he should

SWASS! – As far as comic collecting, I find myself picking up a few of the titles I really enjoy (Brubaker’s Captain America, Johns’ Green Lantern), but I’m not in mid-nineties mode where I’m also picking up 15-20 comics at a time. I’m not complaining, of course. As far as “event” crossovers, I can’t think of one that was entirely satisfying (although I really liked the Knightfall story–although it went on way too long, as “event” arcs have a tendency to do). I’m still bitter that Secret Wars II #2 spoiled the debut of Iron Man’s red ‘n silver armor (best armor ever). Jerkasses.

I do find myself picking up mass-audience stuff and stuff geared for kids, though–like the Justice League Unlimited book (which I also admit I like to look at animated character designs for potential McG customs) and I’m really liking the Marvel Adventures line that Target carries. It’s style is anime-influenced stuff for a younger set, but it really reminds me of old school, self-contained stories. Heck, even when I was collecting comics in the mid-80′s, my favorite title was Marvel Tales, which reprinted all of the Ditko/Romita Spidey stories. I remember the emotional impact that those stories carried with them–I remember tearing up after I read the death of Gwen Stacey story arc–and I vividly remember getting those comics at the Circle K with a big ol’ strawberry Icee.

I like picking up trades, too–and I’ve recently picked up the Marvel DVD-ROMs that have 40 years of comics on them. I’ve gotten Iron Man, the Avengers, and Hulk collections–they’re so freaking cool. We’re talking complete runs of these comics from the 60′s to 2006. I’m also going to pick up FF, ASM, Cap, and possibly the X-Men eventually. They’re so worth it.

I dig the roundtables–cliquish, maybe, but hey, I’m parked on the “cool” side of Sonic, so screw the nerds.

Hm. Nerd-on-nerd prejudice. I should start a telethon.

Airmax – Everytime a mega event comes around I feel like I’m going to one of
the Star Wars prequels – my hopes could not be higher going in and the
crushing sense of disappointment afterward could not get me lower. I
always get suckered into them with the promise of something amazing.
They got me with House of M… apart from the art (Olivier Copiel is a
monster) it was a wash for me. They’ve got me again with Secret
Invasion. I don’t know why I keep falling for it. I don’t know if
cross-overs meant more back in the day, but they felt like they had
more weight. Extinction Agenda was awesome back in the 90s – Kraven’s
Last Hunt was incredible. I got into non-GI Joe comics after Secret
Wars, but that still seems to mean something. Same for the original
Crisis. Mega-events these days are like soap operas – don’t like
what’s going on, give it a month or two and everything will be
different… again.

SWASS! – Excellent points. I’m reminded of Frank Miller who said the problem with comics is that they’re just one, long second act. Talk about a storytelling impossibility…

Izzo – Oh MAN – I feel this. Back in the 80′s, they made change in comics, and
change remained. Someone was in prison or dead…in a few other series,
they might reference that person – and they were still in prison or
dead.

The mega events shook up the universe, played with the main heroes a
bit, mucked around with their lives and the status quo and a FEW (not
all), a few things would be changed permanently. That was a good thing.
There was an endpoint to it all. And that endpoint had a lasting effect
until the next event – which was usually once a year.

Now, these meg-events have MAJOR, EARTH-SHATTERING consequences….until
the next writer gets on board, and decides that it just doesn’t jive
anymore and retcons the whole thing. It’s so….SO ADHD, and it’s hard
for new readers to come aboard.

Airmax – Not only that, but mega-events seem to happen twice or three times a
year per company. How is a kid walking into a comic store going to get
into comics when he picks up part 24 of a 52 part crossover that’s
company wide? *None* of the books during that event are immediately
accessible to a new reader… and when was the last time any of us saw
a kid in a comic store anyway? It’s all 20-30somethings like us…
which is way more depressing than it should be.

My comic heyday was also during the 90s boom – I’ll admit the writing
was sometimes poor and the art was hit and miss, but at least I cared
back then. like you said Josh, it meant something. Part of that was
youth, I’ll acknowledge that, but the events mattered beyond how I
perceived them as a kid. Back then, Gwen Stacy *died*, that was it for
her and we knew it. When Robin was killed it felt like the Batman
universe was forever changed. Death in comics now means nothing. It’s
either a gimmick or will get retconed within a year. Costume changes
mean less than nothing and major events can be wiped clean by the whim
of a new writer… Which begs the question, why do we still care about
the mega-event if we all know it’s worthless in the short term (not to
mention the long term)?

Iron-Cow – As silly as it sounds… I just picked up the NEW MUTANTS CLASSICS, Vol3 from Amazon. It features the ground-breaking arc of New Mutants 18-25 by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz.

http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/3d/21/289b810ae7a0ddcc56a59110._AA240_.L.jpg

These comics came out at some point in the mid-80s. They gave me chills then, and they give me chills now. Sure, they suffer from some over-cliched Claremont monologues, but I absolutely felt these characters were *real*. Back when I read these for the first time, I was completely engrossed in all the drama, and how un-superhero-y it played out. It felt like believable characters in believable situations (well, as far as comic books go). All the emotions on display over these issues stuck with me, and Bill Sienkiewicz’s art on the arc was a masterpiece. It opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities and was THE greatest influence on me today.

Batman has always been my favorite character, but I feel like I went to high school with my old buddies Cannonball, Sunspot, Warlock, and d@mn if I didn’t have a teen crush on Mirage. Sad but true.

Can’t say I’ve felt the same connection with recent arcs, although I do love the cinematic feel of Ultimates 1 and 2.

Izzo – Cinematic is a great way to frame the new comics Matt.

In the 80′s and somewhat in the 90′s, we had comic stories that were
like the Sitcoms and the Soap Operas of the day. Long, intricate and
personal. They could last months and months and have twists and turns
and were filled with human drama – in addition to the brilliant
superhero-y goodness we need.

Now, all these comics done in 6-issue or 12-issue arcs are like reading
movies. 2 hours of entertainment that is encapsulated into one
digestible nugget. You need not look beyond those 6 issues for the
‘story’.

Again, it’s very ADHD…is that a sign of the times? And if that’s the
case, why? We’re all the same consumer we’ve been since the 80′s, so
why are reading and comic plotting/storytelling standards so different
now?

If I ran Marvel, I’d probably try and tell the same kind of stories I
loved when I was 8,9,10….since I know that all those same aged kids
are now 30,31,32 and reading the same titles….

Airmax – I have that same connection to the Spiderman vs. Wolvierine one shot
that came out in the late 80s. That story had such an impact on me…
that was a heavy story and the ending was so brutal… But you guys
phrased it exactly right, comics today are like blockbuster movies.
And, technically there’s nothing wrong with that – the Ultimates is a
great example of this kind of story telling done right – but it seems
like no one is trying to do the equivalent of the indy movie within
the Marvel and DC universes. I know there are indy books out there
that do this, but Marvel and DC were the playgrounds I grew up in and
the places I’d like to see these kinds of stories told again.

As to why comics are now told in 6-12 issue arcs, it’s all a matter of
money (isn’t it always). Comic companies discovered that if they
package a story arc and put it on a shelf (of a book or comic store)
as opposed to a rack, it will 1.) sit there longer than a monthly book
that would get put in the bins and 2.) becuase of its higher profile
on the shelf, will end up selling more. And again, this in and of
itself is not a bad thing. A lot of these arcs/stories are done really
well, it’s just that sometimes you want something else.

Having said that, there are still a few guys out there who are making
“comics” like they used to be done. Erik Larsen’s “Savage Dragon” was
one – that is/was a really fun book in which stuff would happen, mean
something and be permanent. Another is “Invincible” which I think
might be the closest you can get to a comic done the way it used to
be. But again, these comics happen outside the Marvel/DC banners so
they don’t get nearly the due/notice they should.

Anubis8 – AND it seems that many times the revival of a character is only as good as the writer that actually BROUGHT the character back! Once it’s been handed off to the next team it loses steam or just feels forced.

I remember the good old days when a major event actually counted as something. I remember rushing to the store to grab the latest issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths & Secret Wars. I remember how devastated I was at the deaths of the E2 Robin & Huntress or how awesome it was to see Spiderman humiliate the entire X-Men team by himself. BUT these days none of that magic is there like it used to be. Or it’s few & far between Of course that’s IMHO.

SWASS! – Maybe that’s because comics aren’t about being monthly installments anymore–they’re meant to push trades and hardcovers. That’s why standalone stories are usually just that: one-shots. Everything else is a multi-issue arc. Ideally, you’d tie a writer to a comic for an extended period of time (PAD on Hulk, Johns on JSA) and let them tell stories until they run out. But that’s probably about as feasible as playing Tetris and waiting for a circle.

Airmax – I know I touched on this before, but I still find it funny that
despite the fact that the talent pool in comics has arguably never
been better, the end result doesn’t seem to reflect that fact.

Anubis8 – Good point BUT do you think that’s due to the direction of TPTB where the writers & artists are forced to follow direction? I can remember when Peter David quit The Hulk after he disagreed with the direction he was being told to take. And even more recently J. Michael Straczynski asking to have his name be taken off of the OMD storyline that Joe Q was pushing on him cause he didn’t agree with TPTB.

SWASS! – I think that’s a situation that’s inherent to any creative venture (unless the creator is doing the editing/distribution of his own material). Ditko, after all, jumped ship on Spidey over the Green Goblin identity issue. But that just opened the door for Romita come in and to stomp ass. I don’t think you can have the creator self-editing, though, otherwise you get stuff like…well…Jar-Jar Binks.

Anubis8 – Or worse than Jar-Jar, Hal Jordan!

Airmax – I think it’s definitely due to the constraints that today’s market is
putting on creators and companies. And I also agree to an extent that
creators can’t be given carte blanche. The issue you run into in the case
of Marvel is that Joe Q ends up making all the decisions, so what you
end up with is what Joe Q thinks is cool that particular week. I
wasn’t old enough to care who was directing and editing books back in
the 80/90s, but it definitely felt like there was more than one voice
within the Marvel U back then. Again, I don’t know if that’s true or
not, but it definitely felt like Spidey operated in his own universe,
the X-Men in their’s and the Hulk his his. Marvel these days seems a
little too homogenous – which seems funny to say about a comic
universe… it sounds like something you’d want, but in this case, it
just seems to be muddying the waters.

About creators having free reign – I agree that it can be a dangerous
thing – but at least if things go wrong in that case, you have one
book or one umbrella (Spidey, X-Men, Avengers, etc) that goes bad.
When the EIC of a company is the sole driving voice, *all* the
umbrellas suffer if things go bad – which is what seems to be going on
at Marvel (though in that case, it’s Joe Q and Bendis – who I actually
think is a good writer). Some of the better books today are indy books
that have one creative force – The Walking Dead is another book that
should get more shine than it does. And again, if you decide you don’t
like where that “voice” is taking the characters, you drop the book
and you’re only down one book. Where do you go within Marvel for a
story if you don’t like what Joe Q/Bendis are doing?

Anubis8 – Or from a DC fan who has to deal with Dan DiDio and his “one voice, one direction” outlook it’s making things hard for me.

****

TAGS:
Pierre "Airmax" Kalenzaga
Pierre "Airmax" Kalenzaga is the most bomb diggity customizer you will ever see, son!
Read other articles by Pierre "Airmax" Kalenzaga.

 

 

 

3 Comments »

  • ChipCataldo Chip Cataldo says:

    Thanks so much for posting all this, Pierre. It’s how I’ve felt about comics since I stopped collecting years ago, and your 2-part blog was definitely a great read.

    Next time invite me along! :-)

    Peace,

    Chip

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I agree about the EIC being the “face” for decisions and projects made during a tenure. As a kid, I was happy with Jim Shooter’s Marvel, enough that I followed more of their books than DC’s. Then Dick Giordano approved Crisis and the Multiverse came to an end. There was some good stuff that came out of it, though: Books like Suicide Squad and the JLA revamp under Giffen. But the downside was losing those Earth-2 JSA x-overs that I looked forward to every summer.

    Secret Wars is viewed by some as Marvel’s first “event” series and it did stir things up in their comics universe. But I had earlier read Contest of Champions, (a smaller mini originally slated for Treasury format) and found it just as good. Self-contained, and every Marvel hero around at the time makes an appearance in just 3 issues! That’s the way comics should be done today. No major deaths, no disasters, just a tight story involving all of the company’s characters with a nice, solid ending.

    And yeah, I bought Marvel Tales and loved the book. That’s where I first read the Gwen/Goblin two-parter, myself. The story still shines to this day. It handled the subject of death with sensitivity and class. That’s how it needs to be done again.

  • Jim Abell Jim Abell says:

    Part of me wonders if the blah feeling about the Marvel and DC books is perhaps more from the fact that we’ve grown up and been reading these same types of stories for years? All of this stuff is brand-spankin’-new when you get that first book at 6, 7, 8, 9, whatever but if you keep reading those books non-stop for 10-20 years you’re still reading the same general stories that you’ve read a dozen or more times by then. No matter how much you love the character(s) or the universe at some point it’s all going to become one huge re-run. Sure there’ll be something new/interesting once in a while but not often enough to really satisfy you. In the 90s I was spending $50-$60 a week on comics and toy magazines then I got to the point where I didn’t have time to read them and got back-logged for about 6 months, at that point I stopped almost cold turkey. I kept buying about 4 titles a month (plus Action Figure Digest) and was much happier then — it wasn’t about following Superman’s adventures every week or keeping track of what was going on in each Bat-title between issues but more about reading just what I wanted to read…

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