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CSBG Archive

Top 100 Comic Book Runs #3

We’re in the top three now!

The final two runs tomorrow!

Enjoy!

3. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four – 1030 points (37 first place votes)

Fantastic Four #1-102, Fantastic Four Annual #1-6

To put the over 100-issue run on Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby into perspective, take into consideration that its now about forty years after they FINISHED on the book, and writers are still working off the stories they did in those issues, that is how deep and realized the universe was that they created in those 100-plus issues.

Their run was a hit from the get go, so much so that by the fourth issue (in the second issue, they introduced the Skrulls, who are kinda important now), they were already using it to bring back Golden Age characters, like Namor…

To go from the return of a classic character to the introduction of an even MORE classic character is no small feat, but that’s what Lee and Kirby did with the introduction of Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #5.

Doctor Doom is one of, heck, he IS the greatest supervillain in comic history, and he made the rest of Kirby and Lee’s run a little easier, as they knew they could always go back to Doom if they needed a cool story.

The best part about their run, though, was that (until the later stages) they DIDN’T go back to the well – they just kept creating and innovating, like with the Inhumans…

Galactus…

and the Silver Surfer.

In one of the great changeups in comic history, they went from the epic Inhumans story DIRECTLY into the epic Galactus story and then WHAMMO – they hit you with the inspired one-off humanity-inspired piece, This Man, This Monster…

Who else could go from epic to touching small scale stories like that?

All with Stan Lee’s impressive dialogue (boy, he sure was a good dialoguer, just like on Spider-Man, he made all the character’s personalities shine and connect with the readers in a cool manner – except Sue, Stan wasn’t great with Sue, he could definitely have done a lot better when it came to writing Sue) and Kirby’s absolutely brilliant design work and bombastic storytelling.

This was a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions, and it’s too bad it ended when it did…

with a bit of a whimper rather than a bang.

Still, the run as a whole was a masterpiece of superhero comic fiction.

158 Comments

Josh Alexander

May 1, 2008 at 9:22 pm

I convinced myself this was going to be #1, but now I’m going with Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men. Are you going to reveal what didn’t make the Top 100 eventually? Would love to see what just missed it, and what wasn’t even close.

“Stan Lee was great with dialogue”? Is that some kind of joke?

Anthony Coleman

May 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm

I have a feeling that my prediction of Claremont and Byrne’s X-MEN is going to win. It will be interesting to see if it will beat out Sandman tomorrow.

Compared to other super hero comic writers at the time his stuff holds up pretty well. Compare it to an old Justice League comic and the difference just shines. He made each of the characters fairly distinct and conveyed their emotion pretty well. His dialogue also had a cool kind of rhythm to it. It was punchy and dynamic and matched Kirbys art perfectly.

I’m also all for seeing the rejected pile. Be cool to see people’s number one picks that just didn’t make it either.

Stan Lee was much better with dialog than many give him credit for. Just compare what he was doing on the Marvel titles to the other stuff being done in that era. He was so much better with defining the different character personalities, with adding a distinct supporting cast, and with playing off his characters’ flaws.
It’s a bit dated now and even sometimes a bit corny but Stan “the Man” revolutionized comics. There is no denying that.

Brian Cronin

May 1, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Stan Lee was much better with dialog than many give him credit for. Just compare what he was doing on the Marvel titles to the other stuff being done in that era. He was so much better with defining the different character personalities, with adding a distinct supporting cast, and with playing off his characters’ flaws.

Yep.

Compared to other super hero comic writers at the time his stuff holds up pretty well. Compare it to an old Justice League comic and the difference just shines. He made each of the characters fairly distinct and conveyed their emotion pretty well. His dialogue also had a cool kind of rhythm to it. It was punchy and dynamic and matched Kirbys art perfectly.

Double yep.

My number five and the last of mine to make the list, assuming that Mantlo’s Hulk isn’t number one or two. And no, I’m not counting that super-special where the Hulk and Rick Jones and Morpheus teamed up to fight the Shaper of Worlds.

As good as Lee and Kirby were here, I feel it should be pointed out that no run better exemplifies the value of a good inker. Like a lot of modern readers, I read the first thirty issues in the Essentials and found myself thinking heretical thoughts like “gee, I dunno, this isn’t that great.” Then Joe Sinnott replaced Vince Colletta as inker– WOW!! The art improves 1000 percent. The stories improve too. Vince’s rushed and scratchy work was clearly depressing both Stan and Jack. Add Joe’s deep, rich, expressive brushwork and they just caught fire. Issue 45-60 are good enough to make you weep.

Yeah, we’re having the same debate about Stan’s dialog over in the Spider-Man comments, but since that one is mostly dead and this applies here: I’ll cut and paste this paragraph:

Lee’s gift for dialog is absolutely staggering. Here the best test: anybody reading this, go write a scene where the Fantastic Four watch a dinosaur egg hatch in Time Square. I’ll bet you can do it, even if you’re not normally a writer. That’s because we can all hear those four very distinct voices in our heads. Now write the same scene with the original Justice League. Hell, try it with the modern Justice League. You might hear Batman’s voice clearly, thanks to Denny O’Neil, but good luck with the others. Lee’s dialog was so great because it was filled with character and it was so specific. Reed Richards wasn’t Bruce Banner. Peter Parker wasn’t Johnny Storm who wasn’t Rick Jones. In seventy years, no writer has ever given Superman or Wonder Woman that kind of rich character-filled voice to speak with.

Oh, and it was actually the second issue that introduced the Skrulls. The third issue introduced the original Miracle Man, crazed stage magician. He’ll be at the center of next summer’s cross-over, to be sure.

Wow, so X-Men and Sandman are the top two. I’ll be equally happy with whishever one wins.

The X-Men are what hooked me on comics as a kid, and Sandman is what brought me back as an adult!

Chuck’s got a point about Stan’s dialogue. It looks ridiculous by today’s standards, but for its era it was a huge step forward.

The same could be said for Claremont – it all looks so trite and cliched these days but Claremont gave us even more distinct personalities, each character comic from hisher own cultural context. And some of Gerber’s 70s superhero stuff, like the Guardians of the Galaxy, reads as overly expositional and melodramatic but i was a breath of fresh air when compared with the simplistic narration and dialogue that came before it. It’s not really fair, I suppose, to compare comics’ forefathers’ writing techniques against writers that came down the pike an evolutionary cycle or two later.

Someday I’d still love to see the character interactions — even specific scenes and exchanges — that people like Lee and Claremont set up, re-written in contemporary dialogue a la Brian Vaughan or Matt Fraction.

Lee was better than the others working at the time, and FF was his greatest work (and the only ’60s run to make my top 10), but despite having clear voices his dialog still feels stilted. I marked Claremont as my #1 run (though I voted for the Silvestri era because when forced to break it down by artist that run had the highest concentration of my favorite stories) because I don’t think his dialog feels stilted. Well, aside from his constant misuse of “to coin a phrase”, which always makes me very angry. :)
But back on topic, Lee and Kirby both did their best Marvel work on this title (though Kirby exceeded his art quality on New Gods). Kirby usually had a lot more detail than other Silver Age artists, and his use of perspective was fantastic (no pun intended). One of my favorite panels was when Namor and Dr. Doom levitated the Baxter Building. There is a fantastic image of the Baxter building pointing down out of the panel with the city receding in the backgound. My one problem with Kirby’s work on this book was that humans were sometimes shaped a bit funny, but that’s such a tiny problem next to his amazing panel compsition and design. This book essentially constructed the Marvel Universe. Almost every major part of the MU not directly related to Spider-Man, the X-Men, or the Avengers can be traced back to this run on the FF. But as I said in the big debate in the Run #6 comments, in the end it’s the emotional stuff that really matters, and they managed to do so many fantastic stories, especially the ones focusing on Ben. The first Silver Age stuff I read was X-Men, and I had no idea how badly they were both phoning it in on that book.

So even Ben Grimm, the blue eyed hero of my distant youth, can’t take down the Lord of the Night and a few mutants?? That’s fighting talk…. or to use the correct terminology : “Its clobbering time”.

fourthworlder

May 1, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Even the villains had personalities of their own. Read the early Frightful Four dialogue and the distinctive tones and vocab set each one apart. I’d go so far as to say that each of the characters had pretty individual motivations and perspectives. There was no mistaking the voices of Von Doom, the Sub-Mariner, the Surfer, Willie Lumpkin or the Watcher.

Another aspect of the classic issues that is hard to convey to more modern readers is that in a real way this was a dark, almost visceral comic in its time, funny as that sounds after four decades of Frank Miller et al.
I got my first issue (#76 I think) when I was about seven, and found it both strangely fascinating and somehow vaguely repellent, as well as almost incomprehensibly confusing to a first-time reader in grade two. The intensity of the personalities, the sheer emotion that fueled the story, the peculiar mix of animosity and devotion between the four members, the jagged bombast and heavy dark inks of the art (“nauseating” as one DC editor described it at the time) , oh, it was all too much to a kid who at that point had been limited to the early LSH, Aquaman and Gold Key’s Mighty Samson.

I didn’t buy another FF for five years, and then I bought every issue until the mid-nineties.

FF 1 – 67. Best comics run ever.

Just because Stan Lee was better with dialogue than his colleagues, it doesn’t mean he was GOOD. He was not GOOD. And his writing is downright BAD, in fact. There’s really no need to stand on tradition and say that guys back then were writing BETTER comics than the ones we read today. Comics have gotten BETTER.

Sure, there were some pretty cool, wild, inspired plotters back then, but the dialogue makes it so clunky and difficult to enjoy.

Just because Stan Lee was better with dialogue than his colleagues, it doesn’t mean he was GOOD

Oh, totally agreed. “He was better than other bad writers” is not much of an argument – I think folks are just pointing that out as WELL.

The good stuff about his dialogue was that it was good – rich characterization (outside of Sue), quick connections to each character (even Sue, although her quick connections were bad ones), occasionally something funny.

His dialogue was the basis behind the personalities of characters who have not changed since, that’s how strong of a job he did with them back then (except Sue).

Comics haven’t gotten better, just different. The whole idea that comic book characters should speak “realistically”, or at least like characters in a movie or TV show, is relatively recent. In the Sixties, with a more compressed storytelling model, the writing had to carry more of the weight of the story than it does now.

Lee’s dialogue for the FF wasn’t realistic, but it was snappy and jazzy and fun. There was a love of wordplay to it, and the characters had very strong voices. It’s memorable in a way that a lot of comic writing then and now isn’t.

Great run, but it was not the instant hit that you describe. In its second year, it was not even in the Top 50:
http://www.comichron.com/YearlyRankings/1960s/1962/tabid/200/Default.aspx

Nor was it in its third year:
http://www.comichron.com/YearlyRankings/1960s/1963/tabid/201/Default.aspx

Imagine a title publishing three years, every month with the same creative team and not cracking the top 50. That is a lot of faith.

Nope, comics have gotten worse. But don’t worry, they still reprint the old stuff. The modern IS the best era for comix readers, but only because the availability of the classics is better than its ever been before. The new stuff is okay, too, but it doesn’t compare.

Relative terms, Dean.

As you note, Marvel only had a few titles in the Top 50. so Fantastic Four was an instant hit for THEIR purposes.

(By the by, for 1964’s list, Miller notes that he didn’t have the numbers for FF that year, as he didn’t have it until 1966. So did he have their numbers for 62 and 63?)

fourthworlder

May 1, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Sue, Sue, Sue.

Brian, I’m getting the sense you maybe had a big sister.

Or the scripting for Sue was just really bad, which it was. I’m a fan of Stan Lee, but even on the recent Last FF story that he did with JR Jr his Sue still seemed stuck in the late 50s. He didn’t write women too well.

There’s a story of someone complaining that they finally read “Hamlet”, and didn’t understand what all the fuss is about. “It’s just a collection of famous quotes strung together!”

:)

I think the difficulty some younger readers (say, born since 1985, to take a wild guess) have with 60’s “clunky” dialog (not singling anyone out, several have used the term or similar, in this thread and others) is analogous to people who “can’t” watch a black-and-white movie (let alone a silent one), or who can’t enjoy, say, Demon in a Bottle because the characters are wearing flares, and that makes them think the work is “dated”.

If one looks past the superficialities of the “currently” fashionable conventions (then and now) of both the creators and their creations, one is in a position to reap a rich reward of enjoyable appreciation of masterpieces of all eras.

Current comics are in my opinion essentially no more “realistic” than those of the 60s; they just obey a more recent set of artificial conventions. Is it more “realistic” to use thought balloons, or not? In a sense, neither; it depends on if you’re trying to make your comic more like (to use a simplistic comparison that has many exceptions) a novel or a movie. Is it more “realistic” to put your exposition in captions, or dialog, or inside the front cover in a “Previously in Hero Man” text piece? Is it intrinsically better to identify your characters for new readers via dialog, or captioned labels, or logos stuck next to their first appearance? All these choices are equally conventions.

Classic hard boiled detective fiction was all exterior. The omniscient narrator would follow the private eye and tell us everything he did and everything he said, but never any single thing he thought. Is that intrinsically better or more realistic than an interior novel that dwells in depth on the thoughts and feelings of its characters? Isn’t there room for both styles, and can’t masterpieces be created in either form?

One thing is absolutely certain – in 30 years from now in one of these polls (long may they run!) some now-recently released work that is currently considered the epitome of hip and gritty realism (something by Bendis perhaps? Or Ellis? Or Brubaker? Insert your own prediction, it doesn’t affect what follows) will make the grade, and some in the new generation of readers will decry how old-fashioned, cliched, laborious and fake-sounding is all the dialog in it, not like the really good stuff they have now.

Some of this is still going on the Ditko/Spiderman thread (#6), too, for those interested :)

Stan deserves the title of the best comic book dialogue-r ever for just being ABLE to put punchy, readable dialogue over Kirby’s art (you try and do it!). Remember, a lot of the times he’d barely know what the story was before he sat down to script it. I tell ya, it’d take someone a lot smarter than me to write well that way.

Well since the Lee Ditko Spidey didn’t win I was sure this would. Have to be honest quite glad it didn’t I’ve been reading it in the Essentials (only just finished Volume 3) and while its been fun I don’t think it got good until around issue 30ish. Ok before then it was doing new things and introducing new characters and concepts but innovation alone isn’t enough to make something my favourite. That said after issue 30ish its been an absolute blast.

I think Matt Bird might be being a little hard on the pre Sinnott inkers. While I completely agree Sinnott really adds the polish to Kirby’s inks and the art improves in leaps and bounds when he takes over I think some of the work by Chic Stone and Colletta wasn’t that bad. I certainly don’t think it was holding back the stories which for me really took off not because of the introduction of Sinnott but about a year or so before hand when Lee really start to open the stories out and the spralling multi-part ‘epics’ which really gave the whole thing room to breathe and grow.

Actually, most people back then didn’t write women in general all that well. Look at X-men, Jean was the weakest link originally, like Sue, in terms of character, power levels, and usefullness. And like Sue, later writers developed her into one of the more powerful characters, and fleshed out her character and gave her depth. The same was true for characters like the Wasp. It wasn’t just Stan/Marvel, Wonder Women was supposed to be one of the most powerful characters in the DCU, and in the JLA, she was the…secretary. Never mind that she could’ve wiped the floor with Aquaman, Green Arrow, the Flash, Green Lantern maybe as well…

(By the by, for 1964’s list, Miller notes that he didn’t have the numbers for FF that year, as he didn’t have it until 1966. So did he have their numbers for 62 and 63?)

Well, he lists a lot of Marvel titles, so I figured it was a safe assumption. Also, in ’65 he noted that Marvel heroes had grown to the point that “Thor” had broken the Top 50.

It is just an interesting contrast. Lee and Kirby were apparently given 3 full years to make the FF work from a sales perspective. The genre was not what was selling for Marvel at the time. I mean, “Millie, the Model” was their top seller. Imagine Marvel launching an entire line in an entirely different genre and staying with it for years until it found an audience.

It took a lot of guts. It seems as though it is very hard for anything really new to make a go of it with comic fans anymore. It seems unlikely that a title in its 34th issue that was shipping 40k would be adding readers. The myth that the Marvel line was an “instant hit” encourages the viewpoint that the really good stuff is viable instantly. It just seems like we lost whatever the new FF, or X-Men, or Daredevil would have been during the last couple decades.

All those titles were given a lot of slack to find their groove.

It’s baffling how anyone could have the gall to question Lee’s ability to dialogue with the best of them. When his smart, sassy and wonderfully expressive scripting is put into context, when you take account of the drab, all-plot-and-no-characterisation tendencies of the guys across the other side of the street at the time, you realise just how pioneering Lee was in the early 60s in his use of dialogue that could be both grand and intimate in scale, that brought these vibrant new creations to life and spawned an industry that continues to flourish today. Kirby’s concepts and artwork were astounding but, as shown in later years, his scripting was pretty abysmal. Without Lee, the Marvel Age would never have happened. And the reason it happened so enduringly was because his scripting was so damn good.

Like some others, I agree this should have No. 1. That’s not to take anything away from Claremont/Byrne X-Men or Gaiman’s Sandman – both enormously inflential titles in their own right – but there’s never been a more inspirational and enjoyable run of superhero comics than FF 25-67. And 51 is probably up there as the best single issue in comics history. Hey, there’s an idea for another Top 100…

Stan deserves the title of the best comic book dialogue-r ever for just being ABLE to put punchy, readable dialogue over Kirby’s art (you try and do it!). Remember, a lot of the times he’d barely know what the story was before he sat down to script it. I tell ya, it’d take someone a lot smarter than me to write well that way.

It definitely is true that some of Lee’s worst dialogue was when he had to change stuff up based on what Kirby drew, like the classic scene where Lee attempts to explain why a Skrull disappeared from FF #2! :)

Well, he lists a lot of Marvel titles, so I figured it was a safe assumption. Also, in ‘65 he noted that Marvel heroes had grown to the point that “Thor” had broken the Top 50.

Yeah, but couldn’t it be that Thor was the only book he had numbers for?

Actually, most people back then didn’t write women in general all that well. Look at X-men, Jean was the weakest link originally, like Sue, in terms of character, power levels, and usefullness. And like Sue, later writers developed her into one of the more powerful characters, and fleshed out her character and gave her depth. The same was true for characters like the Wasp.

I do agree that the person writing Jean and Wasp also did a bad job with their dialogue/characterization. ;)

Stan Lee’s dialogue in Fantastic Four was incredible and really well done especially when you compare it to …. Stan Lee’s dialogue. Stan could not write dialouge to save his life when it came to characters like the Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil and the X-men. Those runs were terrible by todays standards and in contrast to his work on Doctor Strange, Spider-man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four they don’t ever match up.

You want the truth? If you had asked me at the very beginning of all this, I would have said the Lee/Kirby FF might place somewhere on the Top 100, but I never would have expected it to get nearly this high. I didn’t even consider voting for it as a “Top 10 Favorite” on my ballot, and I had no idea that 37 people would actually give it First Place on their own ballots!

Well, live and learn . . .

One thing I remember finding amusing when I was reading the first “Essential FF” b&w volume, and maybe the second (I forget how long this lasted), is that at least a couple of times I believe the FF read some of their fan mail (apparently adapted from mail Stan was actually receiving from readers of the comic) and they would see people complaining that Sue was something of a drag on the team, instead of a huge asset to it. Reed, and probably others, would then give lectures about how it was ridiculously unfair to say that Sue’s non-violent power to simply turn invisible was preventing her from “pulling her own weight” in real emergencies. They seemed very firm about this . . . right up until Stan and Jack finally saw the light and gave her those nifty force-field powers that let her take a much, much stronger role in slugfests, both on the offensive and on the defensive, as the circumstances might require! Apparently they finally realized that just calling Sue’s critics mean-spirited wasn’t going to solve the fundamental problem which, I gather, a great many readers persisted in complaining about! I guess it’s true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Published figures for FF:

“Also significant about 1966 is that Marvel finally ran its first figures for Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, in issues #61 and #47 respectively. By this time, both titles were well established, many classic stories having already appeared — and we find Spidey selling over a third of a million copies. We don’t know what sales were for these titles between 1962-1965, but it’s interesting to note that while they grow throughout the rest of the 1960s, that growth is not dramatic.”

http://www.comichron.com/YearlyRankings/1960s/1966/tabid/204/Default.aspx

Lorendiac, I think Alan Moore brought this up briefly in the FF pastiche he did for 1963 with…what was her name, Neon Girl or Neon Queen? Of course, he kept one of the FF members a sexist pig, who agreed with the letter writers. Oh that Moore, him and his mysogeny…;)

wwk5d — Suddenly I realize it’s been a heck of a long time since I actually sat down and reread those 1963 issues. I just vaguely remember the Thing-knockoff (what was he called, The Planet?) reading a fan letter asking where his extra fingers go when he transforms into his super-strong, green-sphere-headed, four-fingers-on-each-hand (or was it only three?) form, and after reading the question aloud, he mutters, “Darn good question, come to think of it!” or words to that effect. I don’t remember the criticisms you refer to about the Invisible Girl-knockoff, but I’m willing tot take your word for it that they were there.

Of course, I still nurture the hope that someday the Grand Finale to that 1963 series will come out! The one where a bunch of Moore’s retro-Silver Age heroes clash with a bunch of the Image Founders’ hard-boiled 1990s heroes? Heck, I’d settle for just being allowed to read the full script for it!

Only 2 more first place votes than Starman.

Guys. Has anybody started a “I can’t believe this didn’t make the top 100″ thread yet?? If so, point me to it and I’ll start preparing my treatise on Peter David’s Young Justice.

Brian Cronin

May 2, 2008 at 3:48 am

Guys. Has anybody started a “I can’t believe this didn’t make the top 100″ thread yet?? If so, point me to it and I’ll start preparing my treatise on Peter David’s Young Justice.

Tell y’all what – if everyone makes up a funny caption to go with the cover of a popular run (like what The Mutt did with this Suicide Squad cover for the Top 100 Characters list: AmandaWaller.jpg), then I’ll pick one that I like best and have it as a post on Saturday.

Sound good? If so, make your image and e-mail it to me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

It really is a joke to call Stan Lee a good dialoguer. He’s a FANTASTIC dialoguer. Yes, his scripting is heavily stylized, but so were the Beat Poets. Stan Lee turned out vivid, charming, inventive dialogue that really made the characters live in a way that no other scripter of his era ever did. Not only that, but he turned his letter columns and ‘Bullpen Bulletins’ into a sort of performance art, a folksy PT Barnum-esque hucksterism that charmed readers with a picture of Marvel as a place where good friends made good comics. Stan Lee not only made you feel like there was something special about Marvel, he made you feel like there was something special about you for liking Marvel.

When I was nineteen, reading ‘Sandman’ and ‘Doom Patrol’, I thought Stan Lee’s dialogue was corny too. I’m proud to call my nineteen-year-old self an idiot. :)

Actually I think Stan was far better at coming up with characters (Spidey, X-Men, Fantastic Four) and plots than actually writing a great story. Still good to see people remember the advent of Marvel (and modern age superhero comics). Rick Moody must be over the moon about this placing.

Stan Lee pratically created moral complexity in superhero comics. The earlier Ben Grimm, that would as sooner punch a teammate than a villain; the Human Torch, who was actually interested in cars, girls, and fame (simple, but what a novel concept when compared to earlier iterations of the superhero); Sub-Mariner, who was the “hero-villain” (today he’d be called anti-hero); Doctor Doom, the villain who had been born due to tragedy; Galactus, who actually was no villain at all.

Stan is often underestimated. While Jack Kirby may have supplied energy, vitality, life to the comics, it was Stan Lee that gave them humanity. Alan Moore wrote in an article in the early-80s that he owes Stan Lee for blazing the trail. That is how important Stan Lee is.

I do agree that he wrote most of his women as “girly girls” (though many of his men were boys’ boys too), and seemed particularly averse to have women with the kinds of powers that would allow them to punch people. Different times. In many other respects, Stan Lee was much ahead of his contemporaries.

So will American Splendor be #1 or #2? I’d put Eightball at #1 and American Splendor at #2, but you could make a case for either, I guess.

So much love for Stan Lee. That’s awesome. Evan really nailed it: Back when big stories were compressed into a single issue, the characters shouldered much of the responsibility for exposition. It’s easy to have lots of naturalistic dialogue when you can stretch a story arc over six issues and afford to have an eight-page conversation between two characters on the Fantasti-Car. And even with the constraints at the time, Lee provided concentrated bursts of character in his dialogue. It’s a particular kind of poetry, and Lee was expert at it. It’s compact, it’s punchy — haiku with muscle.

Also glad that Brian pointed out that FF was responsible for charting the Marvel Universe, and that this year’s big Marvel “event” goes right back to characters introduced in FF #2. (Is there such thing as an original idea any more, or just refined iterations of the original?)

Still holding out for Cary Bates’ “Flash.”

FF #51 always blows my mind. You would think it would be a big letdown after the Inhumans/Silver Surfer/Galactus storyline, but no way. Check out the letters on it a few issues later. Imagine a superhero comic from that time period where not a single punch is thrown.

With these last two runs (and Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men to come) we’ll finish it with the Marvel Universe with a comfortable lead. The 60s are the next-to-last decade in points, but mostly because the 70s got all the points for Miller’s Daredevil. It also seems that Stan Lee will be second in the list, unless Sandman or X-Men has an incredible number of points. Jack Kirby jumped to 5th, but Claremont and Byrne will surpass him.

We have 100 runs so far (and 27377 pts)

– 37 runs are set in the Marvel Universe (10680 pts)
– 10 runs are X-Titles (2123 pts)
– 2 runs are Ultimate titles (679 pts)
– 39 runs if you get Marvel plus Ultimate Universe (11359 pts)

– 25 runs are set in the DC Universe (8139 pts)
– 3 runs are Bat-Titles (452 pts)
– 9 are Vertigo comics (3106 pts)
– 29 runs if you get DC plus Vertigo sub-universe plus Plastic Man retcon (8359 pts)

– 5 runs are set in the Wildstorm Universe (994 pts)
– 5 runs have female protagonists (960 pts)

– 83 are superheroes or close enough (22769 pts)
– 17 are non-superhero (4608 pts)

Sorted by decade the first issue in the run was published, we have:

– 1980s (31 runs – 8487 pts)
– 1990s (26 runs – 7181 pts)
– 2000s (25 runs – 6297 pts)
– 1970s (10 runs – 2558 pts)
– 1960s (6 runs – 2555 pts)
– 1940s (2 runs – 299 pts)

Sorted by associated creator:

– Grant Morrison (6 runs – 2754 pts)
– Stan Lee (5 runs – 2446 pts)
– Alan Moore (6 runs – 1851 pts)
– Garth Ennis (4 runs – 1579 pts)
– Jack Kirby (3 runs – 1322 pts)
– Warren Ellis (5 runs – 1285 pts)
– Keith Giffen (3 runs – 1278 pts)
– Frank Miller (2 runs – 1199 pts)
– Brian Michael Bendis (4 runs – 1079 pts)
– Steve Ditko (2 runs – 1034 pts)
– James Robinson (921 pts)
– Brian K. Vaughan (2 runs – 854 pts)
– J. M. de Matteis (742 pts)
– Ed Brubaker (3 runs – 739 pts)
– John Cassaday (2 runs – 722 pts)
– Marv Wolfman (643 pts)
– George Perez (643 pts)
– Chris Claremont (5 runs – 638 pts)
– John Byrne (2 runs – 627 pts)
– Peter David (2 runs – 624 pts)
– Howard Porter (574 pts)
– Pia Guerra (547 pts)
– Kurt Busiek (2 runs – 541 pts)
– John Ostrander (2 runs – 541 pts)
– Geoff Johns (3 runs – 534 pts)
– Walt Simonson (514 pts)
– Alex Maleev (480 pts)
– Bryan Hitch (2 runs – 474 pts)
– Bill Willimgham (428 pts)
– Darick Robertson (418 pts)
– Mark Waid (2 runs – 378 pts)
– Dave Sim (370 pts)
– Gerhard (370 pts)
– Mark Bagley (364 pts)
– Roger Stern (2 runs – 334 pts)
– Paul Levitz (328 pts)
– Brent Anderson (323 pts)
– Jeff Smith (321 pts)
– Mark Millar (315 pts)
– Adrian Alphona (307 pts)
– John Romita Jr. (2 runs – 276 pts)
– John Romita (270 pts)
– Denny O’Neil (2 runs – 261 pts)
– Peter Milligan (2 runs – 255 pts)
– Brothers Hernandez (236 pts)
– John McCrea (232 pts)
– Joss Whedon (229 pts)
– Steve Gerber (218 pts)
– David Mazzucchelli (211 pts)
– Tom and Mary Bierbaum (208 pts)
– Tom Mandrake (205 pts)
– Will Eisner (204 pts)
– Joe Kelly (202 pts)
– Steve Englehart (184 pts)
– Mike Mignola (179 pts)
– Frank Quitely (176 pts)
– Mike Baron (174 pts)
– Steve Rude (174 pts)
– Neal Adams (162 pts)
– David Michelinie (152 pts)
– Bob Layton (152 pts)
– Mike Wieringo (150 pts)
– Brian Azzarello (150 pts)
– Eduardo Risso (150 pts)
– Kevin O’Neill (148 pts)
– Alan Grant (146 pts)
– Norm Breyfogle (146 pts)
– Michael Avon Oeming (134 pts)
– Paul Smith (133 pts)
– Marc Silvestri (133 pts)
– Christopher Priest (130 pts)
– Greg Rucka (122 pts)
– Alan Davis (122 pts)
– Paul Chadwick (120 pts)
– Joe Casey (117 pts)
– Robert Kirkman (115 pts)
– Mike Carey (114 pts)
– Peter Gross (114 pts)
– Ryan Kelly (114 pts)
– Mike Allred (113 pts)
– Sean Phillips (113 pts)
РSergio Aragon̩s (110 pts)
– Mark Evanier (110 pts)
– Roy Thomas (109 pts)
– Jim Starlin (109 pts)
– Mark Gruenwald (107 pts)
– Mike Grell (104 pts)
– Stuart Immonen (103 pts)
– Michael Gaydos (101 pts)
– Kazuo Koike (100 pts)
– Goseki Kojima (100 pts)
– Denys Cowan (99 pts)
– Matt Wagner (98 pts)
– Stan Sakai (98 pts)
– Terry Moore (96 pts)
– Chris Ware (95 pts)
– Doug Moench (95 pts)
– Jack Cole (95 pts)

– 83 are superheroes or close enough (22769 pts)
– 47 are traditional superheroes (14237 pts)
– 36 are non-traditional superheroes (8522 pts)
– 12 are nonpowered superheroes (2182 pts)
– 8 are comedic superheroes (1749 pts)
– 34 are team books (9883 pts)
– 17 are non-superhero (4608 pts)

“So will American Splendor be #1 or #2? I’d put Eightball at #1 and American Splendor at #2, but you could make a case for either, I guess.”

Nah, Brian Cronin featuring Rob Liefeld’s Captain America in his newest Urban Legends column must be a hint that Liefeld’s seminal work with the Sentinel of Liberty will take one of these spots. :p

To be fair, I did wish in retrospect that I’d voted for Eightball.

Because that’s a great book.

Surprised this wasn’t number 1 just for sheer accomplishment (100 solid issues that built the Marvel Universe and redefined superheroes) but also understand how some people might not find the actual stories holding up.

I recently got Essential FF vol. 3 and was very psyched to finally read the first appearances of Inhumans, Galactus, Black Panther, plus some classic Doom, but I’ve got to admit there was a lot of eye-rolling going on as I trudged through. Charming, but really clunky by today’s standards.

Stan’s dialogue, while entertaining, definitely stood out as one of the more awkward parts of the book for “modern” readers (the sexism against Sue is hilariously brutal). But looking back I don’t think it’s just Stan’s words that took me out of the stories.

I think what really kept taking me out of the stories is actually one of the most celebrated aspects of the run: the birth of “the Marvel method”. On many occasions it reads like Stan himself is desperately trying to figure out what the hell is happening in the panel. There are many panels with script like, “Oh no, Medusa was behind the corner” or “Watch it, he had a paste gun hidden”, where Stan seems to be bending over backwards to justify developments appearing out of nowhere.

Again, there’s lots of entertainment to be found, but lots of unintentional comedy, too. I’m very glad Moore, Gaiman and the rest of the British invasion brought fully-scripted plots back in style.

No Kanigher. No Kubert. No Haney. No Aparo.

~sigh~

Also, I’m no Stan Lee fan, as I’ve mentioned in other threads, but FF is by far my favorite of his work. It has a certain “pop” that the rest of his stuff seems to be missing. I’ve actually thought many times about reading the rest of the run (I’ve read the first two Essentials and a few other random later issues). And Kirby’s terrific, of course.

I have no problem at all with FF as #3.

Stan Lee and John Byrne brought ideas and plots to comic books that simply had never been seen before and, in the case of Byrne, continue to do so. Coming up with character traits and motivations is not dialog, that scripting so it’s the same thing. Both these guys’ dialog reeked like week-old fish (in the cases of Byrne, still does). But when you look at their stories as a whole, they are big and wild and just crazy cool.

While I loved Young Justice, I’m not surprised it didn’t make it. The print run was always low and the book flew under the radar most of the time. It’s def in my Top 10 though.

Dr. Doom is the greatest super-villain in history? Thanks, I needed a good laugh this morning. Perhaps the greatest super-villain in Marvel history but he is not even the same league as the Joker and only on some levels comparable with Lex Luthor.

Kind of surprised this didn’t make #1; it certainly deserves it.

One of the things surprises me whenever I go back and reread it, because it doesn’t get mentioned as often as Lee’s character-driven dialogue, Kirby’s bombastic art and the fantastic (rimshot) plots, is the humor. A lot of those stories had some great gags and wordplay going on alongside everything else. As tragic a figure as Ben was, he was also a pretty funny guy.

(crossing fingers that X-Men beats Sandman…)

Oh, and I should add there is humor to be found beyond the hilarious-by-today’s-standards sexism leveled at Sue :)

I wonder if the people who think that Stan Lee can’t write dialogue are thinking of his AWFUL job on Ravage 2099?

Theno

Which Luthor, the whiny scientist who started on the road to villainy because Super-boy accidentally burned his hair off? Awesomest back story for a villain if there ever was one.

And the Joker only became interesting in the 1908s, to be honest. He was always a gimmick villain (though one of the better ones, I’ll admit). I just don’t see him having the depth of someone like Doom, despite the work Moore tried to invest in him in ‘Killing Joke’.

Er, I meant the 1980s for the Joker…

Hey, David.

What is so special about pre-Crisis Lex Luthor, except the fact he was the arch-enemy of the greatest superhero of all time? Examine Luthor, just Luthor, separated from the Superman mythos, and he is essentialy a bald, egocentric, mad scientist. What is so original or brilliant about that?

I think Doctor Doom is miles ahead in personality and originality.

I have a bit more fondness for the post-Crisis, businessman Luthor, but many people still says he is just a thinner Kingpin…

I’ll concede that the Joker is a great villain though, post-1970s. But the post-1980s mass murderer version still presents the uncomfortable dilemma of a scary murderous villain let loose in a superhero universe full of heroes that seem unable to do anything about him.

>>Great run, but it was not the instant hit that you describe. In its second year, it was not even in the Top 50:
http://www.comichron.com/YearlyRankings/1960s/1962/tabid/200/Default.aspx

I should note as the collector of those figures that Marvel did not publish Statements of Ownership in Fantastic Four (or Amazing Spider-Man, for that matter) until 1966:

http://www.comichron.com/YearlyRankings/1960s/1966/tabid/204/Default.aspx

…so they are not included in earlier rankings for that reason. Publishers would wait to run sales figures until a title had been going a few years (in the case of Iron Man, a dozen years!). It’s why about all we have from Marvel in the early 1960s are the numbers from the former horror titles, which had already been running.

I love this run of the F.F. It’s my number 1. I’ve always had issues with Stan’s sometimes corny dialog, but the charm is still there. Stan and Jack could pack more into a single issue than most current creators can fit into a mini-series. Mostly I want to praise the King here. His creative outpouring during this run is unmatched. The amount of new caractures he created are far too numerous to list. The action set the industry standard and the machinery was like nothing ever seen before. Jack will always be the King!

When he’s on – And, well, he often isn’t – I think Stan’s the best writer in comics in using dialog to define character. (Which is the primary purpose of dialog, really.) You can read one page of pretty much any issue of Fantastic Four and figure out the characters basic outlook on life and motivation.

Can’t do that with Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis… (Garth Ennis is pretty good at this, though.)

If none of ‘em are as effective at using dialog to do what it’s supposed to do, I’d have trouble calling ‘em better – At least in that particular aspect of writing.

Personally I will be happy to Sandman at number 1. I was hoping Spidey (and the FF) would be fighting it out with Gaiman, but in truth Sandman was unsurpassed.

God forbid that the stale old Cyclops-Wolverine-Phoenix love triangle (that recycled the Cyclops-Angel-Marvel Girl of the earlier X-men) should be voted best comic run ever. Though I did like it. But then I like Tintin & Snowy. And Asterix. And Lucky Luke. Any good story that holds together and is well drawn.

Go Gaiman!

(Now I’ve doomed him to second place…)

“Stan could not write dialouge to save his life when it came to characters like the Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil and the X-men. Those runs were terrible by todays standards and in contrast to his work on Doctor Strange, Spider-man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four they don’t ever match up.”

John, I think Stan Lee’s Thor and Iron Man were pretty good, when he hit the stride.

His X-Men suffers when compared to the FF, but was still an impressive creation.

Avengers got good after issue 16. Before that, there was a bit of a sameness when Thor, Iron Man, Cap, and Giant-Man were together.

Yeah the FF entry should have been number one. The stories were epic. Jack’s art was at its peak. And I loved Stan’s dialog. You have to put yourself in that time period to really appreciate it. (Now if we’re talking about, say, the Spider-Man newspaper strip …. well let’s just change the subject, shall we?)

Now it’s down to the X-Men vs. Sandman; I like Sandman, but I’ll have to cheer for my childhood heroes, the X-Men.

Regarding villains, I’d say Magneto is the greatest supervillain (though because of Claremont, not Lee), though Doom is great too.

“God forbid that the stale old Cyclops-Wolverine-Phoenix love triangle (that recycled the Cyclops-Angel-Marvel Girl of the earlier X-men) should be voted best comic run ever. ”

That is a bit of a myth, Nick. The triangle was almost exclusively in the Dave Cockrum stories. It was barely aluded to in the John Byrne ones. A pair of panels in one or two stories, if anything.

That the triangle was supposedly so all-important is a sort of myth that was feeded by the X-Men movies, the cartoons, and stuff like that. It was never really a big part of the comics, even in the Cockrum run.

A myth “fed” or perpetrated would be better. Sorry, English isn’t my first language.

That’s true. I tend to think of Cockrum & Byrne as the same run. Even though Byrne could draw a lot better. But I think the Logan holding a torch cropped up a few times under Byrne. I’ll have to look…

Michael Scheu

May 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

This run would have been my choice for #1, if I’d met the deadline.

Patrick Joseph

May 2, 2008 at 9:49 am

Thought I’d check back to see if I misread this earlier. Nope. Still number 3.

I’m glad to see this at # 3, though, I’ll sound blasphemous when I say it wasn’t on my Top 10. I’ll probably be tarred and feathered, but first let me explain.

I love this run and think it’s probably the best of Lee / Kirby. The energy that just popped and the ideas that it constantly cranked out. Some of my first comics were the 70’s Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprints as well as those wonderful Marvel Treasuries with their huge oversized Kirby art. Talk about packing a punch ! That’s how I first read the Galactus trilogy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll never forget the wonderful orange cover with Dr Doom snarling down at the FF and the Frightful Four story inside. The 70’s Pocketbook reprinting of the first 6 issues was absolute gospel too.

As much as I love this run and am glad to see it place so highly, it got squeezed it by my personal preference for other runs that I just got more sheer enjoyment from. Right or wrong, it’s my opinion. I’ll be the first to say that this run is historically significant in many, many ways.

It’s good to see some love for Joe Sinnott showing up here too. I think he was Kirby’s best inker and the two of them really complimented each other perfectly like a few other great penciler / inker teams, like Miller / Janson, Byrne / Austin, Rogers / Austin, and Swan / Anderson.

I guessed long ago it would come down to Gaiman’s Sandman & the Claremont / Byrne X-Men run for # 1 and # 2. I predict X-Men will take the # 1 spot and admit I probably like it better overall than Sandman, which IMO sometimes gets a little too full of itself and borders on pretentious at times. I don’t think Gaiman meant to convey that. It’s probably just my personal prejudiced that comes through. It’s wonderfully great but I sometimes think it’s overpraised.

I prefer “ambitious” for Sandman, rather than “pretentious”.

Comic Book writers should be bold, don’t you think? All writers, in fact.

Perhaps that is a better appropriate term.

It’s good that Neil shook things up and helped to advance the medium and most certainly the perception of what it’s capable of to the mainstream audience.

“If one looks past the superficialities of the ‘currently’ fashionable conventions (then and now) of both the creators and their creations, one is in a position to reap a rich reward of enjoyable appreciation of masterpieces of all eras.”

I agree with this 100% Bill, and I like your premise. But I wouldn’t say the dialogue issue is entirely about fashion. James Robinson’s characters talk like real people. Bran Vaughan’s, Matt Fraction’s, Mike Carey’s too, for example… Sure, they talk like the real people of THEIR day; Jack Knight’s dialogue would look awfully out of place in 1963, as it will probably sound odd in 2063… but Stan’s characters didn’t sound like real people in the 60s either (nor did Claremont’s in the 70s). Doesn’t mean it wasn’t good writing, ’cause as several people have said here, the dialogue was good enough that they were able to convey the characterization tremendously well; enough that when we were kids, we thought that WAS the way real people talked! (Or at least, I did with Uncanny X-Men).

This is actually one way that I think superhero comics have inherently evolved over time. Like Stan said from the beginning, superheroes are modern mythology. And the thing is, Stan Lee didn’t walk around New York all day hanging out with myths. So how would he know how a myth spoke? Not just a myth, but a new kind of myth. They sort of came into his consciousness as these two-dimensional archetypes, and it must have been strange to give them voice, and it sort of makes sense that he kind of gave them their own language to speak. And that language evolved in time but we can hear superhero language very prominently in the 60s, and then a bit less when we get into the 70s with early Gerber and Englehart, less still with Claremont and DeMatteis, iand it diminishes steadily as we move into modern trimes. I’d say there’s only one truly prominent superhero writer at the Big Two who still uses that language fairly unabashedly, and that’s Busiek; and he knows when to drop it in service to the story, ’cause he doesn’t use in Astro City.

Is it a cuturally-based bias to say that “realistic” dialogue is better than “Hey, hep cat, what’s shakin’?” or “We’re going to crash; Blast it!”
Maybe. But there seems to be an evolutionary curve in the course of comics writing history, away from the genre-specific ghetto-dialect of the superhero, toward a more fully realized portrayal of humans who speak like humans, even as they journey into mystery, so to speak. That steady curve, from (for example) Stan Lee to Roger Stern to Denny O’Neil to Steve Englehart to Chris Claremont to John Marc DeMatteis, then into people like Moore and Morrison in the late 80s, seems more than just cultural. It’s an evolution; we’re getting more and more familiar with superheroes, and we’re understanding how to give them relevant voices.

Hondo said:
I’m glad to see this at # 3, though, I’ll sound blasphemous when I say it wasn’t on my Top 10. I’ll probably be tarred and feathered, but first let me explain.

if it’s any comfort, I’ve already admitted I didn’t vote for this one, and that I didn’t expect it to get anywhere near this high. I’ve also said repeatedly, in various other threads during this countdown of the Top 100, that my voting was not based on such things as historical significance; i.e. “how influential” a run supposedly was on lots of other creators in their later works.

So far no one has actually tarred and feathered me for expressing any of those sentiments. So I think you’re pretty safe. (If you were looking forward to being martyred for your expressed ideas, then I hate it to break it to you, but I really don’t think that’s on the schedule for today! Better luck next time! :) )

Mike Loughlin

May 2, 2008 at 11:55 am

Stan Lee could define his characters, explain away mistakes in the art, and inject humor into or wring sentiment out of a super-hero story. He wrote more engaging material than most of his contemporaries. He should get credit for being the exact kind of scripter super-hero comic book readers were looking for, but didn’t know it, in the ’60s. His writing may be the most influential in the genre.

The words he actually wrote for characters to say, however, can sound dumb to an adult reader. That’s okay, he was writing super-hero comics for an audience of ages, say, 6 – 15. He reached a bit further in Silver Surfer, but he knew his core audience was kids. I like old FF comics mainly for the art and fun, but the dialogue can be groan-inducing. In my opinion, Spider-Man, with Ditko’s moodiness and action, reads better.

I think Roy Thomas, with his literary & pop-culture allusions and overwrought emotionalism, consciously aimed for older readers. Denny O’Neil, maybe, did the same with his topical GL/ GA and moody Batman scripts. Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, and Marv Wolfman on “Tomb of Dracula,” were key in making dialogue more mature. The British writers of the ’80s & ’90s, and the better writers of today, are the culmination of what Stan Lee started, even if their influences came from outside of comics. I would rather read the words written by Alan Moore or Matt Fraction than the words written by Stan Lee. That doesn’t take away from his accomplishments, and it doesn’t make current comics better. Stan Lee scripted my Nos 2 & 3 runs (Ditko Spidey & Kirby FF, respectively). I just have a personal preference for the sound of modern dialogue.

this should have been #1 – even though it wasn’t my personal #1 (Excalibur 1-24 got my #1 vote) – not simply because of the quality of the work, but because of its influence. like has been stated here, this is THE book that created the Marvel universe.

i hope Sandman takes the top spot, now.

Stan Lee was definitely EFFECTIVE at dialogue, if you compare him to the competition he had in those days. If you go only by the cheeseball catchphrases he tosses out at public appearances and on television, you wouldn’t see that I guess. Today his characters sound totally archaic, but still, if it wasn’t for Stan things would be much worse. He kind of broke the ice on a lot of stuff, and that’s why he gets so much credit now for it even if a lot of it seems groan-worthy when you actually read it.

And while the cultural impact of Stan’s Spidey run is ahead of even this, his FF run is really where his creativity shined. Although, yeah, to be perfectly honest Kirby did a LOT more of that creation than the uninitiated might assume based on what they THINK the writer/artist balance of power should be. Again, by modern standards a lot of the plots seem klunky, but the character creation, the world building, was all leagues ahead of anything else being done at the time (and yeah, there’s probably a pretty good argument that the basic character and world building was SO good that FF, and most of the Marvel U. had “great material” for 40 years simply BECAUSE of that).

For pure IMPACT on comics? This may be #1. If its a bit lower ranked here, its just because we’ve seen so many comics that are BETTER since then. But not with a bigger impact. So this is the compromise position it settles at because of that.

Lorendiac,

I’m certainly not looking at being a martyr, but I’m not trying to slight the greatness that is this Lee / Kirby run.

I guess I’m simply trying to say that there are at least 10 runs that I personally got more enjoyment from.

Hondo, I didn’t vote for Stan and Jack either.

But they were truly a dream team. A lot more than just the sum of the parts. I’ll say that the one other comic book combo of writer and penciller where they produced stuff together that is vastly better than their independent productions was Claremont and Byrne, that will come next.

The comparision is particularly apt. Lee and Claremont have a lot in common, ditto for Jack Kirby and John Byrne.

Didn'tsendalist

May 2, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Geee, really? Fantastic Bore? Comic fans REALLY are a nostalgic bunch, ain’t it? Personally, I can’t stand anything written before the 1980s, it’s just really, really silly. Hopefully, Sandman (THIS is the greatest comic ever, folks. It’s not poor Morpheu’s fault that you weren’t young enough when it came out so you’d feel nostalgic about it) willbe 1st on this list.

scott robotdg

May 2, 2008 at 3:05 pm

oh my god. you guys are CRAZY. i can’t believe you are all so myopically nostalgic that you want to say stan lee wrote strong dialogue.

to compare him to the other writers of the time is only to say that comic writers back then were all hacks even your favorite one, stan lee.

to say that dialogue from that era was it’s own kind of art form is such a cop out. it’s like saying a homevideos are just as good as oscar winning films just in their own way… or a kid’s scribbles are just as good as rembrandt just in their own way… only true in a trivial non-interesting way…

stan lee’s dialogue carried no emotional impact… did not have any ring of truth to it… often made no freaking sense… and as far as i am concerned is completely undefendable. have you read any of his recent stuff? the man can’t write.

did he come up with some iconic ideas that served as the foundation for major franchises? YES. could he write dialogue to save his life? No.

modern comic writing isn’t just “different” … it is better.

Geee, really? Fantastic Bore? Comic fans REALLY are a nostalgic bunch, ain’t it?

Well, no. Because I don’t think our audience is fifty years old on average, and, therefore, don’t have any personal connection to the work.

Personally, I can’t stand anything written before the 1980s,
it’s just really, really silly.

So you have a nostalgic attachement to the storytelling styles most prominent in your childhood and later?

Again. Your’re voting out of nostalgia, and an attachment to a certain set of storytelling quirks. – That’s fine – But the majority of people voting for this run almost certainly aren’t.

(I voted for stuff from six different decades, but it was all work I discovered in my adult life. I don’t have a nostalgic bone in my body, nor any particular attachment to one dominant storytelling style over another. Hence Plastic Man, Spider-Man, Love and Rockets, and Infinite Kung Fu all on my list)

Hopefully, Sandman (THIS is the greatest comic ever, folks. It’s not poor Morpheu’s fault that you weren’t young enough when it came out so you’d feel nostalgic about it) willbe 1st on this list.

So, you’ve read all the comics?

I’ve always been curious about Vicotor Moscoso’s early work, pre-Zap. Can you give me a rundown and explain how Sandman was better? And, hey, how did Prima end? Since it hasn’t been translated from Japanese, I haven’t had a chance to read it.

Scott robotdg – You’re being stupid. Stop being stupid.

scott robotdg

May 2, 2008 at 3:21 pm

mark andrew – you’re are being rude. stop being rude.

and talk about stupid… you think that you have to be alive when something was published to have a personal connection to the work?? people younger than 50… younger than 40… even younger than 30 can all have nostalgic connections to stan lee’s early work because they read that stuff when they were kids… not on frist printing but still when they were kids… and it made them fall in love with comics…

and now they are getting quality mixed up with what they loved as a kid…

i am nostalgic for godzilla films b/c i loved them as kid… they weren’t released when i was a kid that is just when i saw them.

and now they are getting quality mixed up with what they loved as a kid…

Oh, I get It!

If I ignore all the arguments that are actually being presented,

And use my imagination to invent a NEW argument,

And then try, with alllll my l’il willpower to believe this new argument, while mentally erasing what people are actually saying,

Then I can feel superior to other people and better about my own life!

That’s a fun game. I agree.

Brian Cronin

May 2, 2008 at 3:37 pm

I dunno, Mark, you DO seem to be acting pretty rude. Like when you came into the thread and called people “crazy” and “myopically nostalgic.”

That was pretty uncalled for.

Brainstorm while I’m waiting for Iron Man to start: I agree that it’d be tough to run a conventional Top 100 single-issue stories list, since the nominees would be too scattered. What if you added one more layer of filter — first asking for nominations for Best Single Issue Story (say, top 5, unranked), compiling the top 50, and then asking readers to rank their favorites from the top 50? Folks would have some time to seek out the stories that they haven’t read, and, conceivably, voters could look over most of the nominees during the window for registering their votes (allowing them to reconsider any dreaded “nostalgia-influenced” picks).

Just trying to lighten the mood a little.

I’m just so excited about lists, all of a sudden.

"O" the Humanatee!

May 2, 2008 at 4:23 pm

But I wouldn’t say the dialogue issue is entirely about fashion. James Robinson’s characters talk like real people.

Really? The Shade spoke like a real person? You must know some very mannered real people.

Bran Vaughan’s, Matt Fraction’s, Mike Carey’s too, for example… Sure, they talk like the real people of THEIR day; Jack Knight’s dialogue would look awfully out of place in 1963, as it will probably sound odd in 2063… but Stan’s characters didn’t sound like real people in the 60s either (nor did Claremont’s in the 70s). Doesn’t mean it wasn’t good writing, ’cause as several people have said here, the dialogue was good enough that they were able to convey the characterization tremendously well; enough that when we were kids, we thought that WAS the way real people talked! (Or at least, I did with Uncanny X-Men).

This is actually one way that I think superhero comics have inherently evolved over time. Like Stan said from the beginning, superheroes are modern mythology. And the thing is, Stan Lee didn’t walk around New York all day hanging out with myths. So how would he know how a myth spoke? Not just a myth, but a new kind of myth. They sort of came into his consciousness as these two-dimensional archetypes, and it must have been strange to give them voice, and it sort of makes sense that he kind of gave them their own language to speak.

This is interesting, because I think you’re (inadvertently?) making an argument for employing – at least sometimes – unrealistic dialogue. Superhero comics are inherently highly stylized, artificial realities. We are almost all willing to allow the art in those comics to be exaggerated and extreme; even the more “realistic” superhero art obeys such conventions as having heroic characters be around 9 heads tall, whereas real human beings tend to be closer to 7. So why should characters in those stories speak realistically? Why not stylized dialogue for a stylized world?

The thing I don’t like about the assertion that superhero comics should be “realistic” – whether that’s in terms of art, writing, or “reality inspired” stories like Civil War – is that it reeks of insecurity, as if one has to justify one’s enthusiasm for these fantasy figures to some imagined adult authority figure tut-tutting over one’s “childish” preoccupation. That’s not to say more “realistic” work can’t be good on its own merits (and I have to keep putting “reailstic” in quotes because I think superhero comic-book “realism” is more a set of conventions meant to indicate realism than it is realistic per se), just that I don’t think it is inherently better than something more stylized. There’s room for it all – let a hundred flowers bloom!

Brian: “I dunno, Mark, you DO seem to be acting pretty rude. Like when you came into the thread and called people “crazy” and “myopically nostalgic.”

That was pretty uncalled for.”

It was Scott, not Mark, who said the things you quote

On the subject of dialogue: ALL dialogue is unrealistic. It’s representative of speech, no more. Have a listen on the tube.. Hesitation, er and um, repetition, malapropism, round the houses stuff, selective and actual deafness, a thousand languages & dialects…real life would have nothing to do with telling a story.

One day somebody will do what Alan Moore set out to do: show what a real super-powered person in a real world looks like. People who wank, fart and, when punched, don’t miraculously get over it two panels later.

I am a trifle annoyed that people are confusing their own preference based on when they first read comics with ABSOLUTE TRUTH. No truth is absolute. But Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko) had some truth in there, 60s or not.

Gotta jump on the “Stan Lee didn’t write good dialogue” bandwagon here. True, most writers back then didn’t either, but to say that Lee’s dialogue is good by any objective measure (yes, I dropped the “O” word that has sparked many insane, page-long debates time and again) seems silly.

BillK, I think that’s Brian’s point… ;)

I know I tend to write too lengthily, so just a few scattershot short points this time.

Scott Robotdg: “to say that dialogue from that era was it’s own kind of art form is such a cop out. it’s like saying a homevideos are just as good as oscar winning films just in their own way… or a kid’s scribbles are just as good as rembrandt just in their own way… only true in a trivial non-interesting way…”

Are you sure it isn’t like saying that Oscar winning films from, say, the 1960s or the 1930s can be every bit as good or better than any films made today, even if they are in genres that are no longer fashionable?

I’ll also point out that discussion of the quality of Stan Lee’s dialog on Whatever Comics in 1995 seems of little relevance when we’re discussing the virtues or vices of his dialog on Fantastic Four in 1965. :)

The question of tone is interesting. For example, I think Bendis writes the New Avengers interchangably as if they were all young comics readers (or at least how young comics readers imagine themselves speaking) – witness the discussion recently when Iron Fist was explaining their new secret apartment: “I’m bored with this answer already”, and how they didn’t recognise the name Samuel Sterns (that would make them _too_ geeky?), but did recognise his description as the green guy with a really big head who fought the Hulk. If the Avengers speak like the audience thinks they speak, that’s a great audience identification tool. He runs into trouble, though, in my opinion, when this severely conflicts with established characterisations, such as when he recently had Dr Doom say “Okay”. (!?!?!?)

If comics have evolved and improved since the 60s, it is in the acceptance within the superhero genre of a much wider range of genre influences and acceptable effects. The market can now to an extent accept, and creators are motivated to try, mixtures of genres and tropes and effects that would not have been attempted in the 60s by mainstream companies.

Lynxara: “BillK, I think that’s Brian’s point… ”

Whoops – now I see. How does one do a blushing smiley on this board?

Mike Loughlin

May 2, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Stealthwise,

You went and did it.

The Big “O.”

Now we’ll be mired in semantics, people will quote the dictionary, someone will link to some rubric measuring quality writing with point values, it’ll be CHAOS and I don’t mean Lady Death Hell Bent for Leather Swimsuit Edition either (part of the #1 run, barely edging out Force Works). I fear for the posters’ souls.

Stefan said:
James Robinson’s characters talk like real people.

“O” the Humanatee! said:
Really? The Shade spoke like a real person? You must know some very mannered real people.

Well, it’s worth pointing out that the Shade is probably the better part of 200 years old by now — if I recall correctly, even he didn’t know precisely how old he is? — and spent many years acquiring his present speech patterns in 19th Century London. If we make allowances for that, then I think he may have come fairly close to speaking like a “real person” of that time and place who was well-read and determined to pass muster in “high society.” He just has the minor advantage of having lived a heck of a lot longer than most 19th Century London residents have managed! :)

I don’t think you have to have been alive when a run first appeared to truly appreciate it, but it helps. (I’m slightly less than 400 years old and I’m a huge Shakespeare fan.) I hadn’t been reading comics long when Spider-Man and FF hit the racks, but even at that young age I recognized that this was something new and different. Much like when 2001: A Space Odyssey, All in the Family and Hill Street Blues first hit, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

That said, only a couple of the top ten on this list were in my top ten. I bought Spidey and FF when I could find them on the spinner racks, but it didn’t kill me to miss one. Comics have always been more like comfort food to me. Especially in the early days, I was more interested in the well made cheeseburger than the nouvelle cuisine. The Haney/Aparo issues of Brave&Bold, for example, wouldn’t make many folks’ list of “greatest” comics (even mine), but they were certainly among my all-time favorites.

I knew that only a few of my list would make the top ten. I knew that a few wouldn’t even make the top 100. I know that most of the voters are much younger than I am.

But Joe Kubert getting shut out just breaks my heart.

Yeah, that is a bummer. Kubert’s my single favorite comics artist. (And I did vote for one of his runs.)

…so they are not included in earlier rankings for that reason. Publishers would wait to run sales figures until a title had been going a few years (in the case of Iron Man, a dozen years!). It’s why about all we have from Marvel in the early 1960s are the numbers from the former horror titles, which had already been running.

Ok. I stand corrected. That is really interesting.

Yeah, guys like Haney, Aparo, Kubert, Kanigher, etc. from DC’s Silver Age all did some really great stuff too, but it’s not the marquee “Silver Age Greats” that automatically spring to mind like the mainstream / spandex Marvel Age revolutionary titles like FF, Spidey, Dr. Strange, etc.

I loves me some Kubert too. I wouldn’t say it’s part of any run, but, I’m nuts about any and all Kubert Hawkman.

That could be another poll, Brian. What version of a title or character is your favorite or your top 10 versions ? Say Hawkman, one of my fav characters. Some of the best versions I can think of off the top of my head would include the aforementioned Kubert, Murphy Anderson, Michael Lark, Rags Morales, Jerry Ordway, etc.

Say, how about a poll of Comics Greatest Adaptations/Licensed Titles? Kubert’s Tarzan is sure to come out on top.

scott robotdg

May 2, 2008 at 9:15 pm

brian cronin: i meant myopically nostalgic in a sweet way. don’t be a cry baby.

mike andrew: my god, you are an idiot. i don’t want to hurt your head with semantics but the argument that stan lee was better writer than his contemporaries is different than stan lee was a strong writer. i dare you to read FF#1 and then pretty much anything by Vaugh, Bendis, Brubaker, etc and then look yourself in the mirror and say Stan Lee could write dialogue. no, seriously, go do it. now.

bill k: no, i really don’t think it’s fair to say stan lee was in a differnet genre… to me that feels like a cop out because stan lee’s ideas were so important that we are afraid to recognize that the man can’t write… it’s like oscar winning films of the twentieth century pretty much all hold up… pulitzer prize winning books pretty much all hold up… stan lee’s writing on fantastic four is laughable now. i can sit you down in front of the great films of the past (citizen kane, ran, the seven samurai, his girl friday, the third man, etc, etc) and none of them are gong to feel laughable…

of course on some level it is a subjective call… i just feel like if people were really honest with themselves then they would admit that we give stan lee a pass on his writing b/c of nostalgia and b/c we recognize the importance of the ideas…

Scott, why is it so hard to accept that some people prefer Lee? Do we really have to be such snobs about what we like? They like him, they think he’s great. I doubt you’re going to persuade people by being rude and insinuating that they are a bunch of uncultured phillistines for liking his work. For what it’s worth, I find Bendis’ dialogue to be grating. I hate how his characters…

…don’t always finish their sentences. And the way they…and the way they just…they just…it’s like get on with it already!

(Do people really speak like this?)

Sorry for the multiple posts, but i just wanted to point out, you can really pick apart anyone’s dialogue and style of writing, no matter who. Let’s see in 40 years or so how the writings of Gaimen, Moore, Brubaker, Bendis, Morrison, etc hold up.

scott robotdg

May 2, 2008 at 9:52 pm

walid: fair enough. but just to be clear my point was less that lee fans are philstines and more that i think people go too easy on him. but you’re right that my rhetoric gets a little wide-swinging…

Walid, I think I that Bendis IS the mainstream comic book writer that is the most realistic at dialogue. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing, as real life conversations very rarely have very dramatic or interesting structures. They’re mostly confusing, meandering, inchoate, abrupt, and almost always undramatic.

To me Rene, it just doesn’t ring true. I mean, it does to a certain point, I feel that he just exaggerates it to a unrealistic degree. Then again, it might just me. At this point, I tend to follow artists and characters more than writers.

For what it’s worth, I do tend to find Lee’s 1960s work somewhat campy, but at the same time, it does lend quite a bit of charm to the work. And that’s a good thing.

(Btw, I’m wwk5d, I posted my name by accident lol).

Whoop, meant to say I’m Walid lol…I need more caffeine!

mike andrew: my god, you are an idiot. i don’t want to hurt your head with semantics but the argument that stan lee was better writer than his contemporaries is different than stan lee was a strong writer. i dare you to read FF#1 and then pretty much anything by Vaugh, Bendis, Brubaker, etc and then look yourself in the mirror and say Stan Lee could write dialogue. no, seriously, go do it. now.

It amuses me you can’t spell my name.

Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m totally with you on Fantastic Four number one. (OK, Bendis’ team books probably aren’t as good, but that doesn’t detract from, well, everything else he wrote. Especially Total Sell-Out, which was unfairly ignored on the top five Bendis countdown. And I absolutely hated A Complete Lowlife, though I haven’t read it in years – And my opinion’s pretty flexible. and I have MAJOR problems with Vaughans (note spelling) long form work –

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/05/31/i-teach-brian-k-vaughan-how-to-write-or-ex-machina-volumes-1-2-and-3-are-not-very-good-comics/http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/05/31/i-teach-brian-k-vaughan-how-to-write-or-ex-machina-volumes-1-2-and-3-are-not-very-good-comics/

Although I got nothin’ but good things to say about Runaways and Pride of Baghdad. )

So, sure all of them regularly top Fantastic Four # 1. (Which was about 50% plot leftovers from Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown, anyway.)

But the run isn’t here based on Fantastic Four number one. I’d wager that 98% of every FF voter had Fantastic Four 48-60 in mind. And I’m not sure any of the gents you name have touched THOSE particular issues, quality wise. And once more, I think each of them would tell you.

Although I’ve heard that Criminal Season Two is shaping up to be really good. Ask me again in six months.

For instance: Here’s Brian K. Vaughan on Stan Lee.

For me it’s more the sense of originality. I grew up revering Stan Lee and he is still a hero of mine and I think such an important pioneer for our medium and our industry.

From a Panels and Pixels interview.

http://panelsandpixels.blogspot.com/2008/02/graphic-lit-interview-with-brian-k.html

And here’s Bendis

I consider Stan Lee and his cohorts like the Shakespeare of our generation. If you look at pop culture, most things have a two-year shelf-life. No matter how hot they burn–Beavis and Butthead, Pee-Wee Herman–things that really hit the cultural zeitgeist have a shelf life. Whereas Spider-Man, X-Men, The Hulk, they have no shelf life. They are absolutely flawless because they always find a new audience. If you think about it, think about how much has come and gone–Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers; Spider-Man’s still here.

(More context at the link, including the phrase “that was the genius of Stan Lee.)
http://wweek.com/story.php?story=5262

Brubaker’s more of an indy guy (I used to see him at the Comics Journal Forums from time to time, I remember he thought the Caricaturist was the best Dan Clowes story, which made me happy ’cause I agree.)

But, even still, he does seem to consider Jack Kirby comparisons to be a major, major compliment. (He’s talking about Darwyn Cooke, btw.)

When I would get the pencils, they reminded me more than anything else of early ’60s Jack Kirby. The pages were more cartoony than Kirby’s stuff, but you look at those early Fantastic Fours, they’re gorgeous to look at, but they’re not realistic. The people have a style about the way they’re drawn. I looked at it and compared it to that stuff a lot. There’s a certain simplicity — that’s a terrible word for it — but there’s a certain simplicity to the layout and an economy to the backgrounds that a lot of fans mistake thinking that that’s actually easier to do. It’s actually much harder to do comics with less detail than it is with a lot. To pull everything off and make it look right, it’s not like Toth just craps that shit out.

So, y’know, I’m just saying.

It’s entirely possible that Brian Bendis and Vaughan know more about writing than you do.

Granted, I hesitate to presume there isn’t anything you DON’T know about writing,

given the air-tight grasp of spelling, sentence construction, , punctuation, and level-headed, and level-headed, unbiased argument construction that you’ve demonstrated so far, I mean.

Heck, it’s possible that all the people HERE aren’t nosalgia driven sheep. That they might be getting something out of a work that you missed. You might think they’re idiots… But, hey, at least they can spell the names of the writers they like.

I’m not sayin’ mid-period Lee ‘n Kibry Fantastic Four is up there with Maus, or Human Diastrophism, or Barefoot Gen. OR BEANWORLD! But, yeah, there’s a reason it’s rated more highly than most of the stuff produced by even the best of the non-Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, or Grant Morrison level mainstream writers.
And there’s a reason

fourthworlder

May 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm

scott I honestly am finding you a little obnoxious. OK, a “little wide-swinging” if you prefer.

Honestly, judging Lee’s dialogue from FF # 1 is like judging the Beatles or Rolling Stones from their first 45.
Just like in pop/rock music, things in comics changed and grew at an incredible rate in the early/mid-60’s, and EVERYTHING that has come since has grown out of this seemingly-bottomless wellspring.

Is the music of today more sophisticated and technically superior to the Beatles? Sure. Is it better?

fourthworlder

May 2, 2008 at 11:36 pm

That said, I still think that Stan Lee’s single greatest gift to Marvel Comics were his letters pages and Bullpen Bulletins.
OK, and Spider-Man, sure.

scott robotdg

May 2, 2008 at 11:40 pm

fourthworlder: yeah, i prefer wide-swinging, let’s use that one. it’s so much more fun-sounding than obnoxious.

personal attacks aside, your argument is that we shouldn’t judge stan lee’s writing because it is from 40 years ago. but my point is that compare stan lee’s dialogue to great dialogue from ANY period and it falls short. compare it to shakespeare. compare it to hugo and austen and fitzgerald and kerouac and welles and kurosawa and yes, even, bendis and brubaker and it will fall short.

prose. writing. dialogue. these are not art forms that get a pass from 40 years ago. 400 years ago shakespeare was knocking it out the box, so why do we give stan lee such a pass?

fourthworlder

May 3, 2008 at 12:03 am

I do see your point Scott. And sorry for the personal attack. I would also prefer to call it wide-swinging if I may.

I guess the medium has grown way up, and comparing then to now is just about impossible. In the 1960’s comics were written at best for youth, more often for kids. And the censures of what could be talked about and how it could be said, were intently limiting. As was the example of what else was going on and what had gone before.
Tell me, what scripter from 1965/66 do you prefer to Stan Lee?
Since the fall of EC in the mid-50’s and the advent of the Comics Code the medium was pretty freaking primitive. Lee/Kirby/Ditko didn’t just raise the bar, they tore the old genre down and built the new realm of possibilites, that have been built upon, higher and higher, ever since

Scott robotdg: Need it even be said? Compare Bendis and Brubaker to Austen, Welles, etc and they are nowhere, also. And are you really saying that Hugo’s dialog isn’t convention-bound, melodramatic and cliched to the modern ear, but Lee’s is?

Your criticisms parallel those that 1940s science fiction didn’t have enough characterisation – Golden Age SF was a literarure of ideas, not character analysis. 60s superhero comics were about exciting fantasy adventure. That the superhero genre as published in mainstream comics has expanded its boundaries since then to include elements from a wider range of influences, including a much older target audience, doesn’t make works written under the older set of conventions suddenly inferior.

I don’t think I’d be alone in being interested (sincerely) in being pointed to some specific examples of this wonderful modern dialog. If you know a Bendis passage as good as Welles’ cuckoo clock speech, please just quote it here. If you can point to an issue or arc by Brubaker as entertaining as Austen, naming it will suffice. Thanks!

Of course (he added) Lee himself spearheaded the expansion of the superhero comic story genre in the 60s by giving individual traits (other than their powers) to his heroes… kind of like the way in the 40s Asimov liberated robots from the “immediately reach for the nearest ax” cliches of the 30s. Complaining that nevertheless Susan Calvin is no Hamlet is a pointless criticism – she was never meant to be. Neither was Sherlock Holmes.

The point made above about the lack of optimality of using FF #1 as a benchmark, I think, was that “Please Please Me” was no Rubber Soul, let alone a Sgt Peppers. Pick up Spiderman #33 or Fantastic Four #51 instead for a fairer comparison.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 1:05 am

fourthworlder/bill k: okay, good points, great points… fair points… and i think your point about comparing bendis/etc to welles/etc is a good one.

but let’s give it a shot…

how about moore in “anatomy lessons” … the ending? “I have a lot to do tomorrow. No matter. For the moment I am simply content to think and to plan… and to listen. It’s raining in Washington tonight.”

or the first eight words of morrison’s all-star superman? “Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple.”

miller? “This would be a good death. But not good enough.”

Bendis is trickier ’cause he’s more about the banter and the riff… trying to find a speech from him is like trying to find a speech in “his girl friday”… it’s about the flow not the lines.

others?

fourthworlder

May 3, 2008 at 1:08 am

Still wondering which 60’s scripters you prefer to Lee, though.

You could have added:

And wwk5d is bored.

Sleep inducing.

And this would be good dialogue. But not good enough.

See an earlier post above.

Dialogue on it’s own doesn’t always work. Imo, it needs to be taken within the context of the story, especially as the art is a big factor. Would Morrison work with Kirby? Would Lee work with Quietly?

Scott

Nice examples. Most of them gain immensely from the context they are in, in my opinion – i.e. they earn resonance from the rest of the stories they are in, or (in the Morrison) others that they are referencing. The Miller is a great standalone hook: puzzling enough at face value to make one want to read more.

Modern comics have much greater conventional freedom to create mood and strive for “literary” effects than Silver Age ones did. It was rare that time was allowed for mood setting, or that the characters intropected, or that puzzles beyond the scope of “what is the villain’s plan?” were entertained.

I’ll submit the following, all from FF#51, though:

“Maybe we don’t have to both die, mister” “Ben, what are you doing?” “The one worthwhile thing I ever did in my whole, wasted life”

I’d stack that up against Jack London or Edgar Wallace, and I don’t think Charles Dickens would have been ashamed to write it in a short story.

That was the ‘fake’ Ben in conversation with Reed. Here’s the real one, who has just reverted to the Thing:

“Maybe this is the real me! Maybe Ben Grimm is nothin’ more than– a dream”

I think this shows that, then as now, the very best effects are where a single line can reference and resonate against a much larger context.

While glancing through this issue, it struck me that another convention that was invisible at the time that perhaps now is jarring, is how every statement was followed by an exclamation point! Even mild, calmy expressed ones! This can perhaps have the effect of creating an impression of a one-note straining stridency! I think it can contribute to a perception of the dialog being old-fashioned! Yet it’s not impossible to adapt one’s sensibilities to adapt to the convention… in my opinion!

:D

Look, I’m about the biggest booster of Stan Lee you’re going to find on these boards. You want to know when I first read the Lee/Kirby FF? Last year. The Lee/Ditko Spider-Man run? Last year. The Lee/Ditko Doctor Strange run, the Lee/Kirby Captain America run? All last year. Nostalgia doesn’t enter into it. I enjoy these because they’re genuinely great pieces of comics entertainment, and because Stan Lee provided an element that took the magic of his very talented collaborators and elevated them into something even greater.

I’d be more likely to be nostalgic for Sandman, which I read as a teenager, than to be nostalgic for 60s comics. (And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an either/or situation to me. I have plenty of love in my heart for Moore’s ‘Swamp Thing’, Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’, Ellis’ ‘Transmetropolitan’, Ennis’ ‘Preacher’, magnum opuses all. But nobody’s trashing those, so I don’t need to stand up and defend them the way I do Stan the Man. :) )

Scott, if you’re going to back up your arguments with examples from prose and film, could you… please know what you’re talking about? People do have a hard time reading older novels and watching older movies, and they are frequently taught simply because of their age and historical importance.

Most of my Film Study class hated classic Errol Flynn and His Girl Friday because they found the acting and directing styles, and especially the dialogue, totally ridiculous. For older novels and particularly Shakespeare, you generally can’t read the material at all without footnotes due to language shifts. I’ve even seen people complaining that novels from the 50’s are too old to be readable.

The fact is, most people are taught that the reasonable way to approach older films or older novels is to read them as products of their times. That’s why extensive lessons in the values of the original writers have to go along with a reading of Beowulf, and you really need a history lesson about Hearst and the days when newspaper businesses were booming to appreciate Citizen Kane. If you appreciate these works to people with no historical preparation, you’re far more likely to see people tuning out or deciding that the work is bad because it’s old (and yes, I’ve seen people have this reaction to Citizen Kane – I remember one otherwise-intelligent woman considering it one of the most boring and banal films she’d ever seen).

For some insane reason, you seem to think that approaching Stan Lee’s writing from the 60’s as a product of its time is a nostalgic approach, when that’s actually the standard method for approaching works called “classic” in any medium. Your arguments are both hypocritical and poorly supported, and your dialogue examples in your last post are terrible – they carry absolutely no weight outside of their original context, and simply sound banal. All you’re really arguing for is your personal taste, and it’s arrogant to think anyone but you is at all interested in such a topic.

I have to confess that I usually avoid watching movies or reading novels produced before the late-70s, because I can’t get past the older styles without effort.

I’m a huge fan of prose science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but the most I can read of pre-70s stuff is short stories. Those don’t fatigue me as much.

Speaking of novels, I find it isn’t the dialogue or language that makes me tune out, it’s the pacing and structure. Particularly in pre-1950s novels, the pacing appears to be so much more slower. I’m more used to contemporary material that has a greater sense of urgency. There are exceptions. Arthur Conan Doyle is admirably fast-paced, but maybe that is because he is sorta pulp-ish.

I felt the same way about comic books, until some 3 years ago, when I finally started to read the old stuff. For now, I’ve read mostly old Marvel Comics. I’m curious to read the Weisinger Superman stories everyone says are so great, but I didn’t get around to them yet.

Well said, Lynxara. I would go further to say that once you’ve learned to read older material as a product of its time, you also begin to read CURRENT work as a product of its time. Recent work sounds “right” to you not because it’s actually better, but because it’s targeting (or intentionally subverting) your particular narrative expectations.

And it doesn’t take long for the worm to turn again. The “fresh, realistic, daring” dialog from the first volume of “Ultimates” is already dreadfully dated, not only in terms of its references but in terms of its stylistic tics. Every stylistic tic wears out its welcome eventually. I recently re-read Claremont’s Excalibur, and boy-oh-boy has it dated. The convention he developed of breaking… a… sentence… into… individual… balloons seemed at the time to be very fresh, very immediate, and, yes, very realistic. Now it just seems “very 80s”. And that’s fine. Every new generation of writers breaks with the style of the previous generation and tries to find a new way to connect with a jaded audience. Don’t assume that this is a linear progression in which writing gets better every years. And DO NOT assume that because the industry has gone from targeting 8-15 year-olds to targeting 17-30 year-olds that means that writing has therefore gotten “better”. PLEASE.

Matt – I very much agree

For everyone who struggles to enjoy older works in whatever medium: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: “If one looks past the superficialities of the “currently” fashionable conventions (then and now) of both the creators and their creations, one is in a position to reap a rich reward of enjoyable appreciation of masterpieces of all eras.”

It takes work to learn how to read/view/enjoy works created under a different paradigm than the one you’ve grown up under, but what a return on investment it has! Why settle for whatever exceptionally good stuff is being created today, when one has the opportunity to enjoy all the exceptionally good stuff ever created!!!

One thing to keep in mind that may help (it helped me learn how to pay attention to and follow silent cinema): in many ways, human beings haven’t essentially changed since Gilgamesh was first inscribed on clay tablets; the work is meant to be, and was, comprehensible and entertaining to someone just like you. What has changed is the historical-cultural context of the audience, which shapes their expectations, and familiarities (and so preferences) with regards to genre and convention. The first step to appreciating the work the way its contemporaries were able to enjoy it is to look at the work through neutral eyes, rather than through today’s eyes. Ignore one’s reflex judgements, stop comparing the work to today’s product, and really look at it. This used to entertain millions of people who were not idiots; there must be something in it.

If something seems lame or slow or (especially) puzzling to you, chances are there are subtleties in the work you are just plain missing, through inexperience with the genre and the then-current conventions applying to it. You may be looking for something that isn’t there, and so be distracted from what actually is there. Persevere. Be patient. Revisit the work and others like it. Eventually one “gets it”. And that’s a joyful revelation! The process becomes easier with exposure, and practice, and also with age (as one’s life experience accumulates, so generally does one’s historical and cultural knowledge of other times). Once you’ve learned to remove the distorting “lenses of today”, it’s easier and easier to remove them at will, and suddenly second hand book shops, back issue bins and TCM become the Caves of Aladdin!

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 1:35 pm

lynxara — well you do point out that any casual discussion of art is going to swim in a sea of subjectivity… and there is a sense in which any discussion about this is doomed b/c on some level it is about personal taste. but i disagree that it is arrogant and self-interested to point out examples of comic dialogue that i think trasncend lee.

also, i am not sure what to tell you if you think shakespeare can really only be read as a product of his time. the fact that there are certain barriers to older works is not the same thing as all older works are equal.

this is the crux of what i am trying to say. just b/c you have to tune your ear to shakespeare and just because knowing the historical context of citizen kane makes both of those things “better” … this does NOT mean that all old works are of equal quality.

we agree on that, yeah?

so that leads to the question of stan lee’s quality. maybe look at it from a different angle… let’s say we took a hundred people and we “trained” them on how to read shakespeare and we “trained” them on how to read stan lee’s 60s dialogue…

…does anyone here honestly believe that lee’s writing would hold up in any significant way? do you really believe that if i just opened up a little bit and put lee’s writing in context of the time that lee would qualify as a great writer of the 20th century?

i guess if you’re answer is “yes” then i have no point… but i keep betting/banking on the fact that if you genuinely ask yourselves these questions you will come up with a different answer.

maybe i’m wrong.

Scott – Since an assertion like “Stan Lee writes great dialog” makes you want to compare him to Shakespeare and find him lacking (and by those standards, you must admit even Alan Moore might struggle), what if it has been “Stan Lee writes great superhero comic dialog”? I don’t think anyone is claiming he is William Shakespeare (and of course, he’s not trying to be); to say he isn’t doesn’t prove much, since you could say the same of everyone BUT Shakespeare.

I can’t think of anyone from before or during the 60s who wrote superhero comic dialog that was anywhere near as good as that of Stan Lee. He was the Alan Moore / Frank Miller of the 60s: the majority of works for the next 20 years tried to imitate his style. Why would they have done that if it was mediocre crap?

Lacking Dr Doom’s time machine, I can’t bring back the results of the 30 year anniversary edition of this poll, but my predictions are that Lee would still be in the Top 20, as would Moore and some others on today’s list. (I’d be surprised and amazed to see Bendis there, though.) And due to the knee-jerk “recent = quality” inflationary effect that will still be operating then as now, most of the names then will be of writers who are yet to published, just as most of the names on today’s list debuted post 1978.

I’m curious to read the Weisinger Superman stories everyone says are so great, but I didn’t get around to them yet.

Rene – Weisinger’s “Superman” is amazing, but really dated in terms of the scripts and art.

However, it is probably my favorite “run”. It never dawned on me to vote for it, but I really love it. Considering he is the Last Son of Krypton the pre-occupation with love and marriage is perfectly logical. Weisinger injected so much of his own Freudian analysis into the series that it has real symbolic depth. It plays one way on the surface and another just beneath it.

The dialog is pretty bad, but the characters still come through. The concepts are really wild. The rainbow of colored Kryptonite has its limits, but the Fortress of Solitude is probably the best location in comics. The concepts behind the Bottled City of Kandor, the Phantom Zone and the Legion are all interesting and (from a certain perspective) sort of creepy ideas. The supporting cast is memorable with three ‘families’ living in three different worlds. There are Kryptonians both alive (Supergirl, Krytpo) and dead (Jor-El, Lara). There is the Smallville family (John and Martha Kent, Lana Lang, Pete Ross). Finally, there is the Metropolis family that is arrayed around work (Lois Land, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White). It is a huge cast.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 2:21 pm

bill k–okay, so we have dragged this on for a while so let me sum up where i think we have converged … and by the way not for nothing, but you have absolutely affected my opinion of stan lee’s writing…

my two main points that i still think have merit: 1) people go easy on stan’s actual writing b/c they love the other things the guy has contributed to the industry , nostalgia, etc and 2) saying stan lee was the best of his time is not the same thing as saying he was good.

on the other hand, you have absolutely convinced me of a major point… which is that it is unfair of me to use FF#1 as my end-all-be-all standard for judging stan lee. i have to admit that the lines you pulled out of #51 have real power… and you have also convinced me that maybe i am too hard on stan’s actual writing b/c i am being influenced by clunky lettering, and lots of exclamation points.

so my takeaway from all this is that i am probably too hard on stan lee… but i still think you guys (and by you guys i mean people in general) are too easy on him. the truth is in the middle.

Scott (not sure if our last posts crossed)

” 1) people go easy on stan’s actual writing b/c they love the other things the guy has contributed to the industry , nostalgia, etc and 2) saying stan lee was the best of his time is not the same thing as saying he was good.”

1) is certainly possible. Chances are it’s true for some, but I don’t think that voting for Lee’s writing and being able to introspect clearly on the reasons for that casting that vote are necessarily mutually exclusive. I’d have no quibble at all if it was “Some people go easy …” (Then the debate might move to “how many is some?” :) )

2) is certainly true, one does not follow from the other. However, there’s no reason they can’t both be true, either.

I’m delighted for you that you’re open-minded enough to potentially reassess your opinion on Stan the Man, and can heartily recommend Essential FF #3 as a very cost-effective way of exploring some of the greatest issues of his and King Kirby’s FF run (including #51, and the original Galactus saga immediately before it: “).

Thanks for an interesting discussion – having to verbalise some of my own opinions has helped me examine them more closely, and crystallised them in my own mind.

I think the nostalgia thing is a bit of a straw man. I’ve never brought up nostalgia, I didn’t even read much in the way of Silver Age comics until about 2003-2004. At the very least it’s getting in the way.

Certainly there are elements of the time you have to consider- but like I said, it’s not that “everyone was bad back then”, it’s that comic book dialogue operated under different parameters. It had to advance the story much more than it has to now, and characterization similarly had to be established in fairly broad, big moments. They were closer to cartoon characters than, say, the characters on a TV drama.

Maybe this should be a separate article or something. It would be interesting to take a solid look at Lee’s prose in terms of form and structure and how it serves the story.

Dialogue can’t be separated from the entire work it’s a vital part of. Comics, or comix as some called the underground, hipper, more “adult” version of comics that Art Spiegelman coined to emphasis the true mix of visuals and words, are a blend of all the individual components. You could remove the color but it wouldn’t be the same and, in most cases, was meant to be published with a certain color scheme which lacking that would impair the overall quality of the product.

The same applies to dialogue. It’s also naive IMO to not bear in mind that more than anything dialogue is a product of its times, whether in print, music, film, tv, etc.

Another factor that I don’t think has been fully addressed is not only how comics as a medium have matured, but how the target audience has shifted from pre-teens to young adults. The Comics Code Authority is but a shadow of its former self (thankfully) and the style and scope of an editor’s role has morphed over time with attitudes changing as our dialogue has also changed.

The format of comics is also decompressed as most of us know it’s written for the trade unlike the Silver Age where trades not only existed but many more stand alone stories existed and rarely did stories get strung out as many issues as today.

I respect a lot of what Stan has contributed but take with a grain of salt some of what he says he contributed. The best thing he’s done is to be the non-stop Energizer Bunny of the industry acting as carnival barker for the industry on behalf of Marvel Comics and bringing people’s attention to comics and the fun dynamic roller coaster ride that they can bring to readers.

… I can’t bring back the results of the 30 year anniversary edition of this poll, but my predictions are that Lee would still be in the Top 20, as would Moore and some others on today’s list. (I’d be surprised and amazed to see Bendis there, though.) And due to the knee-jerk “recent = quality” inflationary effect that will still be operating then as now, most of the names then will be of writers who are yet to published, just as most of the names on today’s list debuted post 1978.

Bendis is an interesting case in contrast to Stan Lee. Bendis’ early work on “Powers” was really promising. However, I bought his “Daredevil” after seeing it rate in this survey and it really average. Not bad, it just seems like a typical episode of “Law and Order”. Admittedly, I have not read “Ultimate Spider-Man”, but his work on The Avengers is truly bad. He hasn’t really created much, just de-compressed old concepts.

It just seems like Marvel is slowly turning him into a hack with all the monthly books he writes.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of Gold and Silver Age stories that I’d be perfectly happy to see de-compressed and taken widescreen with an eye toward the older modern audience. I’d happily read a comic that promised to do just that. However, it is not exactly innovative.

Stan Lee, in contrast, wrote even more titles in the ’60s. Nearly every issue was inventive. He introduced hundreds of characters, including the ones Bendis makes his living re-hashing. They all have distinct voices. You can identify Ben Grimm, or Peter Parker, from their dialog. Now, I am not saying that it was great prose, but that is pretty amazing. Sue Storm may not be what we expect from a female superhero post-Buffy, but she has a distinct personality.

Lee also had a point-of-view as an author that remained consistent no matter which artist he had co-plotting. Everything had a sort of dream logic that works really well in comics. Exposure to radiation always brought whatever was inside a character out in Marvel Universe. Ben Grimm was emotionally guarded, so he became a rock. Johnny Storm was flamboyant, so he burst into flames. Sue Storm was shy, so she turned invisible. Reed Richards was stressed, so he stretched. Not rocket science, but it works better than most comics today that are supposed to be “realistic”.

fourthworlder

May 3, 2008 at 5:12 pm

This comparison of Stan Lee and Shakespeare reminds me of an interview I remember with Gene Simmons of Kiss in Rolling Stone, back when the band was new and I was young enough to like them.
He was complaining about people who put down the music and lyrics of Kiss and said that the only thing that ever mattered at all was sales.
The interviewer said that today Captain America was probably out-selling Shakespeare, did Simmons think that meant it was superior to Hamle?
Simmons replied to the effect that he hated Shakespeare, “all that thee and thou stuff, the guy sounds like a faggot. Give me Captain America anyday.”

Don’t know how that possibly adds to this debate, but thought I’d throw it in.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 5:14 pm

omg. that is the BEST story ever.

Mike Loughlin

May 3, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Remember that Stan Lee’s dialogue, good or bad, was not the entirety of FF et al’s success. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko came up with most of the plots. The artists were responsible for the pacing, action beats, and a great deal of the emotional content. “This Man, This Monster” would not carry the weight it does without Kirby. “The Final Chapter” is inconceivable without Ditko. Lee’s editorial skills, and public persona, were at least as key as his dialogue. Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Colan, Kane, Buscema, etc. carried most of the creative workload.

Lee was imitated because he was successful. Even if he was a terrible writer, he would have been copied due to his sales (and putting a serious dent into DC’s super-hero dominance). It happens in every creative field. Just look at how many terrible bands arose in the early 00’s following the success of Limp Bizkit (ugh) and Creed (*shudder*). Just look at how many careers were launched doing half-assed Image-imitations (I’m looking at you, Mike Turner).

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Mike Andrew:

“It amuses me you can’t spell my name.”

Calling you “Mike” when your name is “Mark” is less about not being able to spell it and more about not really caring…

…thanks for teaching me how to spell Vaughan. Yawn.

I hate beating you over the head with logic but, uh, Vaughan (woohoo! spelled correctly! YES!) praising Lee’s sense of originality doesn’t address the quality of his writing… if anything it seems like a side-step to me. Like Vaughan doesn’t want to be rude so instead he praises the originality. Also note how Vaughan specifically references nostalgia as one of the reasons why Lee is still a hero to him. Hmmm.

Moreover, no one is disputing that Lee came up with brilliant characters. If the debate is about the value and importance of his ideas then we would probably be agreeing but it’s not… it’s about the quality of his dialogue and prose.

Same thing with the Bendis quote. He’s talking abotu Stan Lee’s IP… about his character CONCEPTS… about his near-genius ability to create original characters that have and will most likely stand the test of time. He is NOT TALKING ABOUT LEE’s DIALOGUE OR PROSE.

Why are you having such a hard time with this simple distinction?

“It’s entirely possible that Brian Bendis and Vaughan know more about writing than you do.”

Well, actually, you might be surprised. I have no idea what you do, and you very well may be a more successful writer than me, but I doubt it. And, ironically. while I think Vaughan and Bendis are both better writers than I am, Bendis failed at getting traction in my medium and Vaughan only recently became a peer of mine. And maybe even funnier is that you are probably a fan of my work.

…just for the record, professional writers are comfortable enough with grammar, sentence construction and punctuation to worry about it when they’re in the middle of a comment war — nitpicking about spelling makes you come off as kind of a knob and definitely an amateur. fyi.

fourthworlder

May 3, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Hey since you’re still having “a comment war”, let me ask for the THIRD TIME, SCOTT – – –

What comics writer of the mid-60’s do you prefer to Stan Lee?

Can you answer?
Or are you saying that there was no good writing in the 60’s comics? No good writing in comics until…. until when specifically, I’m curious.

And have you read the Thor issues from 1964 – 67?
Those Asgardians required a pretty special scripting touch, I think Thor was some of Lee’s best work.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Oh sorry 4thworlder… yeah, the truth is that i don’t know much about the other writers of that period… i believe it is quite possible lee was the best of the bunch… this is why i keep harping on best doesn’t equal good… i have read a lot of the old lee stuff recently in the essentials and was just choking on how bad i thought it was…

so i am no historian, but the first time that i noticed that comics could be literature… the earliest stuff i have read that makes me think wow, this is great prose/dialogue was moore and gaiman… what is that… mid-80s?

i’m not saying there wasn’t anything great before that… but that is the first that i have exposure to…

Funny, I peddle words for a living, and typing with capitals isn’t so hard for me… :D

But I’ve traditionally hung out in corners of the internet where people assume no caps and txt msg abbreviations mean you’re a stupid troll. CSBG happens to be one such forum. Now, I’m not saying you’re a stupid troll, mind, but it’s like posting anonymously: people make assumptions about why you’re doing that when no one else is, and it would take maybe five minutes of effort to realize most people on this site type in a mostly correct fashion. So, no, nitpicking spelling online doesn’t make you look like a knob in this particular forum. You, however, are looking very unobservant.

Now, personally, I don’t care what you do or who you are or what you write (if it’s for TV, I can promise you I haven’t seen it). People who bring up “you can’t discuss writing craft unless you’re a REAL WRITER omg” annoy the living hell out of me, and the moment that comes up discussion degrades into a miserable ad hominem morass. So I’ll address your other issue: Stan Lee’s prose.

The thing is, you’re harping on the quality of Stan Lee’s dialogue and prose when just about [i]everyone[/i] into his work usually admits that Lee’s dialogue hasn’t aged well. It’s severely melodramatic and B-movie-ish when conceits like that have long since passed out of fashion. Even at the time it would’ve been considered “glorious trash” at best, it was shamelessly lowbrow material.

Some people argue that Stan Lee’s writing has a lot of lyrical power if you get into the singular cadence of his work, but that hardly means no one in the world has thought “man, this is clunky.” Instead, approaching it as a product of the sweatshop-like environment of a 1960’s studio, complete with inability to print periods, they decide to deal with it as an indelible element of the work or to simply not read it.

By showing up screaming “STAN LEE’S DIALOGUE WASN’T VERY GOOD”, I’m afraid you’re not really enlightening anyone or coming up with a major revelation. You’re screaming the equivalent of “HEY IT’S SILLY NOBODY REALIZES SUPERMAN IS CLARK WITHOUT GLASSES” and then wondering why no one thinks you’re awesome. No, you’re just… kind of declaring the obvious, and not stating anything useful besides that.

(Other than “modern writers are easier to read!”, which is like… duh. We have printing technology that can create [i]periods[/i] now. Of course that allows for a richer selection of dialogue modes to choose from.)

The problem is the rest of us have long since gotten over that and either decided we can deal with the weird dated dialogue or not. It seems you had a hard time with it, but also that you may not have sat down with Lee’s work and any sort of reasonable expectations or historical context. Your realization is not singular, and other people have had this issue. At this point you can choose to deal with it or to read something else, but you’re not contributing anything new to any conversation about comics or writing by just bluntly stating that it’s easy to view Lee’s dialogue and prose as poor.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

lynxara:

“typing with capitals isn’t so hard for…”

that is because you are awesome.

trust me, harping on grammar makes you look like a knob no matter what corner of the internet you are in. you are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. you didn’t harp on them, someone else did, but it’s still lame.

so i hear you on this idea that my point is obvious, trivial and uninteresting. but let’s be clear here, i am not continuing this debate on and on because i am trying to convince you people that my point is genius. it’s not genius. it should be obvious to everyone that his prose and dialogue aren’t very good.

SO WHY ARE PEOPLE THROWING SUCH FITS AT THE IDEA?

this debate rages on not because i keep repeating myself into the void. it continues because people like mark andrews post a series of quotes from people that do not speak to the point and then they and misapply them to illogical arguments.

you seem to think that i showed up and said “stan lee’s writing isn’t very good” and people responded with “yeah, we all know that and got over it.” go back and read the thread. that was not the response that i got. not by a long shot.

you may be bored of this debate. that’s fine with me. move along. but if for some reason you can’t stand the idea of it continuing on then why don’t you try addressing mark andrews and others with “come on guys, scott is making a point that is obvious and we all agree with and have dealt with, let’s just tell him how right he is and how awesome he is and be done with it.” EXCELSIOR!!

scott robotdg,

You are being an annoying troll whether you mean to or not. Even if posters agree with your basic premise, or not, your lack of proper grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and etiquette in general, makes you look unprofessional to say the least and thuggishly combative. By at least exerting the effort to spell correctly, use English like most of us were taught in school and is used by professionals, whether they are writers, doctors, or whatever, and not constantly berate and degrade someone who may not agree with us, most of the rest of us on this board are respectful of each other’s opinions and operate by the same rules of conduct.

I agree with everything Lynxara and I would say I’m surprised that you can’t name another comics writer of the same time period that you can hold up as being better after being asked three different times, but I’m not. Your lack of addressing the issue upon being asked for logical specifics to follow up your statement, three times in a row no less, and your boobish answer only goes to further reinforce what has already been said about you. You offer nothing fresh or new and apparently are only hear to annoy, irritate and diminish others. The rest of us are adult enough to play by the rules, why don’t you try it and see what it’s like for a change ? Maybe you’d be surprised that others don’t treat you like the punk you come across as.

scott robotdg

May 3, 2008 at 9:25 pm

hondo:

honestly if you read your last message you will truly see that it is much more of an attack, far meaner and ruder than anything i have written. other than starting off by saying people were crazy for liking lee and that i thought it was myopic nostalgia… neither of which sound very harsh to me… i have only been harsh in response to attacks.

and you make it sound like i am writing stuff “uhh d00dz lee sux gawd so bad ugh!” — seriously, it’s not like misspelling vaughan as vaughn is like madness.

and again remember as you read the following sentence that i am only responding to your flaming attack on me for my writing style… but for someone who wants to attack people’s sentence structure you should really take a look at the last sentence in your first paragraph… not exactly “professional” unless you are a track star… get it? cause of the run on. nevermind, that wasn’t funny. but you get my point. glass houses and all that.

honestly, my casual style is totally legitimate and is truly the appropriate way to express the kind of run-on thoughts that these comments require. when you go half-way towards proper grammar you end up with sentences like yours…

regarding not knowing other 60s writers, i don’t see what the big deal is… and it’s not like i was being crazy obnoxious about it… i started my answer to fourthworlder with “oh sorry…” because i hadn’t addressed that issue yet… jeez louise…

remember my point is that stan lee isn’t a strong writer. he could be the ONLY comic book writer i have ever read in my life and i could still make that point, right? and, of course, i have read a few other comics. i just wanted to be honest and clear that i am no expert… i mean compared to the average population i have read a lot of comics but places like this have the REAL experts… so i just didn’t want to try and pass myself off as someone i am not.

i am not an expert on 60s comic writers. i can’t really name anyone else from the time period and have probably only read a hundred or so comics from before the 70s. but that doesn’t change the fact that the stan lee stuff i have just finished reading was awful. does it??

just to be very clear the first personal attack on this entire subject came from mark andrews and it went a little something like this “scott, you are being stupid. stop being stupid.”

my confrontational tone with mark andrews seems like a pretty reasonable response given that… and again it’s not like i am just ranting… if someone says something rude to me i am not afraid to make a point back… but i am not just obnoxiously attacking everyone in sight.
here is the real question for you hondo… how are my answers “boobish”?? i mean reallly? do you really think the arguments i am making are “boobish” … or do you just not like my tone and are just trying to be mean? because i just don’t see how admitting what i don’t know but clarifying my point can be considered “boobish.”

i really don’t see how i am not playing by the rules. if you were to go back and look at the exact chain of posts you would find that i am very reasonable… have made logical arguments… and have actually only responded “like with like” when it comes to be confrontational…

Brian Cronin

May 3, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Scott, your very first post was

oh my god. you guys are CRAZY. i can’t believe you are all so myopically nostalgic that you want to say stan lee wrote strong dialogue.”

And then you’re surprised that people were put off by you right off the bat?

Dean:

“Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of Gold and Silver Age stories that I’d be perfectly happy to see de-compressed and taken widescreen with an eye toward the older modern audience. I’d happily read a comic that promised to do just that. However, it is not exactly innovative.”

Well, that’s sort of what the Ultimates line is about, more or less…or was, at any rate. Updating the older characters with ipods, soul patches, and splash pages ;)

That’s kind of what bothered me with Ultimate. When the line launched, there seemed to be a sincere interest in updating the entire concepts behind books, resulting in things like the Samuel L. Jackson-ized Nick Fury who seemed like a radical departure at first but really functioned more like the original than you’d think.

Then after awhile they just started restarting guys with different backstory who otherwise acted more or less the same, and… I dunno. At that point, why bother if the originals are still running around?

I recall that for Heroes Reborn, Jim Lee’s Fantastic Four pretty much just told decompressed versions of Lee/Kirby stories. I also recall that it sucked pretty bad compared to the originals, even for the early, really wonky FF stories. There was a certain energy that was lacking.

fourthworlder

May 4, 2008 at 12:02 am

Honestly, Scott, I can’t help having a bit of a response to your dismissal of everything that pre-dated Swamp Thing #34 or X-Men #134 or whatever the particular personal moment of revelation was for you.

You can’t name a single other writer from the sixties? The whole Silver Age? From before the eighties?

Consider a break from the computer, dude. I really think you’ve got some reading to do.

scott robotdg

May 4, 2008 at 12:33 am

fourthworlder:

you think i should do some history lesson reading on writers from the sixties? are you sure that is a good idea? the one thing that seems to be a shared consensus on this board is that lee was the best of the bunch from the silver age… and we know how i feel about lee…

it seems hard to stomach going back and reading more of that stuff when i have literally over a 1000 pages of unread peter david sitting on my desk… oh, and i haven’t read any of ex machina yet… and i have only read the first half of Girls….

who should I read from the silver age that you think would trump that to-read list for you? i am asking genuinely, by the way….

scott robotdg said:

“…does anyone here honestly believe that lee’s writing would hold up in any significant way? do you really believe that if i just opened up a little bit and put lee’s writing in context of the time that lee would qualify as a great writer of the 20th century?

i guess if you’re answer is “yes” then i have no point… ”

My answer is “Yes.” Lee is every bit as much a great writer as Kerouac, Ginsberg, or any of his other near-contemporaries, creating his own style of prose poetry that blended the Beat Generation’s style with the American folk writing of Mark Twain or H.L. Mencken. His dialogue wasn’t naturalistic, I’ll agree with you there, but it’s every inch significant, possibly one of the most significant contributions to American culture of the last 100 years. It wouldn’t surprise me one little bit if 500 years from now, they were teaching the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man and the Lee/Kirby FF in lit classes right alongside Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut (and probably Stephen King as well, I think history will look far more kindly on him than present-day critics do.)

None of this is to devalue his collaborators, of course–comics is a medium unlike prose, where there’s a peculiar alchemy that comes about from the blending of words and pictures. Lee did his best work when working with talented artists like Kirby and Ditko, but by the same token, they did their best work with Stan Lee. It was an amazingly fertile time.

I’m also not devaluing his successors; Alan Moore produced his own stand-out work, and he’ll no doubt get his own lit classes right there with Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller. (And maybe Warren Ellis. But I think Bendis is SOL. :) )

So, in short, to answer your conjecture, “i guess if you’re answer is “yes” then i have no point…” Not to be rude, but I guess I’m siding with, “You have no point.”

My answer is “yes”, as well.

scott robotdg

May 4, 2008 at 5:01 pm

john seavey/matt bird:

okay, fair enough, you think the answer is yes. i can’t dispute that you think that…

…but it is interesting to wonder then… if you are right and stan lee’s writing is of a quality that puts it in the same class as kerouac, ginsberg, twain, king, vonnegut, mailer, etc… it is interesting that the world has not caught on to this yet.

i ask you genuinely: why do you think academia hasn’t recognized this yet? all of the author’s you have named are considered noteworthy enough to be the subject of hundreds of classes, analysis, critical studies, theses, etc…

…I wonder why you think it will be 500 years before the world can see what you see?

Do you think it is *just* snobbery at the medium? Or do you think there is something special about Lee’s writing that requires longer to understand and unlock?

Because independent of what all of our opinions are we would all agree that the academic community is not yet ready to agree with you re: lee’s writing with respect to say kerouac or ginsberg. right?

I am pretty sure that schools that actually provide curricula specific to comics do actually teach Lee’s writing. The overall number of such curricula is still relatively small, which by your argument would mean… comics are much worse than novels?

scott robotdg

May 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm

oh no, not really making an argument like that… was just thinking about seavey’s comment that he wouldn’t be surprised if in 500 years they teach Lee right alongside ginsberg and keroauc and for me it just begged the question…

why 500 years? why doesn’t it happen to any significant degree now? right now, i am not even trying to make the point that it shouldn’t (although we know i think that)… i am just wondering why lee fans think that it isn’t happening…

does that make sense?

on an almost related note i did take an entire class on keanu reeves in film school. i do think that a lee class would make more sense than that did.

I would say that it’s just taking time for comics to establish themselves as a respected medium, basically, just like any artistic movement struggles to establish itself. Art classes of the period certainly weren’t telling their students to paint like the Impressionists, but that doesn’t mean that Vincent Van Gogh isn’t a respected artist today. Ditto Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso…

These things just take a while (and rightly so. Who wants a lit class that teaches about ‘The Secret’? :) )

Dialog is not character development. Stan’s dialog was dreadful by any standard but – and this is a big but (quit giggling) – the characters he created were more sophisticated and interesting than anything in comics (or even in most TV programs) of the time. He wasn’t groundbreaking – Eisner had it down much better a decade before – but he distilled and popularized a new type of story form into comics in a way that no one could have predicted.

As for my previous comment about Dr. Doom/Luthor/Joker, I didn’t specify any time period/version though for some reason a few latched onto the pre-Crisis versions of the characters. I’ve read 70’s books from both Big Houses and all three of these characters weren’t very good, as most villains were back then. Dr. Doom may have had a more complex motivation but how could he not when he appeared in every Marvel book year after year. However, having him written by three dozen writers who just keep layering on various character traits doesn’t make him the greatest villain. If that were the case for greatness then McDonald’s would be the best restaurant in the world.

He’s “a” great villain but honestly I think Magneto is even better than he is. As was pointed out earlier Joker and Luthor changed and evolved starting in the 80’s – so what? Really. So what? Luthor is the force of man rendered as single-minded focus. Joker is the worst of human nature unfettered by conscience. Their renderings change with time, some better some worse, but that happens to any serialized character. Their inherent traits though simply makes them better villains than Dr. Doom to me.

Franklin Richards

April 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

you all wrong ff no 1 always

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