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CSBG Archive

Committed: Issues with Back Issues, pt. 1

022410_comics2Last week, on my last day in London visiting the house I grew up in, I decided to tackle my comic book collection. This is a pretty sparse little pile of boxes, taking up some space in my dad’s office. I really wasn’t sure what state they’d be in, or how I’d be able to find them (my dad’s way of storing things is… interesting to say the least), but I was pretty determined. After a day of moving the things that were in front of and on top of the boxes (it turned out he’d put boards on top of them and made them a table to hold a tv and other assorted detritus), we managed to unearth a rather neat little time capsule spanning my comic book collecting years of 1981-1995.

022410_comicsOver the years, I’ve probably taken most of the trade paperbacks that I owned back to the states with me (the basics that most people own, like Watchmen, Arkham Asylum, the Dark Knight Returns, Ronin, etc), but there weren’t many, because I used to dismiss such an easy solution to collecting; I was a bit of an extremist moron about my collecting.) I really wasn’t sure what was left, and since that 15 year span encompasses 4 years spent living in Holland and Germany (when I bought almost no comic books), I had no idea what goodies I’d have. It turns out there was more to it than I’d suspected.

022410_xmen131aFirst of all, there were the oversized, black and white British reprints of the Uncanny X-Men, which are the first comic books that I actually collected (rather than reading and chucking them out, which was what I used to do.) These were the first books that really got me hooked. I read and reread them. I really thought I’d want to bring them back with me, just to show my friends how bloody perfect and beautiful Terry Austin’s inking made John Byrne’s drawings… Without color, slightly larger than usual, the comics really sing. It’s an entirely different animal than the color versions, as I was to discover when they began reprinting them in the Classic X-Men. Looking through them, I remembered my disappointment in the color version, so insipid compared to the intensity and sweep of Byrne and Austin in tandem. No offence to the colorist intended, he did a fine job, it’s just that without color, the graphic nature and rhythm of the drawings popped a lot more. In the end, I elected not to bring them back simply because pretty much everyone has seen those comicbooks already and without bringing back the color versions to compare them to, it seemed a little pointless. Besides, out of all of my comic books, these are the ones that I’ve read most often, so there’s not point in taking them back to the U.S. when there are so many comics that still need to be read.

022410_namorAfter those marvelous Uncanny X-Men, I was still deeply hooked on Byrne, and followed him to the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, Namor, Superman, Action Comics, Next Men, and even managed to track down Omac when I was living in Germany. Now I could hardly take that run of X-Men home and not all of those others too. In many ways, it’s all one story since nothing exists out of context and I couldn’t see separating that body of work.

My second great love (and more enduring love) would have to be Sienkiewicz and Claremont’s insanely beautiful New Mutants. Sad to admit it, but those comics are probably to blame for the slew of horribly over-the-top essays I wrote at the time about subterranean monsters with serious needs to wax lyrical about their damn feelings. I feel bad for my English Literature teachers. Of course those lovely looking comic books don’t need to be schlepped back to the U.S. because I’m diligently in the process of collecting them in the current trade paperbacks (a must buy, in my opinion, so get on that people!)

I suppose it’s all around the same time, and so it makes sense that I’d have a massive run of George Perez’ reinvention of Wonder Woman. I was surprised at the sheer volume of the collection, since I don’t remember a thing about it, but it explains why, despite hardly ever reading it now, I’m still a huge Wonder Woman fan. Of course I’d love to sit down and reread those comic books someday, but I didn’t want to bring them home without the preceding Teen Titans books by Perez, which I’d loved so much. So I left them all together for another time.

022410_detectiveDespite my infatuation with Batman, I only had three of the six great issues of Detective Comics by Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, and Paul Neary (#569-#575). I’d thought there would be more, since I have so very many happy memories of that run, but now that I think about it, this was back before I’d discovered specialist comic book shops, and so I was limited to being able to buy whatever was in the local newsagent that week. This discovery has made me desperately want to scour the back issue bins at my next convention for the full run (watch out ECCC.) Sadly, the really huge pile of Davis’ Excalibur that I discovered in my collection didn’t even slightly interest me. It’s a shame because (as with Alpha Flight) I was incredibly excited when it started, but over time it simply hasn’t retained any interest for me.

022410_jliThe series I more actively want to reread, (but again, I’m already buying it in hardcover reprints, and I haven’t even had time to read the first two of those yet) is the Justice League International run by Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire. I loved those when they were coming out, not only because the art and writing was fantastic, but because of the way the team interacted together. It was clearly a team with a lot of friction, but not drama-filled, erupting, confrontational friction like the X-Men. This was a lot more like my own everyday teenage life, filled with people who approached problems really differently, and had to deal with the inevitable disagreements that ensued. At the end of the day, I think this is why I still retain such a soft spot for the Martian Manhunter; He was always the one who bridged the gap between a deathly serious Batman, a ridiculous Booster Gold, an incredibly arrogant Guy Gardner, and all the other exasperated team mates.

022410_ironmanLooking through the odd, single-issues of superhero comicbooks that I’d picked up over the years, I found that I could remember a lot of the covers far better than I remember the interiors. This is probably because the covers are about 90% of what made me buy the comic books back then. So when I caught site of a single issue of Iron Man, with a Barry Windsor-Smith drawing of our hero, hanging unconscious from the cover (#232), I knew exactly why I bought it. Though when I opened it, I was surprised to find a story all about Stark’s inner journey, tortured by his own hallucinations. A far cry from the current Invincible Iron Man storyline, in which Stark is similarly shown to be traveling through his own internal psyche, but without the rich color palette and wildly energetic artwork of Windsor-Smith to convey the urgency and fear of this journey. Despite all of the advances in printing techniques and quality nowadays, to my mind this nearly 20 year old issue of Iron Man conveyed more in a single issue than what has currently taken 3-5 issues. I’m not sure why this is, and perhaps it’s just a case of my own visual taste being more in alignment with Windsor-Smith in this instance, but I’d like to see a little more of this kind of urgency applied to current comic books. Ironically, even now my purchase is predominantly motivated by the cover, but this time not the art, but the design. While I was already enjoying Invincible Iron Man, it was Rian Hughes streamlined new take on the design of the cover that has kept me going through this coma-induced/ing storyline of a vegetable’s inner monologue.

At this point, my old comic book collection took a dramatic turn out of the realm of my beloved superheroes, and into the arena of the strange and unknown… More about that next week, when I finish delving into the comic book collection of my childhood.

27 Comments

I see an issue of “Deadline”… The magazine I always looked at but never bought (sadly)…

I’ve also been buying the JLI hardbacks, but they seem to have stopped at volume 4… and no sign at all of JLE…

I also bought THAT very issue of Iron Man… For same reason… What a cool cover! :-)

Is that also a copy of Red Rain at the back of the first pic?

As for the “Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, and Paul Neary” run – I recently found a couple of Batman Annuals (UK Hardcover reprints for you non-UK peeps) and they had a good chunk of that… So maybe you were looking in the wrong place? ;-)

Sienkiewicz’s and Claremonts New Mutants was an extreme favorite of mine also.

Outstanding! I’m in love.

I never understood the appeal of Sienkiewicz’s art. I really hated it at the time and I still don’t like it. I did love Claremont’s writing, though.

as a big fan of Sienkiewicz’s art, i can’t imagine someone with good comic book taste finding his art hate worthy. But different people have different tastes, and that’s kool.

i am unqualified to critique the art, so i’ll just say that i find it very powerful and filled with emotion. i really enjoyed the wholly different quality of Sienk’s art to every other artist in comics at the time.
DFTBA

Loved most of Claremont’s run on the X-men, New Mutants.
Followed Byrne throughout most of the ’80′s and to mid ’90′s (missing Next Men dearly).
Enjoyed Sienkiewicz’s art on the New Mutants, Moon Knight, Straytoasters, Elektra: Assassin, Big Numbers.
Got a kick out of Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire’s JLI series.
Enjoyed Barr and Davis’ Batman and the Outsiders run (as well as Aparo’s).
Followed Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey run right from Epic Illustrated to end of Dreadstar (by PAD).
Loved Wolfman and Perez’s run on the New Teen Titans.

I just picked up that issue of Barr and Davis’s ‘Tec and another in a $1 back issue sale. They live up to their rep. Surprised Davis’s Excalibur leaves you cold now; I really enjoyed it when I read a good chunk of it a few years ago. Of course, I’m not sure how I’d take to them now.

I’m currently reading JLI in single issues. Such a great read!
Oh Barry Windsor-Smith, you are so awesome. I remember the first time I saw his art. It was in the at-the-time Marvel Conan series. Great stuff!
Looking forward to the next “Committed”.

For years, that was the only Iron Man comic i owned. I’ve never had much affinity for the character, but I’ll buy anything by BWS.

The Davis Excaliburs are among my favorit comics. They still hold up, unlike most of the comics I bought in the early ’90s. I own the Scarecrow & Catwoman Joker Barr/ Davis Detectives, and they were great fun. The same team did a few issues of Batman & the Outsiders/ Adventures of the Outsiders, if you’re interested in tracking down some cheap Alan Davis back issues. I have some issues in the early 30s.

Bill Sienkevicz is my favorite comic book artist. His use of blacks, frenzied surfaces, sense of energy, sheer draftmanship, innovative layouts, ability to convey emotional states, gonzo character designs/ reimaginings, and ability to go beyond anything done with the medium before he came along are just some of the reasons I love his art.

We used to laugh at Sienkiewicz’s art during the mid-80s. We called him “smoke-man” because everything was all swirly and indistinct (not like his much cooler Neal Adams-ish Moon Knight run). By the time he got to New Mutants, we had no idea what he was trying to accomplish. His Daredevil GN and Elekra: Assassin were on crack.

It’s funny, I love Sienkiewicz, with the exception of New Mutants (which I think can be blamed on the crappy printing of the time).
Stray Toaster and (what there was of) Big Numbers, though, were phenomenal.
Never read his Elektra: Assassin because I was already sick of the then-new-school “kewl” Millerized Daredevil stuff of that era.

ECCC as in Emerald City? Please do stop by and say hello. The students and I will be in Artist’s Alley, M-19 and M-20.

I unfortunately agree with Sonia that Stark Disassembled has been an overly drawn-out epilogue. On the flip-side, it is an epilogue to what has become my favorite Iron Man story ever, a story which pushed the character further than anything else. Whereas Iron Man 232 was a great individual story, but came off of the vastly overrated Armor Wars ( where, for facing the unimaginable crisis of having his armor tech stolen, Tony really didn’t face any challenges that he couldn’t overcome with money, tech, and good press ).

I’ve just completed a run of Rampage which contains the b&w X-Men reprints mentioned above. There’s also Marvel Two In One, Iron Fist and (in earlier issues) Rampaging Hulk and Gerber Defenders. Great stuff.

I’m one issue shy of the companion title – Marvel Superheroes – which reprints Avengers (c160-c200).

Both comics look superb in oversized black & white.

The Barr/Davis Detetctive Comics is one of, if not the, most under-rated Batmn runs. The Scarecrow issue, and the issue retelling Batman’s origin and really digging into Lelis Thompkins as a character, “My Beginning… And My Probable End…” are some of my favorite Batman stories, and the issue where Batman meets Sherlock Holmes never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I’m always amazed how quickly the issues pile up and before you know it you have boxes and boxes of the stuff. I’ve taken to selling anything I know I have no interest in re-reading and only keep the stuff that is really special to me. It feels quite liberating when you get rid of stuff that you may have enjoyed at one point in your life but is now just taking up space.

Saying that, I still have 12 boxes of back issues I can’t seem to let go of. I try and be ruthless in getting rid of books but it turns out there are way too many I just love too much.

Good call on the Iron Man issue. I’ve liked the current run on Iron Man but that Stark Disassembled arc just doesn’t do it for me.

Tales of the Boojum

February 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I never understood the appeal of Sienkiewicz’s art. I really hated it at the time and I still don’t like it.

All these years, I thought I was the only one. (sob!) Ultimately, I kind of made my peace with Sienkiewicz, but I never liked his style on New Mutants (maybe it would have fit better with a character who fights in alleys a lot). In my mind, New Mutants was supposed to be the lighter side of the X-Men world where having super powers was still scary, but also fun. Of course, this was all years before half the team was killed off, replaced with badly drawn characters from somebody’s seventh grade binder, and renamed X-Force. But I digress…

Maybe I should clarify that I did like Sienkiewicz’s art on the X-Men Dracula story, and the one Moon Night issue I’ve read (#1) is all right, but I hated and still hate his New Mutants stuff, as well as the occasional covers he did for other books that I’ve seen.

I love Sienkiewicz because he takes risks in his artwork. Its not the same DC house style or Marvel house style that has dreadfully dominated both the big two forever.

You have great taste, Sonia.

Great stuff. 1 question… what is that in the “storage” pic – a yak head? Sweet JEEBUS! Get your dad to an ikea or something! He needs some storage help! :p

I’d highly rate Sienkiewicz’s run on DC’s “The Shadow” that spun out of Howard Chaykin’s “reimagining” of the title in I want to say 1986. A Vertigo version of The Shadow in everything but name.

Sonia, we probably grew up reading the exactly same thing.

Awesome column, Sonia! I loved reading about the comics you left behind and how you felt upon rediscovering them! Looking forward to Part II!

I too really love those Barr / Davis Detective issues. In fact, I agree with everything you have here including Excaliber not doing it for me anymore (but I really liked it at the time).

[...] Continuing the epic forage through my childhood comic book collection, moving into the realm of comix. Once I’d browsed and reminisced through my superhero comics to my hearts content, I moved on to the darker, more mysterious contents of the remaining boxes. Here I had apparently separated out my less heroic comics into their own looming piles. I can only imagine that I somehow sensed that someday in the future I’d want to reread these books for very different reasons than their superheroic counterparts. Looking through these comics was a far cry from the previous batch, when I could reminisce about my childhood dreams of discovering a latent super power (yes, I’ll admit it, I was gutted when puberty did not bring with it the terrible power to move things with my mind, fly, or just shoot crazy lasers out of my eyes.) Here was the comic book collection of a self-imagined tragic figure who was, (like most young art students), completely serious about being serious. [...]

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