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CSBG Archive

Sunday Brunch: 4/18/10

Looking for TV reviews? We all know you’re not, but if you were, you wouldn’t find them in this post! I haven’t seen them yet, because I am writing to you from beyond the grave before the weekend has yet commenced. They will probably show up later in a Midnight Snack. What you will find in this post, however, is the usual conglomeration of links to insightful and/or snarky articles and cool bits of art from the world of comics. I won’t steer you wrong, internet!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What single comic book, when unearthed by archaeologists in the far future, will best represent the comics medium as a whole, and the society/civilization from whence it came? Show your work. (My answer at the bottom of the post!)

BOOZE, BROADS, AND BULLETS DEPT: It was Frank Miller Week across the blogosphere, apparently, thanks to the 4thletter, our own Chad Nevett, witty Sean Witzke, madman Tim Callahan, and The Hurting’s Tim O’Neil. Here’s Tim O’Neil on the Tao of Miller:

After decades of reading Miller, I do not believe that the man possesses so much as a single grain of insight into human character, more than a thumbnail understanding of politics or society, or even a base theoretical comprehension of women and their interior lives. His worldview is customarily infantile, occasionally rising to the level of juvenile. His preoccupations are, therefore, those of infants and juveniles: I am tempted to say violence, sex and masculinity, but those neutral words imply far too much in the way of gravitas in reference to what are mostly merely stories about guns, babes and tough guys. But his limitations – which are many – in themselves say little as to why exactly his work has struck such a long and sustained tone in popular culture. It’s easy to dismiss a polarizing figure like Miller, harder to grapple with why exactly his work remains perennially popular and enduringly influential.

It’s good readin’!

ITEM! Marvel has switched book distributors, and The Rack has the scoop on the fallout at Diamond.

ITEM! I love when Colin Smith thinks too much about his comics. This week, he takes a look at Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, stewardship of comic book creations, and the constant attempts to revamp or revitalize the properties, and cries, “Leave it alone!” Plus: his thrilling new direction for Robin Hood!

The problem is that DC editorial over the longterm has rarely proven itself capable of taking a responsible, long-term view of any property they can exploit. (Anyone who saw the two-page spread of a dozen returned-from-the-dead characters in the recent “Blackest Night” # 8 must surely have been less relieved and touched by their return and more appalled at how any publishing house could have killed off so many wonderful, and potentially lucrative,. characters in the first place!) But short-termism and golly-gee-wow-isms rule in comic book editorial land. And where we might look for at best some stewardship, and at worst some basic knowledge about how stories work and how characters function, we get an endless headlong rush towards attention-getting and sales-figures feedback. (It never goes well.)

CHAD NEVETT VS. THE WORLD: Kyle DuVall writes a piece at the Newsarama Blog on comics, auteur theory, and how mixing the two at the Big Two leads to things getting broken, and widows lamenting:

Civil War was Mark Millar’s chance to pen an epic story about superheroes at war with themselves and their government , but it not only wreaked havoc with the Marvel Universe during its run, it also polluted the very identity of several longstanding characters to such an extent, writers ever since have been scrabbling to patch up the damage.

Chad Nevett responds, and takes no prisoners:

Fuck the characters, give me stories from auteurs. Why would I (why would anyone) want to read some middling bullshit that’s too afraid to step out of line that I can’t remember what the story was about three minutes after putting the book down? I wouldn’t. I don’t. The only problem with auteurs in corporate-owned mainstream comics is that there aren’t enough of them. Obviously, you’re not going to like everything, but I’d rather see stuff like what Geoff Johns write on the shelves than toothless, bland comics. At least Johns has his vision and he sticks to it. It alienates readers like me, but I can respect it.

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I don’t quite agree with either of them. I dislike continuity and the status quo as much as any blogger, but there are certain fundamental tenets that should be maintained in terms of characters and core concepts. You can still tell brilliant auteuriffic stories around those, however (New X-Men). Geoff Johns is more like a Bizarro Auteur, though; his “everything new is old again” approach makes the boulder the hero, not Sisyphus.

RANDOM THOUGHT! Every time I flip through the channels, MTV has “16 and Pregnant” on. I’m pretty sure that’s the entirety of their programming.

AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEK: You know that old saw. Cop meets Lincoln, Cop likes Lincoln, Cop uses magical unicorn horn to turn Lincoln into wife material… what? Yes.

Axe Cop, Babe Lincoln

It only gets better from there!

THE HORROR! Chris Eckert does his civil duty in reminding everyone just how terrible Identity Crisis was:

“Oh no! It appears that my untrained walking on Sue’s brain has caused her to die! Who knew? Good thing I had the foresight to bring along a flamethrower, “just in case” I end up murdering her. I can burn her corpse! I don’t know why I think that will mask my footprints on her brain, and it’s also completely illogical that none of my actions were detected or recorded by the most advanced security system in the universe. But hey, I guess today is my lucky day because the flamethrower I USED FOR NO REASON implicates Sue’s old rapist in the murder, even though I didn’t know about the rape! Oh, and my husband was half an hour late, leaving me plenty of time to wipe the blood and soot off my clothes. Good thing I’ve got such a solid gameface, he doesn’t suspect a thing!”

It gets better from there. Better? I mean worse. Seriously, worst comic book ever printed. (DC has also published the best comic ever printed, so it all averages out.)

ITEM! I suppose I would have had a better chance at winning the Afrodisiac art contest if I’d actually entered. Oh well. The winners have been announced! But really, everybody’s a winner. A lot of great stuff there.

KICKING KICK-ASS’S ASS: The A.V. Club interviews Mark Millar, and it’s not as self-congratulatory as you would think! Meanwhile, Roger Ebert eviscerates the Kick-Ass movie, giving it one star (in comparison, the crappy new Death at a Funeral remake gets three-and-a-half) and calling it “morally reprehensible”:

Big Daddy and Mindy never have a chat about, you know, stuff like how when you kill people, they are really dead. This movie regards human beings like video-game targets. Kill one, and you score. They’re dead, you win. When kids in the age range of this movie’s home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.

ITEM! CBR’s Augie De Blieck versus “the tracers.” No holds barred!

Those who do this kind of work best are those that use the reference as just that: a reference. It’s the bones of something that they then can abstract out to create a comic book. They’re not trying to make their drawings look “real.” They just want to make sure the anatomy makes sense at a given camera angle or during a specific movement. They’re checking for lighting, so their black areas make sense. But when the reference is taken too literally and becomes the art, I have a problem. Characters become stiff. Artists, it seems, begin to doubt their own ability to draw and come to rely on the pictures to get through the pages. In an effort to have more appealing art, they use more appealing photo swipes, right down to “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition” pages. It’s a nasty downward spiral from there.

OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: Over at ComicsAlliance, Chris Sims digs into the recently re-unearthed Jack Kirby designs for Ruby-Spears, and picks out the Ten Designs That Need to Happen. I’m quite partial to “Skanner,” myself, because “OMAC meets Magnum, PI” is the greatest high concept of all time. Sims also gives us Five Unlikely Marvel Noir pitches, but I have to say, I would definitely buy a few of these. Especially SuperPro. Also also: Young MODOK Romance. And then Sims says everything about Brightest Day that needs saying. The hits just keep on comin':

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Because that’s what Brightest Day is: Pages upon pages of alarmingly stupid navel-gazing that underscores the fact that right now, with the exception of a few islands of good work, the DC Universe is experiencing a creative bankruptcy the likes of which the company has never seen.

ITEM! Rich Johnston demands we acknowledge Steve Bissette’s new– yes, new!– and upcoming Tales of the Uncanny graphic novel. Yep, it’s a sequel to all the Bissette bits from 1963 (written by Alan Moore), and in lieu of being able to reprint that series (because of Alan Moore), Steve’s just gone ahead and made new stuff. I’m totally going to buy the hell out of it:

Tales of the Uncanny

ITEM! This week’s theme at Comic Twart? Jonny Quest! Here’s Chris Samnee’s:


ITEM! The Action Age, the world’s most bombastic webcomics collective, has launched Danger Ace #1. Why should you read it? Well, it’s free, and it’s got Nazis teaming up with ant-people. Also, the art’s pretty damn great. So, yeah. Read it.

Danger Ace 1

REMAKE/REMODEL: Ellis bring it back to basics this week, challenging his cronies to redesign Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle! Some good entries this week, though sadly, no Tiger Beat parody as of this writing. Here’s David Bednarsky and Andrew Nixon’s entries comin’ atcha:

Tiger Hart 1Tiger Hart 2

ANSWER(S) OF THE WEEK: I’m torn between two particular comics; you might think them obvious, coming from me. The first is New Gods #6 by Jack Kirby, brazenly titled “The Glory Boat!” It serves as the epitome of Kirby’s work in the field, a perfect storm of his favorite themes. It features humans caught in a clash between gods; it advocates change over destruction; it exhibits political undertones, acting as a nutshell example of the horrors of war; it includes and transcends man’s mythologies; and it’s a kickass, gorgeously drawn action book.

My second choice is Watchmen #11, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I expect many of you to cheat and say all of Watchmen, but I’m going with this particular, climactic issue. It features and deconstructs the superhero, mankind’s latest mythological creation; frought with political fears, it portends humanity’s eventual self-assured destruction.

What do you think?


For the archaeology bit, and it may be obvious, but:

Kingdom Come #3. Not only do you have a set of books that deal with faith elements and the seeing of heroes as some sort of gods, but you also have a running sub-commentary of what to do with the corruption that is in the world and how even the best intentions can have tragic consequences. It’s one book that complicates the issues of superheroes to something that is more than “punch first, ask questions later”, and it shows disagreements between divergent groups on how to solve an agreed upon problem (including dumping the problem on someone else in the Apokolips and Atlantis scenes).

And, well, it features the most iconic hero making those decisions, which adds to the point, I think.

I want Kick-Ass to be good only in case the director ends up making the Sandman TV show. But I also want it to be terrible, because Kick-Ass doesn’t deserve a good movie.

“Whence” means “from where,” so saying “from whence” is redundant. Just sayin’. People pick on my for my misuse of British slang, so I can pick on you for your misuse of archaic language!!!!

I have to admit, that Axe Cop snippet made me chuckle.

I actually think that Dazzler Noir pitch is pretty darn good. Hey! I could write it!

Misspelled my own screen name…sigh.

Switch to KC #2?

Wanted to add that while all of the books in Kingdom Come deal with the issues I highlighted, issue 3 stood out to me initially because that’s where a lot of the heated debate comes in between Supes and Wonder Woman (as well as the disastrous results of the prison), but a lot of the philosophical perspectives on heroing and what to do about the problem comes in book 2 (including the Apokolips/Atlantis scenes and Magogs capture). After a little flip through, it might fit the bill better, though the results of the decisions are clearly books 3 and 4.

For this, KC #2 may be a better fit overall.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

The whole “auteur theory of comics” fashionable among some fans is kind of bullshit anyway, since a writer, unlike a director, has very limited control over the critical visual elements of the medium. Yes, guys like Morrison, Ellis, and Millar write very detailed scripts, but the penciller can still fudge, demonstrate lethal incompetence, or even go off the script entirely in some situations. The film analogy is telling: a director can rewrite the script; the screenwriter can’t reshoot the scene.

More to the point, though, it’s also something of a false dilemma, as Bill points out. The best writers don’t make readers feel like they’re choosing between corporate journeyman work or high-flying auteur creations, but hit an elusive sweet spot in the middle.

Look, if you want to do your own thing entirely, the Big Two aren’t the place for it. Really, why does a budding writer want to write the X-Men or Batman or Civil War? If the answer is money, then, well, you’re already outside “art for art’s sake.” Ask Laurence Olivier’s ghost — or just ask Warren Ellis — about the politics and realities of paid creative work done for “Money, dear boy.”

Mark Millar wasn’t doing some sort of genius auteur work on Civil War; he was playing with toys long since made by Stan and Jack and Steve and Don and Steve and Steve and Tony and Chris. Big crossovers in general have this problem. That sort of work aspires to the level of clever pastiche; it can’t really do much more than that. Occasionally a Miller or a Moore can genuinely make the old toys new…but that’s rare, and it’s not merely the result of letting every fool with a word processor follow their dubious “vision.” The artistic purism some arguments seem to rest on requires one to ignore the collaborative nature of comics, one in which no figure has anywhere near the sort of concentrated creative control a film director does.

If we’re assuming a world where the history of the US has been reduced to a chapter or two is a history textbook for most of the population, then the comic book that will be used to represent us will be a similar simplification.

Based off of that viewpoint, I’m going to suggest Superman vol. 2, 75, and the Death of Superman. Other issues that come from that line of thought are Action Comics 1, Detective 27, Batman 404, and Batman 497.

If we’re going for something more complex, Maus 1 strikes me as a good candidate.

(And in the process of writing this up, I feel like I’ve misread the question: you’re asking what comic would best represent the medium, not what comic will future anthropologists believes best represent the medium. I think the latter might be a more interesting question.)

you’re asking what comic would best represent the medium, not what comic will future anthropologists believes best represent the medium.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s basically the same thing. Which single comic holds the most cultural significance and shows us what’s best in comics?

The A.V. Club interviews Mark Millar, and it’s not as self-congratulatory as you would think! Meanwhile, Roger Ebert eviscerates the Kick-Ass movie, giving it one star (in comparison, the crappy new Death at a Funeral remake gets three-and-a-half) and calling it “morally reprehensible”:

You seem convinced Death at a Funeral is crappy, or at least crappier than Kick Ass. Have you seen both?

@Omar: But not all writers just want to pay the bills with their Big 2 work so they can make thier creator owned magnum opus. Gaiman’s Sandman, Moore’s Swamp Thing, Claremont’s X-Men, Brubaker’s Captain America, and Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man are all long-term commitments that have meant a lot to them. I agree that “auteur theory” isn’t the right words to use, but I hate semantic debates. Someone’s big story might be designed for these characters or universes. If they made it as a creator owned work it would still be a good story, but it would probably end up crowded with painful analogs for the characters they wanted to use originally.

I think the best example of the kind of work Nevett is talking about is Robinson’s Starman. He created a few wonderful new chracters, but most of them were related to existing characters and there were tons of existing characters used. It gained a lot of depth and context from being in the DC universe and using DC characters, but he was allowed to work it how he wanted it.

Sorry, Anonymous was me.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

@Dalarsco: I was trying to cover that in my “the best writers” ‘graph, but I gave it too little space in my comment.

The comic that would best represent the medium and the society whence it came? Groo, obviously. I’m not sure which particular issue.

On the whole auteur issue– If I’m not misunderstanding the point of the debate (I’m basing this answer on the quotes used in the column), I think the auteur trend is a horrible thing. Long-running series and a shared universe are supposed to make up a single tale, and a single world. When some author tries to re-invent the whole thing, to give his version of what the super-hero story should be, it just messes up the greater story. This doesn’t mean, of course, that each writer can’t have his own style, or accentuate different aspects of the mythos (annoying word, I know–sorry). But it does mean that the writer must always take into account that his story is just one chapter, one that shouldn’t disrespect what has gone before, or throw into confusion what may come later.
If a writer wants to give a wholly different spin to the characters or setting, he can simply create his own new title, and use the pre-existing characters as a model to base his own creations on. (Isn’t this what Alan Moore did in Watchmen? He got to tell his own story without ruining the old Charlton characters for anybody else.)

Wow. Hajji won’t even break his meditation while falling! And why isn’t anyone trying to save him? Jonny worries about his dog, who is holding on without any assistance, and lets his foster brother (or whatever he is) fall to his death?

Thanks for the reminder about how shitty Identity Crisis was. That thing gets no pass for all of the stupidity that it induces throughout the entire 7 issues run. It makes no sense on any level at numerous times, and is so overwrought with poor narration and “doe eyes” artwork that it’s not even bearable for me to read.

You seem convinced Death at a Funeral is crappy, or at least crappier than Kick Ass. Have you seen both?

Not this silly argument again. I have the original (from, what, three whole years ago?) Death in a Funeral sitting on my Netflix queue, and despite the inclusion of Peter Dinklage in the newer one, I have no intention of bothering with what looks to be a dumbed down copy of the original (and didn’t the original have a theatrical run in the States? I swear it did). At least Kick-Ass looks fun; I know, I was surprised, too.

The auteur theory doesn’t hold up if you are talking about the Big 2 today. Almost everything seems locked in to the long-term plan. Avengers, Daredevil, & X-Men used to be worlds apart, but they’ve all tied into Dark Reign, an overarcing storyline. DC seems to be under tight control, with a lot of “put tab A into slot B” storytelling.

If one can replace the word auteur (which, like Omar, I don’t like in such a collaborative medium) with the idea of a writer or artist exerting greater-than-usual control of a property and a recognizable voice or singular style emerging, then several have come from Big 2 shared universe comics. From Gerber to Gaiman, writers have been able to use fringe characters to craft individual visions and unique stories. Even as late as the early 2000s, when Milligan & Allred and Morrison had their way with Marvel comics and Ellis took Wildstorm characters to another level, writers were able to craft personal stories, often featuring their own characters, in a shared universe. I don’t know if that’s possible these days, but we’ll see.

Still, the “auteur” comics were by far the exception and not the rule in Big 2 comics. I’m just glad there are so many venues for the writers and artists working in the medium to produce independent comics. If only they sold better!

What single comic book, when unearthed by archaeologists in the far future, will best represent the comics medium as a whole, and the society/civilization from whence it came? Show your work. (My answer at the bottom of the post!)

I don’t know about single comic, but there would be something wonderfully synergistic about a future archeologist unearthing Planetary.

Geoff Johns is more like a Bizarro Auteur, though; his “everything new is old again” approach makes the boulder the hero, not Sisyphus.

I would like to highlight how fantastic this sentence is. But markers don’t work on computer monitors.

Every time I flip through the channels, MTV has “16 and Pregnant” on. I’m pretty sure that’s the entirety of their programming.

Jersey Shore is between seasons.

Roger Ebert eviscerates the Kick-Ass movie, giving it one star (in comparison, the crappy new Death at a Funeral remake gets three-and-a-half) and calling it “morally reprehensible”…

Whereas I merely found it entirely hollow. It’s 100% style in a void of substance. (Incidentally, I went to see it while my sister and a friend of hers watched the crappy new Death at a Funeral remake.)

The Action Age, the world’s most bombastic webcomics collective, has launched Danger Ace #1. Why should you read it? Well, it’s free, and it’s got Nazis teaming up with ant-people. Also, the art’s pretty damn great. So, yeah. Read it.

I cannot keep up with The Action Age’s output. They’re unleashing too much radness too fast for me to handle. I guess I’m waiting for the trade.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Kick-Ass the movie was brutally funny and violent at the same time.
Like 300, much of the comic was in the film and creative liberties helped expand the film.

I really do hope that Millar’s Nemesis gets the film treatment, especially if the series turns out well.

Here is my question for advocates of the “sandbox theory”: what was the comic series that hooked you in? By that I do not necessarily mean your first comic, but which one created the habit?

Was it the old-school Marvel digests? Stan Lee was the auteur of the early Marvel Universe as the writer and editor of those first stories. After all, he could (and did) direct both Kirby and Ditko to re-draw things.

Was it Uncanny X-Men? Chris Claremont created a wall around that title for a good part of his long run. That strikes me as auteur behavior.

Was it the work of Alan Moore on Swamp Thing? After all, he re-wrote the premise of the series in his second issue.

Was it Frank Miller’s Daredevil? Did that title ever cross-over into another title during his run?

What about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, or James Robinson’s Starman, or Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol?

I would wager that few (if any) of the titles that drew people in to comics as adults were “sandbox” titles written and/or drawn by solid professionals trying to make a buck.

John Byrne
Roger Stern
Marv Wolfman
Walt Simonson
Steve Englehart
Gerry Conway
Roy Thomas

You can’t tell me that this group of men did not create a ton of fans from 1970-1990, and all of them spent a great deal of time (I’d say roughly 95% of their total work in that time span) working “in the sandbox.”

I think the quality of the comic draws people in, not how much or how little it mixes in with “the sandbox.”

@ Brian Cronin:

Byrne did his fair share of apple cart upsetting in his DC work, but I take your point.

The series that most drew me in to Marvel was Amazing Spider-Man, written at the time by Gerry Conway, and then Len Wein. When I first began, I also read a lot of Superman, and Gold Key Disney titles, but I probably read more Harvey and Archie than anything else. Over the next few years I gradually lost interest in all of those except the Spider-Man (and to a lesser degree the Archie stuff), and I began reading more and more Marvel. And it was the connectedness (Is that a real word? ‘Connectivity’ doesn’t seem right in this context.) of Marvel that really hooked me. Events that happened in one title would so often have an impact on other series. It was one big whole and I liked that. (But unlike the mega-events of today, you didn’t have to read all of the other series to understand what was going on, and series didn’t have an entirely new status-quo forced upon them once or twice each year. Which was essential for enjoying series you only read occasionally.)

Well, probably the easiest comics to find for archeologists would be something like Jim Lee’s X-Men 1, or Liefeld’s XForce 1, or McFarlane’s Spider-Man 1. What that would say about comics and our culture, who knows. And those books argue against the auteur theory, don’t they? ;)

Axe Cop is insane in a good way.

That bit about Identity Crisis illustrates exactly what made me go WTF? about the whole premise of the series. The other sour taste in my mouth about that (and Meltzer’s first JLA trade, The Tornado’s Path) isn’t even how bad the story is, or how cheap the melodrama is. It’s Meltzer and co. going on in the back matter about how great the series was and how great they are for having done it. The self-congratulatory nature of the “notes” in the back of IC and JLA TP made me roll my eyes. Plus, Judd Winick got Meltzer into comics, so I can side with the Winick haters for that.

For good, fun comics with Ralph and Sue, check out the 1992 Elongated Man mini. Gerard Jones, Mike Parobeck, Ty Templeton. You know, I’m gonna have to dig that out and reread it. It’s just so good.

And you made me go hell yeah with that Tales of the Uncanny book. New Bissette is a coup, and new 1963 stuff rocks too. When does that come out? And why won’t Alan Moore allow that to be reprinted? And what about the annual that was supposed to wrap up 1963? Now I have to dig that out too. Damn you CSBG!

The Ultimates would likely be the best barometer that would aid future archaeologists in determining the flavor of these times. These series were big, dumb, overly loud, very flashy with little substance and confused ultra-violence and profanity for ‘maturity’.

It’s Meltzer and co. going on in the back matter about how great the series was and how great they are for having done it. The self-congratulatory nature of the “notes” in the back of IC and JLA TP made me roll my eyes

I agree, but even worse is the disingenuous “aw shucks” faux humility the undeserved self-congratulatory narcissism is delivered with. He really is a horrible writer.

All-Star Superman #10. The best single issue about the most recognizable superhero in the world. A comic that would tell future generations everything they needed to know about the idea of Superman, and therefore of the superhero in general, and even helps explain why we as a culture NEEDED to create him. Plus its as moving and spectacular a story as 22 comic pages could ever hope to provide.

Travis: That Elongated Man mini-series is one of Bill’s ALL-TIME favorite comics. Good choice! And yes, I know far too much about my fellow bloggers.

I somehow own three copies of Elongated Man #4. Because I’m awesome.

” It’s Meltzer and co. going on in the back matter about how great the series was and how great they are for having done it. The self-congratulatory nature of the “notes” in the back of IC and JLA TP made me roll my eyes. ”

Regardless of the quality ( or lack thereof ) of Meltzer’s stories, what’s wrong with him adding notes about his process in the back? I enjoyed those notes ( more than the actual stories in the collections, for that matter ), because they were an interesting glimpse into the way the story was made.

Would Meltzer be able to do such a thing without being labelled narcisstic? Either he’s egotistical by being self-congratulatory, or he’s displaying faux-humility– neither of which is an actual criticism of him as a writer.

Superhero comics are about inventing godlike beings to confront the world’s evil for us. Therefore, I think a retelling of the origin of Batman or Captain America would work best. These comics embody the basic myth: that superheroes arise in a time of need to help us.

I give a slight preference to Cap’s origin since it includes the common Marvel theme of science and technology (i.e., progress) as part of the solution. Take a brave American patriot…bolster him with our technical know-how…create a remedy for the world’s problems…doesn’t that represent America’s view of itself today?

Therefore, I’ll suggest CAPTAIN AMERICA #255 by Stern and Byrne. It combines the skilled proficiency of modern comics with the classic themes of the American mythos. Other comics may fit this description also, but this is the one that comes to mind.

As for a Superman story…no way. In general, a Superman comic is like a “Star Trek” episode. From Smallville’s bucolic farms to Metropolis’s white towers, it’s our idealized version of how the world SHOULD be. As you’ll see in a typical Superman-Batman teamup, the comics themselves suggest this. Metropolis represents our bright side and Gotham City our dark side.

Which is fine, but the question asked which comic represents the actual society it came from, not the aspirations of that society. A Marvel comic is more likely to fit that bill. I’ve picked the origin of Cap over Spidey or the FF because, again, Cap was created to fight evil. That’s American superhero comics in a nutshell.

My pick is Omega the Unknown (first series) #2. Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes (writers) and Jim Mooney (artist) tell the story of James-Michael Starling’s introduction to Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a story of a young man learning the ways of the world around him, a world that isn’t very nice. School is no haven, as Starling gets smacked by a teacher (inadvertenly), bored to tears, and hit by a bully. Home is a dump, surrounded by homeless people and cockroaches. Omega, the super-hero of the comic, doesn’t have it any better. He gets hurt by thugs, and has to deal with Electro and a rampaging Hulk.

Even in the midst of all that misery, there’s hope. James-Michael finds some friends to help navigate this strange new world. Omega is saved by an old second-hand store owner, who offers him a job. The world is cruel, but you can make it if you try.

Omega the Unknown 2 is as much about the real world (or as much of the real world as the Comics Code would allow) as it is about super-hero fantasy. It’s a comic with both grit and heart, and my choice for a comic reflective of both the industry that didn’t support it and the real world that ignored it.

My pick for Comics Archaeology:

The Green Team: Boy Millionaires; 1st Issue Special #2 (May 1975) ‘natch!


Hey, people actually read my comment! wow!

I knew there was love for Elongated Man, but I didn’t realize it was Bill. I thought you loved it too, Burgas. Didn’t you have a panel from it in your one contest? I dug EM out so I could give it another read.

So dammit, now I have to reread Identity Crisis to reassure myself that it really is that awful. Good thing a local library has it.

I do have to say that from what I remember, Meltzer’s GA Archer’s Quest story wasn’t horrible, maybe even decent, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it. So I’m not quite as anti-Meltzer as T is.

However, to respond to Nitz, I’m not against back matter in a comic, going through the process, etc. I dug Ellis’s notes in Fell, Burgas’s post about Casanova reminded me how interesting Fraction’s back matter was there, and I’m probably one of the few people around who have read almost all of the Cerebus back matter. So it’s not back matter per se that I dislike, it’s Meltzer’s back matter. IC sold a shitload of copies, but it’s not a good comic. Meltzer made it sound like it was the quality of the comic and not the marketing push that DC bombarded us with that sold those copies. I was going to go into more examples in my original post, but my browser shut off on me before I finished my post, so I’ll take that as a sign not to go on and on.

My point is that since the story is so lame, the “look at what a great job we did, we’re all so awesome” tone of the back matter is grating. In fact, I think I dislike IC and JLA Tornado’s Path more due to the back matter than the stories themselves. The stories are just middle of the road comics, the back matter acts like they are the next Watchmen or Dark Knight. Or even the original Crisis.

It’s too bad the story about Meltzer’s license to write being taken away was just an April Fools joke.

The other thing I don’t get is why certain famous fanboys love his stuff so much. By which I mean Joss Whedon. I love Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse (gotta get season 2, when’s it out?!!, and gotta get Serenity/Firefly), but man, I don’t get the love for IC. BTW, did anyone see the Dollhouse ep where (trying to avoid spoilers, and sorta forgetting character names) Sierra’s handler is dispatched to deal with Agent Ballard’s neighbor Melanie? When the handler attacks Melanie, the attack is reminiscent of the Sue Dibny rape scene in IC. Just wondering if it was staged that way as a nod to IC.

IC did lead to a great line in Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man’s last issue. Somehow, Billy Batson dies, (uh, I don’t have quite all of that series) and there’s a line about how when the villains attacked him, he got handed over to Dr Light, who it is implied rapes Batson “like it’s his power now or something”.

Damn, now I gotta dig out Plastic Man. You CSBG guys are killing me. Like I don’t have enough comics to read, you gotta remind me of more.

[…] Oh, and eventually CBR and TCJ […]

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