Wednesday, September 29, 2010


For those of you into comics, these past couple of days are for you. Read the post before this one and then make sure to read Mr. Fantastic’s response in the comments section. His comment is better than the blog post, with links to back up his points. Really, really well done.

Go read that then come back here.

One of my failings is, I don’t create enough of a sense of community by not replying enough to comments. I will work on improving that.

Mr. Fantastic,

1) Excellent points on Superman. I do have to disagree on the last part though. I like to read about stiff white bread characters. Superman and Captain America are my two favorite ongoing characters. Well, I haven’t read their comics in years because they have been shite, but when written well, they are my favorites.

2) I think Iron Man was an Alcoholic before Speedy became addicted to heroin, but I might be wrong on that. Your kung-fu is strong, so you’re probably right.

3) Marvelman aka Miracleman is one of my favorite characters thanks to Alan Moore who, much like he did with the Swamp Thing, expanded on a stupid idea, gave it depth and breath and life. I agree on the premise though – looking for the hidden gems. I would add Invincible, The Walking Dead, and pretty much anything Mark Millar has ever written for any company.

4) Peter David and Frank Miller, at one time, were great writers. Miller’s run on Daredevil and David’s run on Hulk were both long and stunning and changed the characters forever, evolving them. Their influence still affects how the characters are written today. I couldn’t believe when Jean DeWolf died and loved the way Bendis portrayed her in Ultimate Spiderman.

5) I don’t know anything about the MAX line, the only title I’ve ever heard from it was Punisher Max. I do enjoy the Ultimates line though, particularly Fantastic Four, Spider Man and The Ultimates (before Jeff Loeb ruined them. Man I hate that guys writing.)


  1. First, thank you for the compliment. That's a very kind thing to say and I appreciate it.

    1) RE: Cap's descent into shitville, where exactly do you place the start of his decline? I am not as familiar as I would like to be with the stories from 1964 to ~1980. Gruenwald's run in the 80s wasn't really anything cutting edge but certainly by the standards of Cap it was breaking new ground w/ the Streets of Poison, saga in which Cap was turned into a meth head against his will. But ultimately it was more of the same, i.e., war on drugs propaganda. I should mention I am a left libertarian and don't think any drug, even speed, should be vilified in the pages of a comic book. Drug abuse? Sure. Re-enforcing invasive protectionist policies and telling young people never to question abusive authority? God no.

    Before I begin bashing the series, I must take pains to give praise where due. A) I liked Gruenwald turning Ronald Reagan into an anthropomorphic snake in that otherwise ridiculous Viper storyline. B) I thought Cap's wannabe sidekick Demolition Man had potential (dude was basically a superpowered 'roid freak) but they really sanitized that whole Power Broker treatment a bit too much for my liking. C) Replacing Cap w/ Super Patriot/U.S. Agent was (at that time) somewhat novel. D) Lastly and most notably, I shower the late Gruenwald with praise for having Cap, the 6'3 blond haired, blue eyed Quasi-Aryan Ãœbermensch, banging the hot Jewess next door, Bernie. And then go on to hook up with the outrageously slutty Diamondback. Nice.

    But now that the perfunctory even handedness is out of the way, here is my $0.02 on when, where, and why the series—and ultimately character—went to shit. I never liked how the Red Skull was revealed to be masterminding everything for the past 3 years or so of continuity in issue 350 (which was still otherwise greatly enjoyable for the price ass whooping Cap layed on Walker). One of the things I really hated were the "supporting" characters like Nova, Vagabond, etc. They were not only useless, they had lame costumes and incredibly annoying personalities to boot. They had no reason for existing outside of the summer bi-monthly production schedule where you had a second creative team doing back up stories to fill space. By my recollection these barely tied together vignettes were bastions of mediocrity.

    To my taste, the series was quite stagnant from maybe issues 385-420 (~1991-1993) and then completely jumped the shark w/ the Fighting Chance Cap remake. That was the final straw for me. I could vomit just thinking about Cap in that ridiculous Cable get up. Fuck you, Rob Liefeld. You are responsible for bar none the worst costume trend of all time. Cable Cap was even worse than Cable Batman. Dressing Cap up in those idiotic shoulder pads and unnecessary utility vest/belt/armlets/etc. is the comic book equivalent of burning the American flag. By the time the whole Onslaught/Heroes Reborn crossover rolled along, I had long since tuned out. I picked up 2 issues of the Cap relaunch (more Liefeld material, kill me now) and it was every bit as awful as you'd think.

    Have you been following the development of the Cap movie, by the way? They've got that kid from the Fantastic Four playing Cap. And while I enjoyed his portrayal of Johnny Storm—I think he understood his character better than most of that largely dismal cast understood theirs—I think he is all wrong for Steve Rogers.

  2. /* I continue to be amazed at how sub-par the comments system here on Blogger is by Web 2.0 standards. Thus I am forced to break my response into segments. Way to go, Google. You have more money than God and still can't do anything right. Congratulations, you're turning into Microsoft */

    RE: Superman, I somewhat enjoyed his messianic death and resurrection, in spite of how poorly imagined it was in hindsight. Cap actually seemed to grow as a character over the course of his official departure and reinstitution whereas Superman merely grew a mullet. I am sure great material is out there but I just never got into the character enough to experience it first hand. I have been told the Superman vs. Aliens miniseries was quite good. If you have any Superman recommendations, I'm all ears.

    My, I've written the sequel to War and Peace, it seems. Let's hope I spend less time responding to your other points.

    2) I'm actually not entirely sure when Iron Man first start hitting the bottle. I think he might have been depicted having a drink here and there hitherto but to the best of my knowledge, he didn't turn full lush prior to the Demon in a Bottle storyline. That began March of 1979. Speedy had been the Mayor of Heroinville for ~8 years at that point. I have never been an Iron Man reader/collector—Tony Stark has always struck me Bruce Wayne without an edge—so if anyone wants to correct me on this, I would actually quite appreciate it.

    3. Yes, Alan Moore is the balls. I have been told he even made Supreme, another—shudder—Liefeld creation and made the serie worth reading, though I've never gotten around to it personally. His Swamp Thing run was epic and I am not even a Swamp Thing (or Man Thing) fan. At all. By the way, thank you for the suggestions. I have added them to my to-read list.

    4. RE: David, did you catch any of his run on The Incredible Hulk in the late 80s? He really breathed life into that series in a big way. If they ever do a Grey Hulk movie, I'd like to see Sylvester Stallone do the voice of Joe Fixit.

    5. The MAX line is pretty worthless, from what I've seen. Just an appeal to the lowest common denominator. I flipped through an issue of The Hood that wasn't half bad. Everything else I've seen has been written on the level of Ichi the Killer

    I have only read the first 10 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man but it looked extremely well done. I have always been a huge Mark Bagley fan as well, notwithstanding the McFarlane influenced webbing and eyes. (As a brief aside, Alex Ross feels the same as I about this and was pushing for the old mask with smaller eyes when he did that Gwen Stacy issue of Marvels). Personally, I am John Romita Sr. apologist—Spider-Man should look like this, not this. But then, I don't even like the original Ditko Spider-Man, as blasphemous as that may sound to some.

    You seem to be quite knowledgeable when it comes to comic books. It's nice talking to someone who knows their stuff. If you don't have time to respond to each and every comment, that's understandable. In fact, I have specifically disabled comments on certain blog entries just so I won't be tasked with explaining why The Boondock Saints is in fact not cutting edge cinema. I try to avoid unproductive churns while welcoming intelligent conversation. I'd say you're doing a great job of that so far as a blogger. Give yourself more credit.

  3. I have not been following the development of the Cap movie, I just hope they don't screw it up.

    I thought Gruenwald's run was better than any other before or since, but not without its problems.

    He was portrayed as he should be - a Paladin who never lost. I like that he tried to reform Diamondback and took on the Controller and Namor and beat them both. It was that period when Cap became what the editors at Marvel called "The God of Winning.' When asked by Wizard who the last man standing would be in an all war of everyone against everyone they said Cap would be.
    I have to whole-heartedly agree with your opinions on D-Man, Vagabond, Nova and especially Liefeld.
    I stopped reading shortly after Gruenwald stopped writing it. It jumped the shark in so many ways since then and continuing to now. Luckily, he is still portrayed correctly in Avengers and by other good writers in other titles.
    The guys at iFanbois have a hard on for Ed Brubakers work on the title, but I don't see it.

  4. I must agree on Blogger and Google especially. They bought the company that made this and have made miniscule improvements to it. I like how if you center a picture it disables the ability to click and expand the image. I like how making your paragraphs full justified sometimes screws up your formating for the entire entry. So many problems.

    I guess you missed this sentence "Peter David and Frank Miller, at one time, were great writers. Miller’s run on Daredevil and David’s run on Hulk were both long and stunning and changed the characters forever, evolving them."

    Superman was good in the same time period that Cap was good. Alan Moore's "The Last Superman Story" and the Annual he wrote, were both the essence of Superman. I would have to look through my collection at home in order to give you actual issue numbers of a good run. He's been crap ever since Byrne and DC re-imaged him with the mullet and made him less powerful.

    By all means, get your hands on Moore's run on Swamp thing. You will not believe it.

    Ultimate Spiderman, almost every issue is incredible. His romance with Kitty Pryde and fighting alongside the X-Men during that title was epic. Such great story telling and dialogue.

    We have opposite opinions on what Spiderman shoudl look like, other than the fact that he shouldn't look like Liefeld or McFarland ever drew him.

    You have a blog? Why yes you do, there it is in your profile. I will go read some now. Huh. You are very smart. Scary smart. I have added your blog to my favorites and look forward to reading the comics entries.

    He was written well in JLA by Grant Morrison (? I think it was Morrison...)

  5. "He was written well in JLA by Grant Morrison (? I think it was Morrison...)"

    This belongs in the Superman section.

  6. The irony of that clarification is not lost on me. That is actually reason 9,999 Blogger sucks—you can't edit comments. You can only delete them and then start from scratch. How irritating. And yes, the formatting problems are the worst. I've tried Word Press, Vox (which is going out of business in 2 days), Type Pad, and Blogger. Word Press is probably the best in hindsight. I might consider switching over sometime soon. They have a widget that can back up all your old posts and then import them, apparently. In defense of Blogger I will say its GUI is very user intuitive relative to say, Word Press. Especially when it comes to customizing themes and colors and whatnot.

    Getting back to comics, I actually never knew Moore had a run on Superman. This is heartening. Byrne is—or at least was—an amazing artist, particularly for his time. When you look at his X-Men and Iron Fist runs and compare them to 99% of the stuff that was being produced at the time, it's really awe inspiring. As a writer, I am forced to agree, he leaves much to desire.

    Ultimate Spider-Man is definitely on my to read list. Have you followed Spider-Girl at all? It started out really strong and Defalco & Frenz are one of my favorite creative teams ever (I still cherish my double autographed copy of The Buzz no. 1, despite the relative mediocrity of the character). With that said I sort of forgot about the title for maybe 3 years and then when I got back to it, they were doing something with Kaine (remember him? from the clone saga? ugh) and I sort of walked away from it. I buy very, very few comics that are still in print. I was following the Red Hulk mini-series for the first 6 issues or so, then he beat both Thor and the Silver Surfer in ways that made no sense and I decided I had seen enough. About two years ago I started buying Amazing Spider-Man again but haven't actually read any of the 20 or so issues I've amassed so I couldn't tell you how good it is. I just have a really backed up to-read list (counting non-fiction, novels, etc). I should probably invest in Amazon Kindle to maximize the utility of downtime while commuting.

    I am actually quite curious what you think Spider-Man ought to look like. I mean, in terms of specific artists. Bagley Ultimate? Or more like old school Ditko?

    RE: blog feedback, thank you for the praise. But you know, I'm supposed, to be scary smart. I'm Reed Richards! Uh, or something. Yeah. In any case, it's always nice to have another blog follower. I appreciate readers/feedback as much as the next guy.

    [Irrelevant addendum: It is odd to me that I apparently saw the name Peter David but missed the Hulk comment. I guess I was still thinking about David's Sin Eater story arc while you had moved on to the Hulk run already? Oh well. Nice to see you appreciated both as much as I did.]

  7. Jamie:

    If you haven't been reading the Cosmic Marvel line of comics, you are missing the best stuff Marvel has put out this decade. - pick up books 1 2 and 3 to start. The series keeps getting better as it goes along (there are several more volumes now, so if you like those three, I can point you towards the next few!)

    - Ben

  8. Interesting reading...not enough time in my day to respond to everything. I would suggest that you guys pick up Superman and Wonder Woman now. JMS is writing both of them and it seems unlike Marvel, DC is giving him some leeway with the characters. The Wonder Woman story is especially good. JMS stepped in and just changed everything.... literally.

    Frank Miller started to believe his own hype and his writing suffered. Peter David is still writing good stuff. I think David writes certain books and characters excellent. His run on Hulk was fantastic! But I also enjoyed his run on X-Factor and the current run on X-Factor has been nothing less than great. He has given us the best new character to come along in quite awhile in Layla "I know things" Miller.

    Don't get me started on Alan Moore and his run on Swamp Thing, that gave us one of the best characters of all time John Constatine. I think that along with Watchmen, changed the face of comics. He allowed us to see that they could be literature, not just "funny books".

    Another great series right now is Fables by Bill Wilingham. I have never been a huge Willingham fan, but this is an amazing title.

    Love it when I see comics discussed! Just wish I had more time.....


  9. I don't know if this means as much coming from someone who doesn't normally read Superman very often, but All-Star Superman (parts 1 & 2) and Superman: Brainiac are easily the best Superman trades I've ever read, to the point where I can't be bothered to keep up with Superman's regular titles because of unfair comparison. I will gladly add Superman: Secret Origin to this list once it's in trade. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on All-Star make the "legend" of Superman much bigger, and were what I immediately thought of when you mentioned the scope of the stories in Authority. All-Star is a HUGE story that draws from itself and circles around... it's so hard to explain, but it's excellent :) Geoff Johns and Gary Frank did Brainiac and Secret Origin, and I know some people don't like it as much as I do, but I can hear the music from the 70s Superman movie when I read it. After seeing those movies so many times in my childhood, it's nice to read comics that actually make me feel like I'm a 10 year old again, instead of just being treated like one when Marvel/DC repeatedly proclaim "Nothing will ever be the same"!

  10. I'll repeat the thumbs up for Morrison's All Star Superman, and I'm into the esoteric stuff so I really dig his Invisibles. But All Star is pretty much the only comic in the last ten years that really looked at the entire history of superman and tried to convey "the ageless superman short" which dates from the pre-70's when you didn't push the extended narratives, or expect people to pick up comics every single month, and you might have only one chance to get people into your trade.

    Millar's Authority is really a piece of work and spawned many rip offs, and while some of them are good I wouldn't recommend them.

    I've given up comics this last year, mostly, the only things I've tried to chase down were The Unwritten, the Invisibles, and anything by the Hernandez Brothers.

  11. I was never a fan of Fables, though I read most of the trades. I guess I really wanted it to be Sandman and it just didn't get there.