Thursday, August 31, 2006

Great Comic Covers

I have recently been immersed in re-reading many of the Legion books and have been realizing that this is one of my favorite covers and was wondering why.

First it is a great cover image. Next it is of Mon-El and it is the last time he would be Mon-El as he was created, because he was been rewritten to become Valor and replace Superboy (who was written out of continuity) as the 20th century teen-age inspiration for the Legion. (Comic book continuity make Daytime TV soap continuity seem easy.)

Also the story itself was the last one before they started retro-conning the Legion to insane proportions which led to a total reboot.

Finally the story itself was a great one. Mon-El is fighting the Time Trapper and knows that if he destroys the Time Trapper he will wipe out everything that he knows, but if he doesn't wipe out the Time Trapper he risks allowing him to continue to be a puppet master and control the Legion. Mon-El does the right thing regardless of the personal cost.

This is a theme that I feel defines true heroism and I hope that on occasion I have lived my own life this way. Doing the right thing is what we have to do, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

Comic of the Year

Since we are about to have a primary election in Maryland, I thought I would submit what I believe to be the best comic series of the year at this point.

All Star Superman - Truly an All Star Book.
Fell - An excellent cop book, that is so much more.
Invincible - Perhaps the best straight up super hero book on the market today.
Daredevil - Brubaker and Lark were made to do this book.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One of My Favorite Comic Stories

Amazing Spiderman #31 - #33, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

This three issue story arc was one of the best comic stories ever done in my humble opinion. In the early silver age of comics a three issue story arc was almost unheard of, so this story was a very special event.

What I remember from this story (and I'm doing this solely from memory) is that Spider-Man in order to save his Aunt May had to fight against impossible odds to get a rare medicine to save her life. Aunt May was dying from a transfusion that she had received from Peter in an earlier issue and since his blood was radioactive it was killing Aunt May. Spider-Man moved heaven and earth to save her. He fought a ton of henchmen and Doctor Octopus. In the panel where he picks up a monstrous piece of machinery that had him trapped you could feel that this was a man who was pushing himself beyond his limits. I also believe that he ran into his girl-friend who was horrified that he was so beaten up looking and want not say anything about it and Spider-Man was slowly going to wreck his romance.

This story always resonates with me because it taught responsibility and the willingness to do the right thing no matter what the personal cost. Peter Parker emotionally and physically paid a price, but he did what was right.

It is impossible for me to adequately express the emotions I feel when I re-read that issue, but those three issues encapsulated what it means to be a true hero.

It is seldom that we see that type of portrayal anymore as it almost seems to be too cliche or that no one is that good, so let's bring the heroes down to my (meaning the writer's) level.

I rather have my heroes be something to aspire to and I always say that the silver age comics I grew up on reinforced and thought me better morals then anything else in my life. All I ever needed to know about life I learned from comics is damn close to being true. It is a shame in that becoming more adult in their presentation we have lost the ability to make our heroes, heroes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Ever Happened To the Future

Perhaps it is just my viewpoint, but I feel like the leadership in our country has forgotten about the future. When I was younger (a lot younger) we had the space program, we had plans to explore the bottom of the ocean and we funded pure research in the hopes of building a better tomorrow.

Today it seems like we have wars on everything, with terrorism and drugs being the two biggest things we are always fighting. We are slowly giving away our rights and have "sobriety" checkpoints, a 1-800 Tips line for suspicious activity and are willing to trade any freedom away for safety.

Why is it that rationale people are willing to trust the same government to solve their problems, when they don't trust them.

Where is the leadership of JFK and Ronald Regan. Where is the vision for our country.

The politics of today seem to be totally partisan, yet both parties are only interested in increasing the size of government and taking power to themselves.

It just seems to me that today everything is short sighted.

As a race where are we going and what is the plan to move forward. Is it really just to have 11 billion people crawling on a mudball in the sticks of the milky way galaxy. Is it all about using up all the cheap energy now and the hell with the next generations.

I want a New Frontier, I want a bright and shining 31st Century with a Legion to protect it from the greater threats, but I fear with the leadership we have now our children will be giving life to a world more akin to Mad Max then to a Federation of Planets.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Change or Die

Following up on my last post, it is apparent to me that unless Marvel and DC allow change we could see the death of comics or at least their continued slow decline is sales. While sales have increased slightly in recent years the overall trend is down.

As proof that change is the one great element missing in comics look at several events in comic history that prove the finite is better for sales then the infinite. A tenet of some philosophies is that we love something more because it doesn't last forever.

Marvel became the number one company because they allowed characters to age and change in the first ten plus years of Marvel's existence.

Seminal comic stories that resonate with fans are Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen all have elements where change is occurring or has occurred and we are seeing its repercussions.

The book that generated one of the longest lines for comic books and brought back tons of lapsed fans and non-fans to the stores was the Death of Superman. If that had been allowed to stand and a story followed with a new Superman we could have keep more of those readers. How well would the Death of Spider-Man or Batman sell?

If true change is allowed and the books are cleaned up a little to make them a little more all age friendly (not dumbed down) comics could be exciting again, the 24 news hungry for stories would cover these events and bring back lapsed fans and maybe generate new ones.

If a series has a beginning, middle and an end (like Gaiman's Sandman) we can tell better stories. This is not one solution fits all, but it is an approach that should be considered to give super-hero comics some life.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Continuity and Why Heroes Need to Age

It is my contention that the biggest problem with DC and Marvel super hero comics is that no heroes ever age.

At one time the idea by DC was to keep ever super-hero at age 29. That was around the era when we heard don't trust anyone over 30 and Logan's Run was made into a movie. Also it was during an era when the average age of a comic reader was probably between the ages of 8-15 years old. It was assumed that an average reader would only read comics for a few years and move on to other endeavors. As the vast majority of the readership was male the new endeavor was usually girls.

Given that as a back ground never aging heroes and recycling old stories was not only okay it was easily done as a small switch and updating done here and there any story seems new again to a new audience.

Marvel came into the game in the Silver Age and eventually upped the ante. Spider-Man gets his powers at 17 years old and by issue #28 has graduated from high school and will be on his way to college. Reed Richards and Sue Storm get married and have children. Giant-Man retires from the super-hero business. All of sudden comic book characters have real continuity and things actually change. Marvel's growing sales forced DC to follow suit to some degree.

Once Marvel became number one, it has been stated that Stan Lee stated no more changes to the character just the illusion of change. No one thought that these characters would be already for forty plus years.

This means that a character like Cyclops has gone from being a lonely orphan to having two super powered brothers, a father who is an outer space pirate, has had two future children come back, has been married to Jean Grey, a clone of Jean Grey and was sleeping with the Phoenix force and is now hanging with the White Queen, has died and been resurrected and is portrayed as around 30. The weight of his continuity makes it harder and harder to find his character believable. Plus with Marvel's sliding scale of continuity (only 10 years of back history) we have no idea what is in his actual history and what is not in his history.

DC has the same problems and actually seemed at one point like they were wiling to move on, then Oliver Queen's soul was brought back from heaven and put into a ten year younger clone of his original body. Hal Jordan is brought back from the dead and we now have the same heroes as the main stars as opposed to the next generation. So when we do Ollie as a "man of the people" we are doing the same story with the same guy.

If you allow heroes to age you can get more interesting versions of the characters and have more of a blank slate to write their history.

Look at the JSA, the new Mr. Terrific is more interesting then still having Terry Sloane around.

This should be done with the Icon characters also. Look at Kingdom Come, Bruce is great as a master manipulator in the background. Dick could be Batman and married to Babs. The natural progression of these characters almost create stories that write themselves.

Once you go that route as a reader anything could happen and each issue is an exciting adventure that means something to the character.

Let Iron Man retire, he should be around 65 years old and should have protegeee or son that is taking over the armor, instead of moving his history forward.

When you want to keep a character around and let them age very slowly, give them a super soldier formula or have them bombarded with cosmic rays.

The time has come for this to happen because the fan base is staying with these characters forever and will slowly leave these books when they tire of the same story over and over. So many fans are jaded and are hanging on by love of the medium, but the time to let characters age (and it can be slower then real time) has come or the industry will slowly fade away with the fan base.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Adding to the Myth

As a minor follow up to my post on the lack of imagination in many forms of entertainment, I would like to point out three really nice moments in comics to me that represent a nice addition to what was already there.

First is Alan Moore's revelation of the Swamp Thing is a plant and not a man changed into a Swamp Monster. This change in perspective changed the character forever and made him into the best Swamp Monster ever done in comics. He kept the core of the book and altered it ever so slightly and gave us a whole new view.

Second was Grant Morrison's Robotman. He presented to us the true horror of being a brain trapped in a metal shell. No feelings. He has no sense of touch and is removed from the world in a terrifying way that was always there, but just never explored.

Last is the current Legion of Super-Heroes and Dream Girl. Brianiac was trying to revive Dream Girl and has created what appears to be a true Dream Girl. She is either a ghost that only Brianiac can see, a true girl, a psychoses of Brainiac's or something else. But we now have taken a "Dream Girl" and made her into what her name implies. True to the character, but now we see the world in a different way.

This to me are examples of imagination. Adding to the myth and making us see something in a different way. Rewriting the stories from before and adding cute and updated twist is not my idea of great story telling (see Ultimate Spider-Man), it can be fun and entertaining, but ultimately (pun intended) empty.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Imagination - Dead or Alive

A friend e-mail me this thought:
"there is no more imagination. Everyone just says, "Everything has already been done." They try and take the easy way out and rationalize the repetitive ideas they try and sell us. I hate that in Batman they undid the relationship between Talia and Bruce. No more romance between them. She is just a bad girl who drugged him and raped him. Their son is not a product of their love but the result of a Ra's Ruffie that set Bats up for Talia. It's disgusted me so much that I don't know whether or not I'm gonna continue with this book. Then I got a chance to read a friend's JLA. More lameness. I hate the team Meltzer picked out. Why the focus on Red Tornado? And what a mundane plot. The robot who wants to be a man. Wow. Never heard that one before. Come on!!! It's been totally done to death!!! We've seen it with androids, Vulcans, Martians, and even the Grim Reaper. There is nothing new here. Even the twist of "I've given up immortality to be human and grow old with my wife and child" is cliche and tired. Where the hell are all the creative minds? TV, movies, comics,music......the entire entertainment field is like an old, washed up hacks regurgitating ancient ideas that we've all seen a thousand times before. Many I should opt for radical brain surgery to kill my long term memory so that all this trash would seem new and fresh."

I certainly agree with some of those thoughts and also hate that they have debased the relationship between Batman and Talia, but I also believe that themes can be repeated, but they need to be done well. The Red Tornado story being the center piece of the JLA relaunch better be really innovative, because this is a week start.

When I have more time I'll post my biggest gripe with comics and why super heroes need to grow old.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I have enjoyed reading many other blogs and just felt that it might be fun to add my voice to the growing multitude of people who find a need to express their thoughts.

As comics have always been a great passion of mine (as I once owned a comic book store called Comics And...) I will focus most of my comments on comics.

Still as a thinking and breathing human being I will also comment on the politics at time and probably a random subject here and there.

This has the feeling of "I shot an arrow in the air...."

Still could be fun.