Tag Archives: Back To The Comics

Kids Have Favorite Characters, Adults Have Favorite Creators

ImageShe can tell that I collect X-Men comics? It’s like she really knows me!

A key curiosity of decades old comic characters that are the properties of corporations is that many chefs have been in an ocean of soup, and across that ocean many individual styles have contributed ounces to a whole. Some are inevitably much better than others.

The first point that I recall becoming fully cognoscente of the fact that comics don’t just magically appear fully formed for perusal was Sensational She-Hulk #1, cover dated May, 1989. Priced at a buck fifty when everything else was a mere three quarters, I could tell that there was something different right away. The quality of the paper was a bit higher, and John Byrne’s art had a certain polish that was otherwise lacking on that Kroger Grocery shelf. There was certainly something to She-Hulk that was compelling to my fourth grade mind that I wasn’t yet able to put my finger on. So to speak.

She-Hulk is a pretty corny character as devised, quite possibly the worst of the “girl counterparts” we first saw with Mary Marvel in the 40′s. Cynics would see them as a quick and easy way to cash in on a trendy brand, and they would be correct. What Byrne did with the book was turn the convention on its ear; She-Hulk -usually just referred to by her civilian name of Jennifer Walters- became a lame character in a comic book who knew she was a lame character in a comic book, constantly interacting with both the writer/artist and readers. The fourth wall was eliminated, and Jen would pull stunts like ripping holes in panels and taking shortcuts through ad pages. the result was sublime, I had never seen anything like it. I was immediately smitten.

The fun lasted for 8 months, until one sad day at the grocery when She-Hulk suddenly looked quite different. Byrne, ever an egotist, left the book in a dispute about something or other with editorial. I kept buying it anyway, as well as back issues of the previous Savage She-Hulk series from the 70′s, chasing a dragon that I never recaptured. It took awhile, but I eventually learned my lesson- from Byrne on She-Hulk to CC Beck on Captain Marvel to Alan Davis on Captain Britain, it’s the creator that makes the character worth caring about, never the other way around. Every issue of the new Sensational She-Hulk left me colder, but when Byrne got cooking on West Coast Avengers and Namor, I found a new center of gravity on the subject.

More often than not, I can tell if I’m going to get any joy from interacting with fellow genre fans by how well they understand this truth that I find to be self evident. Much of it has to do with whether or not one ever gravitated towards obscure characters, since it’s not often the publishers let hacks take a crack at the valuable big name properties. The best talent was always lining up for the popular, top selling titles, the Amazing Spider-man bread. Even so, inevitably there’s going to be a peak and then a bleak period for you, and it’s foolish to pass up the next work of the creators you like in favor of devotion to imaginary people.

You can come debate this with me at the message board.

You can read more from me at RockoJerome.com.

Episode 1: Back To The Comics

The movies are all fine and good, but what about the source material? It’s time to celebrate a unique art form based on its own merits and go Back To The Comics. Rocko and Eli are here to discuss just why and how much they matter.

Download from iTunes, or one of the below.

Back to the Comics


This David Aja page from 2012′s Hawkeye #2 provides a good example of art that, to it’s credit, could never quite be adapted into any other medium.

I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s been great.

It’s great to not avoid conversations about Captain America with people that don’t have a y chromosome. It’s great that my mom wanted to see The Avengers on Mother’s Day, and that the theater was packed, and that after it was over I could point at the screen and say “That’s what I’ve been so nuts about all my life.” It’s great that kids probably aren’t facing derision at school now for being into Iron Man. It’s great that summer blockbuster movies are now a lot less trite and stupid than they used to be. It’s great that characters from comics are now the center of the entertainment universe and it’s great that Stan Lee lived to see it. It’s great that the filmmakers started to take comics seriously.

What’s not so great is that there’s a real danger that, now that these characters have become so famous that they’re more accurately described as properties, they have eclipsed the medium they were born in, are best in, and belong in the most. Comic books themselves are dangerously close to extinction. Comic conventions have been co-opted by film and television personalities and gone from the place a cult following of the faithful go for sanctuary and celebration to the focal point for studios to promote sequels, tie-ins, and merchandise. What for some is a lifestyle is for many a fad, and for still more it’s an opportunity to cash in.

The funny thing about being a comic book fan is that you’re actually saying very little about a person when you call them that. Comic books are an entire medium. You might be a music fan or a movie fan or, one that clunks really hard since just about everyone watches sometimes, a TV fan. But those are all just laughably broad. For every variety of thing that you will see on television, there’s that many styles of comics. Some people like Honey Boo, some like Mad Men.

Now admittedly, the majority of comic books from the last 50 years or so are based firmly in the superhero genre, and that’s what these movies are mining. Even so, there’s countless approaches to that aspect of the art form, and the truly devoted are the connoisseurs. My kind of fan doesn’t have favorite characters- they have favorite creators.

Comic writers tell stories in a serialized format unlike any other in it’s scope and speed, and the true draftsmen and visionaries of comic art bring us work that can only be beheld on the printed page. The beauty of the layout, the way the panels compliment each other, there’s nothing else like it. Where actors and their agents insist that the masked characters they’re playing have to go without them for most of the movie (and on the poster and DVD covers), where unwieldy love stories have to be shoehorned in, where decades of a nuanced saga must be diluted into two snappy hours, the comics provide a mainline thrill to your brain through your eyes, by way of your imagination.

So I’m going to use “Back to the Comics” as a constant byline. Because we would lose a hell of a lot if we ever lost comics, and it’s going to be important to remember that in the years to come.