Archive for the 'marvel' Category

the French for “grenade” is “grenade”

Michaela Colette Zacchilli’s recent entry on Rob Goodin’s awesome Covered blog has got me reminiscing about Mark Texeira.

(images below from Texeira’s own site; go visit him)

I’m showing my roots here: I came of age reading Marvel comics in the mid-90s, and one of my favorite mini-series was the unfortunately titled Sabretooth: Death Hunt, created in 1993 by Larry Hama and Mark Texeira. A lot of Marvel’s work during that period is absurdly inconsistent, but there’s some good stuff lurking in the mini-series (if only because the consistent creative team and clearly-defined parameters mean that you get a coherent artistic statement).

sabretooth_interior_0 sabretooth_interior_3

Texeira’s art here is like a bizarre hybrid of Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, and Rob Liefeld — often pretty close to the filthy lumpy style of Sam Kieth (apparently they both worked on Marvel Comics Presents in ’90-91). Hama’s over-the-top script is matched by a ferocious energy on the part of Texeira, as befitting a Sabretooth story. I think the first issue has Sabretooth coming home to find his mansion overrun by ninjas (it happens), so he and his personal assistant have to shred and blast their way through a couple hundred ninjas before settling down to dinner or something.

sabretooth_interior_4 sabretooth_interior_5

Issue three had Wolverine in a suit. Who draws Wolverine in a suit?! I love it.

sabretooth_interior_9

The other reason I wanted to mention this is not Texeira exactly, but rather the cover:

sabretooth 1

It was the age of gimmicks, so the cardstock cover is die-cut to reveal a painting of the titular character (I have a MMPB airport thriller from 1995 that does the same thing). But the whole thing is actually kind of admirably restrained — would Marvel run something like this today? — and I especially want to appreciate the text layout in the sidebar to the left.

This sort of type-play is a very early-90s graphic design idea, made possible by the rise of desktop publishing software and digital typography. And in most cases it doesn’t age well, now that the novelty has worn off. But here it’s pretty restrained, keeping everything right-side-up and using only 2 or 3 font families. I remember seeing the same design used in a bunch of house ads for “Bloodties,” the X-Men/Avengers crossover from 1993. I’ll have to dig those out sometime: the story itself was forgettable, but those house ads (I’m remembering punch-out trading cads with pull-quotes from Nick Fury commenting on various characters) made the whole thing sound immensely important.

Hey, I was seven.

But I’m still fond of the design.

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

Listening to Iced Earth’s mediocre new album and reading Marvel’s mediocre summer event comic from last year. I guess it’s a day for toothless apocalypses.

But seriously, that would be cool

Eric Reynolds:

I was thinking this morning that the two artists we’ve published of late with perhaps the most “heat” at the moment are Dash Shaw and Steve Ditko. Which then reminded me of Dash’s unpublished Dr. Strange strip (see below), and inevitably led me to one conclusion: that really, Marvel Comics should give Dr. Strange to Fantagraphics. Marvel doesn’t know what the fuck to do with him. Give him to us and we’ll start an ongoing Dr. Strange anthology with new work by Los Bros, Dash Shaw, Daniel Clowes, Kim Deitch, and other longtime Ditko fans, and include reprints of the classic Ditko Strange as well. Joe Quesada, it is your moral duty to make this happen.

Or, y’know, they could give him to Ditko.

Oh, Lord.

This is what I get for Googling “Killed by my EYES! My cursed, mutant, energy-blasting EYES!”

The “Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature” of 1986 present: “The Rocky Horror Mutant Show.”

Highlights:

         Scott:            The X-Men make a wonderful team, Jean
                           So why can't I just say what I mean, Jean?
                           I think that you're pretty keen, Jean.
                           If I weren't such a coward I'd scream, Jean,
         (aside)           I love you.

         (aloud)           I'm less confident than I seem, Jean.
                           My courage just runs out of steam, Jean.
                           You're all that I ever could dream, Jean.
                           I'm trying so hard to come clean, Jean,
                           And tell you.
                                 [...]
         Jean:             I really like the way that you fought, Scott,
                           If it weren't for you I'd have been caught, Scott.
                           But Magneto's plans came to naught, Scott.
                           Now Warren's asked me to lunch--but
                           Hey, Scott! why not?
                           Come eat too!

And then:

Jean:                      It's astounding--
                           I'm still breathing!
                           I thought I'd lost it all.
                           I feel it in me,
                           The power's growing--
                           I've got to keep control.

                           I remember
                           I was dying--
                           I knew it was the end.
                           Then it hit me
                           The power came flooding--
                           I'll be an X-Man again!
                           I'll be an X-Man again!

                           I just rose from the dead
                           To a new incarnation.
                           Now I'm a god
                           Of my own creation.
                           Marvel Girl is gone,
                           But the Phoenix power lives on.
                           I'll be an X-Man again!
                           I'll be an X-Man again!

And of course:

         Dark Phoenix:     I used to be so frail
                           Wan and pale. (--bleah!)
                           I'd only been Marvel Girl before.

         Galactus:         You mean she's--?

         (Watcher nods.)

         Galactus:         Oh SHIT!

         Dark Phoenix:     But now the Phoenix power
                           Just grows by the hour,
                           Now it desires to soar...and devour.

                           I already know
                           Just where to go,
                           I've tasted blood but I need more.

         Watcher:          More, more, more!

         Dark Phoenix:     I don't need assistence,
                           Just some real subsistance,
                           I think perhaps I'll eat
                           That star, for instance!

                           Fear, oh fear, oh fear, oh fear me!
                           Don't dare to come near me!
                           I am no longer your Jeannie--
                           I am incarnate power!

6:45PM: the toll

Pause for station break: we’re here at Cosmic Monkey Comics until 10 AM tomorrow for the 24-Hour Comics Drawpocalypse! Come visit us anytime!

Cosmic Monkey hosted a release party last night for the previously-mentioned Rose City Rollers comic book. So store owner Andy Johnson is running on about 3 hours’ sleep… and this is before the all-nighter to come.

So he’s losing his grip a bit. I know how he feels.


This isn’t an awkward-looking frame captured from the middle of an otherwise-normal conversation. This is the face he was holding for a solid minute.

In more adorable news, Stumptown Comics Fest coordinator Indigo Kelleigh showed up and brought his daughter!

Left to my own devices, I ramble

Greg Burgas has an interesting take on Darwyn Cooke‘s new series Will Eisner’s The Spirit. The comment section includes this idea from David Wynne:

“If DC really wanted to honor Will Eisner, they’d start some sort of graphic novel imprint in his name and use it to showcase books like Fun Home. The new Spirit book strikes me as a blatant example of milking Eisner’s most famous property for a few more bucks … especially since as far as I know, the last thing Eisner himself was interested in doing was reviving the Spirit.”

I think David is right on the money here, actually. Warren Ellis, Paul O’Brien and others have been pointing out for years that because Marvel and DC cannot own creators — they can only own characters — they approach everything from the perspective of character.

From the CEO’s chair, the big money comes from movies and toys and underpants featuring the characters, and publishing comics allows them to keep those characters alive. Here’s Marvel in 2000: “The Company’s strategy is to increase the media exposure of the Marvel characters through its media and promotional licensing activities, which it believes will create revenue opportunities for the Company through sales of toys and other licensed merchandise. In particular, the Company plans to focus its future toy business on marketing and distributing toys based on the Marvel characters, which provide the Company with higher margins because no license fees are required to be paid to third parties and, because of media exposure, require less promotion and advertising support than the Company’s other toy categories. The Company intends to use comic book publishing to support consumer awareness of the Marvel characters and to develop new characters and storylines.

A rung down on the corporate ladder, the perspective is different, but conveniently works toward the same end. At the editorial level, it’s an affection for the characters that drives every decision. Decades ago, Marvel and DC encouraged a fanbase to think about comic books in a character-based model, and the fans swallowed it. And then those fans grew up to be editors. So now the comic book company (a small subsidiary of a larger entertainment/media corporation, remember) is run by people like Quesada and DiDio who honestly believe they are undertaking a sacred trust — to do their duty to Spider-Man and Green Lantern. They owe it to these characters to ensure that they are featured in cool and popular stories.

And the vast majority of the remaining readers feel the same way (because everyone who does not feel this way has been DRIVEN OUT). The “shared universe” concept — the promise that all of these characters live in the same world and interact with each other — is a brilliant strategy for encouraging character-based (and company-based) thinking. According to this concept, every comic book is an artifact from another world, depicting events that actually happened in that world. Everything that has ever been depicted in a Spider-Man comic book has actually happened to Spider-Man.

Consequences:

  • The remaining fanbase is extremely emotionally invested in the characters. If you put out a Batman comic book I don’t like, you are insulting my friend Batman. If you write a comic book in which Sue Dibny is raped, then you have caused my friend Sue Dibny (or worse, my reader-avatar Sue Dibny) to be raped, and I am understandably hurt and furious.
  • Creators’ rights are never a priority. Who the hell cares how you treat Bill Finger? What’s important is how you treat Batman. Who created this story? Who cares? It’s a “Marvel legend.”
  • Non-fans are never welcome. Sorry, kid, Green Lantern and I have been friends for twenty years, and you can’t just expect to barge in here and become a part of the relationship that we share.
  • The stories must be “realistic.” I must take pains to carefully sort each story as “canonical” or “noncanonical” — and which “universe” it belongs to — and maintain an exact chronology of how all the stories interlock with each other.
  • Thanks to inept emulation of Watchmen and Dark Knight, “realistic” now also means “cynical,” or possibly “miserable.” Getting a reputation as a “fun” comic book will hurt your sales. No. Seriously.
  • Story ideas that contradict the established facts or tone of the Universe are rejected as impossible.
  • Story ideas that do not take place within the Universe are rejected as irrelevant.
  • The incredible schizophrenia which characterizes the modern superhero concept. 50 million people saw the first Spider-Man movie in US theaters, and millions more beyond that — the concept is obviously tremendously popular. Millions of kids have the toothbrushes and the T-shirts and watch the TV shows. But the Spider-Man comics, none of which sell more than 50,000 issues, are full of juvenile attempts at “sophistication” and radical changes which are inevitably reset to the status quo within 6 months. Devin Grayson complains that she can’t do anything interesting with Batman because at the end of the day Batman has to appear on Underoos, but nobody under the age of 16 is reading the fucking comics.

Oddly enough, the experience is remarkably similar when you try to read the Bible with the assumption that its separate parts cohere into a perfectly unified and consistent truth.

Anyway, I need to contextualize all this:

  • DC is more than just the backwards-looking nostalgia-rape cesspool called the “DC Universe.” Thankfully, it has other branches: the theoretically-interesting but currently-lost “alt-superhero” line Wildstorm, the excellent and undercapitalized “nonsuperhero comics for grownups” line Vertigo, the very promising but not-linked-from-the-main-site teen-chick-lit line Minx, the screwed-up-once-but-came-back-better manga line CMX, and the I’m-told-they-exist-but-I’ve-never-seen-them DC Kids or possibly Johnny DC, it’s unclear. Marvel, meanwhile, maintains a kids’ line, Marvel Adventures, and the bizarre little imprint Icon, which you can only get into if Joe Quesada wants to make you happy — i.e. you are a topselling creator on Marvel’s superhero books or you have known Joe since old times.
  • Superheroes, while an appealing concept, are so poorly executed these days that I generally avoid focusing attention on them. The best superhero comic coming out today is Robert Kirkman’s Invincible.
  • The comic industry is much, much bigger than just these two irritating companies, and they’re probably going to be increasingly marginalized as the industry continues to evolve. I guess I’m just trying to more fully lay out what’s so irritating about them, and why they are this way.
  • There are bigger concerns facing the industry, largely concerning distribution. The mechanisms aren’t in place to get comics in front of people in a location and format that suits them. The infrastructure isn’t in place to support creators while they create. There aren’t enough comic stores in place that don’t suck, and there are hardly any stores with enough cash to buck trends. There aren’t enouch publishers who understand how to deal with bookstores. And so on, ad infinitum.
  • As always, Warren and Dirk have already said it.

Also, here are some Grant Morrison quotes, because it pleases me to quote them. I don’t actually like many of his comics, but he sure as hell knows how to work a sound byte:

“My ideal comic is the one which perfectly expresses its moment and makes you want to dance like your favourite records do. The ideal comic is a holographic condensation out of pure zeitgeist. Pop is my god and goddess, Warren, and I believe comics should strive to be popper yet than Pop itself. I particularly despise the cynically perfect, utterly barren, ultimately charmless retro-pastiche of OTHER PEOPLE’S IDEAS which has come to characterize so much of the output of tired creators who should have had the dignity to move on when they ran out of words of their own.”

“I’m doing MARVEL BOY and whatever else in a Utopian 21st century spirit – I’ll aim the comics at a wide, media-literate mainstream audience and slowly but surely help generate that audience, just like you. I’ll continue to act as if being a comic book writer is the same as being a pop star. I’ll continue to learn from stuff I think breaks new ground. If at the moment I think comics aren’t being sexy enough or FuturePop enough or incendiary enough, I’ll attempt to fill the gap with the sort of thing I want to read. Whatever happens, I know I’ll sell more comics than the crawling half-men who believe we’re all doomed in a ‘shrinking market’. Look out of the window at the planet you live on, morons! There are billions of those bipeds and they keep making more of them! How much bigger does the market have to get before we’re eating Soylent fucking Green? Get out and sell comics to these people!”

where’s my MONEY, honey?

Where’s my money, honey?


Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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