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Author Topic: Best Superhero Comics Ever?  (Read 10463 times)
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2005, 08:10:51 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"

I also have tremendous fondness for these classics:

- vintage Robotman tales (esp. drawn by Jimmy Johnson)


I think I've written post about this before, but isn't Jerry Siegel the greatest?

Quote from: "nightwing"

- 70s "Invaders" comics


People today call Kirby "Mr. Silver Age." Does that mean Roy Thomas was "Mr. Golden Age?"

While generally I like Roy Thomas because of his fascination with details and exploration of comics' rich history, I would not include anything by him on a list of greatest comics ever, with the possible exception of his Dr. Doom story in MARVEL PRESENTS with the art done by Wally Wood, or possibly his CONAN. I don't dislike Roy at all; I think he is very competent and talented (his UNCANNY X-MEN run with Neal Adams in the 1960s was good and sufficient but really nothing special) and I'd rather have Roy Thomas writing a beloved title than say, Mark Waid or Gerry Conway or John Byrne; at least Roy isn't likely to leave a mess behind. But the fact is, the quality on Thomas-written books increases whenever he leaves them. DEFENDERS only gelled as a concept when Roy Thomas left the book and the funny, talented Steve Gerber came on to write (and even Ultron got his definitive story not under his creator Thomas, but under Kurt Busiek). Likewise, while Thomas gave the Marvel Universe the gift of the super-robot Ultron, AVENGERS only stopped being good though uninspired when Steve Englehart signed on, and under him it reached the heights of, arguably, one of the greatest team books ever written.

Thomas has a tendency to indulge in meaningless prose. If Roy the Boy was a teenager today, he'd probably be a Goth. Where else do you get sentences like this one delivered by Hawkgirl in ALL-STAR SQUADRON: "So...Carter is leaving me...to join the army...and he did not TELL me? Our masks hide not only our faces...but our TEARS as well!" I had to burst out laughing here, which I doubt was Thomas's intention. Unlike the punchy, snappy dialogue of Stan Lee and Englehart and Gerber, I honestly can't remember a single funny or witty thing anybody in a Thomas comic has ever said. Characters under Thomas lack specific voices; this is especially apparent in his DEFENDERS, where you have Namor, Silver Surfer, the Hulk and Doctor Strange, and yet somehow characters as diverse as these somehow speak the same Thomas-y way.

Thinking it over, even the comics that Houseroy has done that I view as great are only seen that way because there was no writer to come on afterward and overshadow him totally the way Englehart and Gerber did, which is as much a critique of the hiring policies on books like ALL STAR SQUADRON and INFINITY INC. as it is on Roy Thomas himself. Even his treatment of the JSA is becoming less and less definitive thanks to the current JSA series.

There is a rumor, by its very nature unsubstantiatable, that says that one of the primary reasons that CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS happened was because Roy the Boy wanted to boost sales on INFINITY INC. by setting that comic on Earth-1. If this is true, Roy goes from being a technically good and sufficient writer it is impossible to dislike, to one that earns my undying emnity, destroying instead of creating.

Quote from: "nightwing"

- Kirby's Jimmy Olsen


Not that I disagree with you, Nightwing (good choice, in fact, and one underrepresented) but why Kirby's JIMMY OLSEN and not his FOURTH WORLD or KAMANDI?

Quote from: "nightwing"

- Claremont/Byrne X-Men


I loved Claremont/Byrne's X-MEN too, very much, although I wouldn't put this on a BEST OF list. For one thing, Dave Cockrum left halfway through, and it was Cockrum that was in many ways, the definitive X-Artist, not so much Byrne. It was Cockrum's costumes they used (and on a related note, Dave Cockrum ought to design every single superhero costume from now on).

But one of the things I judge comics on is characterization (which is why the characterization-strong Englehart, Busiek and Gerber are some of my favorite writers), and Claremont is frankly, not good at characterization. This is why the action-heavy IRON FIST in many ways is his more interesting work, because in X-MEN he attempts to go into their group dynamic, something he is unequipped to do, whereas he sticks to action plots in IRON FIST. For example, we have scenes where Jean says to Storm, "We've been good friends for some time now, Storm." Yet before that panel we had never seen the two of them together ever before. Also, Claremont had an extensive subplot where Professor X treats the New X-Men like children despite the fact they are adults - but we only know this because that's what Cyclops thinks in his thought bubbles; except Professor X saying something to Wolverine as he enters the Danger Room, he never SHOWS us Professor X doing really anything that could be considered tyrannical; the only sign this subplot is going on is because Cyclops is telling us this in thought bubbles, so consequently, we never really believe it. Another example are Claremont's awkward self-introductions, like when Multiple Man at the first issue of Dark Pheonix says "I'm only a kid from Kansas, so I think I'll stay out of this." Instead of, you know, having Claremont SHOW us that Multiple Man is a hick, by having him say or do something naive and hayseedish.

Also, Claremont was terrible at having powers be so ill-defined they can do just about anything. One of the worst examples of this is in EXCALIBUR #3, where Meggan, a fairy previously stated as having shapechanging powers (which she usually manifests to keep herself beautiful for her co-dependent relationship with Captain Britain), in one battle with Juggernaut, ACTUALLY GROWS TO GIANT SIZE with her shapechanging by "tapping into her connection with the earth to increase her strength" or some such nonsense. Ditto for Marvel Girl, who previously has been stated as being powerful enough to read minds and project her thoughts, suddenly in one X-MEN issue, manifests the ability to steal the ability to pilot a space shuttle.

And the series gave us Wolverine. I can't support that blight on the Marvel Universe in good conscience. I bet it was all Byrne's idea.  Cheesy
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« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2005, 09:01:04 PM »

JulianPerez writes

Quote
While generally I like Roy Thomas because of his fascination with details and exploration of comics' rich history, I would not include anything by him on a list of greatest comics ever, with the possible exception of...


Maybe I should list it as a "guilty pleasure." The truth is I'm not a huge fan of Roy's writing style, and I absolutely abhorred Lee Elias' artwork (1977 is a bit late to still be swiping from Milt Caniff, don't you think?).  But there was something about this book that kept me coming back.  The only issue I remember really loving was the Annual that featured art from a Golden Age great (Syd Shores?) on the Cap sequence.  

I'd discount that rumor about Roy wanting the Crisis.  Everything I've ever read indicates he hated the Crisis and the headaches it created for him, culminating in the ultimate headache...every hour of work he'd put into All-Star Squadron with its continuity-mending raison d'etre was made invalid with issue 12 of Crisis.  If he WAS the guy who planted the seed that became Crisis, it has to rate as one of the great Frankenstein stories in comics history.

Quote
Not that I disagree with you, Nightwing (good choice, in fact, and one underrepresented) but why Kirby's JIMMY OLSEN and not his FOURTH WORLD or KAMANDI?


The truth is I never thought Kirby's DC creations were interesting enough to stand on their own.  With JO, I thought he did what he'd done so well in his glory days on the FF: take a boring central character and populate his world with one fascinating, exciting concept after another.  In my opinion, the Fantastic Four themselves are the least interesting characters in their own book (with the except of Ben Grimm, they are the least compelling personalities in the Marvel stable).  But their world was so interesting!  And so it was with Jimmy, for a while.  But given a whole book of Kirby constructs, without a Jimmy or Kal to be the anchor or centerpoint, and I never really gave a hoot.

Quote
I loved Claremont/Byrne's X-MEN too, very much, although I wouldn't put this on a BEST OF list.


Well, you'll note I didn't either.  It went on my list of books I have a fondness for.

All I know is that for a couple years running there, I couldn't wait until the next issue of X-Men came out, and in those pre-Previews days, I actually went to the drug store every week until an issue came out, just in case.  Looking back, the stories don't always hold up so well and Byrne's art, with the benefit of hindsight, wasn't even that amazing even in this, his best period.  But I've gotta love a comic that gave me so many thrills for so long.

As for Claremont, I tend to really dislike his stuff post-Byrne.  I think being co-scripters kept them both in check.  Together, for a time, they made magic.  Apart, I wouldn't give you a plug nickel for either one.

Wolverine I liked for about 15 minutes, but I never thought he was the star.  I liked Cyclops, the dour old stick in the mud.  That's the DC fanboy in me...at Marvel I always went for super-serious (Dr Strange), super-staid (Cyclops) straight arrows (Reed) and icons (Captain America).  The flashy, hip, smart-mouth characters never did anything for me.
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« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2005, 10:38:40 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
I absolutely abhorred Lee Elias' artwork (1977 is a bit late to still be swiping from Milt Caniff, don't you think?)


I almost snuck Elias's Black Cat into my list (I would if I went beyond 5).  From what I've seen of it, beautiful work.

The Invaders were cool.  I'm nostalgic for this 1970s comic about 1940s superheroes.  Primal memories.  I've read a few recently however and the art doesn't hold up for me --serviceable, mid-70s Marvel scripts.  Not as bad as Roy Thomas would become.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #19 on: September 02, 2005, 01:41:08 AM »

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The Invaders were cool.  I'm nostalgic for this 1970s comic about 1940s superheroes.  Primal memories.  I've read a few recently however and the art doesn't hold up for me --serviceable, mid-70s Marvel scripts.  Not as bad as Roy Thomas would become.


Roy Thomas's period comics are easily his best work, I think, because he so immerses one in details and research that I seriously wonder if there's a butt-cheek groove in a chair at the New York Public Library where Roy Thomas sat, endlessly researching all the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball games in 1941, layouts of Berlin during the Nazi occupation, the life's story of Nicolai Tesla, speeches by FDR, and all the military flight training schools on the East Coast.

He throws so much detail your way that it is really amazing how well one man could "get" the period. Nice touches include guest spots in his ALL-STAR SQUADRON by Etta Candy and Hugo Danner, and guest-appearances by the robot from Metropolis, King Kong, and Indiana Jones. The ALL-STAR SQUADRON's base was in the Trylon and Periasphere from the 1939 World's Fair. One of my favorite moments was from ALL-STAR SQUADRON #7 in a fight with Aztec gods, where Liberty Belle gets her powers - by someone ringing the Liberty Bell of Mexico. My former major is Latin American history, so my surprise to see a guest appearance by 1940s Mexican President Manuel Cardenas showed true esoteric real-world knowledge on the part of Roy Thomas. Say what you like about his writing style, but Thomas had a twenty-pound brain.

Some of Roy Thomas's better work was his later ones, though his crap (e.g. SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS) far exceeds his great works - I would point for instance, as an example the CAPTAIN AMERICA: MEDUSA EFFECT short.
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« Reply #20 on: September 02, 2005, 08:52:17 AM »

I kind of like those All Star Squadrons as well, especially the historic details (and those Joe Kubert covers!).  I liked the initial team concept of mostly unknowns, shoe-horned-in as replacements for the JSA.  Part of those fresh 80s DC teams.  But a lot of the characterisation was lost with the plethora of guests and the need to keep pace with the war.
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« Reply #21 on: September 02, 2005, 12:54:58 PM »

Ah Julian by the time Cary Bates & Engelhart were doing comics I had stopped paying attention.

The Edmond Hamilton/Curt Swan's rendition of the World's Finest team had all the earmarks of classic Sillver age goodies - time travels (pawns of the Jousting Master), imaginary stories (Batman Last son of Krypton),
intergalactic gamblers etc.

The best of their out put was the Composite Superman tales which could be found in the comics section here.
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