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Author Topic: Men of Tomorrow  (Read 7498 times)
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TELLE
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« on: November 28, 2005, 07:15:04 AM »

Now that the paperback version of Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book is out, I thought I'd start a thread on aspects of the book that intrigued me.

First off, the cover.  Chip Kidd's design incorporates images by Fletcher Hanks, a Golden Age cartoonist and pulp artist.  The story features, I think, a character called Stardust the Wizard.  Hanks has a naive, outsider artist style that perfectly embodies the newness and weirdness of superheroes.  A weird, visionary character, profiled here.  Anyone know much more about Hanks?

Second, I was intrigued by Jones' dismissal of the art on Silver Age Superman comics.  He describes the art by Boring, Swan, et al as rigidly controlled, overly scripted, and, on the level of the page, too restricted to a repetitive grid, with no room for inventiveness, thanks to Weisinger.  Fromulaic variations on 2-shot, close-up,  etc.  My experience of the art is different.  Inventive, classic sci-fi backgrounds and settings, great character detail and a varying naturalistic approach to poses (especially in Swan).  Interesting and elegant artistic solutions to extremely complicated, problematic scripts.

I know Jones is writing a cultural history with a basis in biography, but his neglect of the visual side of that history (past, say, 1950) troubles me. Sure, he focuses on the pulp imagery that inspired Superman and Shuster's (radical and revolutionary in many ways) evolving and then devolving style, but not much else beyond that.   Anyone else have that experience?
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2005, 10:17:58 AM »

Has anyone read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay? I keep meaning to pick it up, but I haven't got round to it yet.  It sounds like a wonderful novel.
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2005, 10:33:44 AM »

I was reticent, but it turns out to be quite good.  Lots in there for fans of Superman and the Golden Age.  A perfect fictional companion to Men of Tomorrow.  An exciting plot, with plenty of comic nerd detail that doesn't get in the way.
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Klar Ken T5477
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2005, 12:33:03 PM »

And in Chabon's case nothing new and a lot from Feiffer's book. In fact Feiffer's "self published" comic he did as a kid reffing his own golden agaers is called Radio Comics.
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2005, 01:28:58 PM »

I've noticed a lot of comics historians (Steranko, et al) tend to pooh-pooh any post-Shuster Superman art as boring and pedestrian.  This seems to be based on the academician's view that comics exist in their purest form only while in the hands of their originators.  Thus, where I would judge Joe Shuster's work as crude and unschooled (albeit fun), the historian sees it as definitive...anything rough or ugly about it is all intentional and integral to the character, from their point of view.

Swan's stuff is more in the style of classic illustrators...more polished, more delicate, more pleasing to the eye.  And I suppose if you believed the essence of Superman's character lay in frenetic motion and acts of violent retribution, then you'd find the move to Swan's more sedate, mannerly Man of Steel depressing.

I have the opposite view: with all due respect to Jerry and Joe, the vision of Superman that won over most of the world is one fashioned by Bob Maxwell, Whit Ellsworth, Mort Weisinger, Curt Swan, Wayne Boring, George Reeves, Ed Hamilton, Otto Binder, Christopher Reeve, et al.  If we were going to put an honest "created by" credit on Superman comics, it would be longer than the story that followed.  Superman is the product of many hands, and frankly even poor old picked-on Al Plastino drew a version that would be more easily recognized and perceived as "correct" than Shuster's.

I think comics historians have a hard time accepting that anything worthwhile can be created by committee, or that maybe Superman hit his true heights (gasp!) after he was "stolen" away from Jerry and Joe.
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2005, 01:34:55 PM »

Well put Nightwing.
And hey who wouldnt want a Plastino original?

Wonder how many versions of myths circulated before Homer even wrote them down as his version?
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2005, 04:29:15 PM »

Nightwing;  Jerry Siegel was one of the main writers from around 1958 to around 1964.  It's intellectual dishonesty to deny Jerry Siegel any credit for the silver-age Superman.
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2005, 05:03:21 PM »

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Nightwing; Jerry Siegel was one of the main writers from around 1958 to around 1964. It's intellectual dishonesty to deny Jerry Siegel any credit for the silver-age Superman.


Wow, I've never been accused of intellectual dishonesty before!  But don't worry, if the term catches on, I'll be sure to credit you every time I use it.  :lol:

I never said Jerry didn't write some great Siver Age Superman stories.  My point was that the things we love about Superman come not just from Jerry and Joe, but from dozens of creators over a period of decades.  And  that if we put a truly accurate "Created By" credit on the Superman character it would include a lot more than two names.  I didn't include Seigel or Shuster on my list because they are already credited, aren't they?

Getting back on topic, Jones' book does cover Jerry's return to the books under Uncle Morty and offers some fascinating insights into just why stories like "Superman's Return to Krypton" resonate so strongly.  And though I don't think Jones goes so far, I would say that Jerry's 60s output on the character beat his early stuff all hollow.  The Seigel and Shuster model Superman was, for me, about knocking down a bunch of straw men week after week.  The 60s model had pathos and emotional power.  And as you imply, the fact that Jerry was behind a lot of those stories proves his writing chops.
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