Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Sympathy for the Devil

One of the advantages of a shared fictional universe is the picking up of someone else’s toys to do more with them than their creators got around to. Whilst the appeal of creator owned IP and stories does tend to speak for itself, being able to take interesting characters from someone else’s mind and taking them in new places can lead to interesting stories too. The mini-series Point Blank and the follow-up maxi-series Sleeper were excellent examples of how this can be done, whilst still adding new characters to it.

Point Blank was released in August 2002. Written by Ed Bubaker with pencils by Colin Wilson, it told the tale of Cole ‘Grifter’ Cash, a member of the WildC.A.T.S who was helping out another Team 7 alum Jack Lynch who was searching the underworld for information on an old protege of his called Holden Carver. Carver has started working for Tao (Tactically Augmented Organism) a former member of Wild.C.A.T.S whose intelligence usually dwarves everyone around him. Part way through the series, Lynch is shot in the head and everyone lost and confused, with the exception of Tao, who is ruling his growing little criminal syndicate that no one knows exists.

This thread was picked back up in Sleeper #1 a couple of months later. Brubaker returned and this time was joined by Sean Phillips who carried the story forward by focusing on Holden Carver, who it turned out was working for Tao on an undercover assignment from Lynch. With Lynch in a coma following his gunshot, Carver is trapped as only Lynch is aware of the assignment and the whole world thinks he’s gone over to the bad guys.

Sleeper carried on in the superhero noir style of Point Blank, but this told a more spy-themed story. Holden was affected by a piece of alien tech and could no longer feel anything, but could conduct pain and damage to other people. Cut off from his friends, his fiancee and even his own body, he must become more of his cover to survive.

This is a tense series full of twists and turns, friends become enemies and back again and you can see how this wears on the main character. We also get treats of characters like XXX-Ray, a coward who is kept around because he can see through anything. Genocide Jones, who’s back story sort of explains why he is such a violent and nihilistic soul. The standout star of these new characters is Miss Misery, who maintains her health and vitality by doing things she knows are wrong. Theft, violence, sex with the wrong people and even being verbally cruel, it’s what she needs to do to stay alive, literally.

It never gives you the idea that Holden is a hero, his talent of surviving means he is capable of committed horrible crimes to protect his cover and the mission and as his safe extraction and exoneration become more and more unlikely, Holden starts to blur the line between posing as a criminal and actually being one. Is he a talented survivor? Or is he more like the bad guys than he wants to admit, in fact as he learns more about his former employers, he starts seeing less and less of a difference between the two of them and his options to survive this whole thing is becoming limited.

All told, this series is a lot of fun and the whole story from soup to nuts is 25 issues (or 5 tpbs) long and is purely and simply self-contained. To be honest, the first trade (Point Blank) is not essential to understand or enjoy Sleeper, which for the most part is its own thing. Either way it’s a solid and engaging story from a writer with form of crime/spy/noir stories that are high quality and an art team perfectly suited for the genre they find themselves in.

I have re-read this series recently and 3rd or 4th time I still enjoyed it. Looking forward to looking into some more WildStorm hits of yesteryear.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Not quite super heroes

One of the things I mentioned in my last look at the WildStorm Universe was the absence of the traditional super-heroic tropes. There were heroes in this universe, costumes, code-names and villains, but often the heroes weren’t really that. One comic where that difference was more delineated was StormWatch.

StormWatch was a series launched in 1993 about the UN created crisis intervention team. These were more soliders and law enforcement types that had super-powers rather than masked vigilantes. Most of the team’s operatives were altered by radiation produced by a comet passing by Earth that blanketed the entire world, meaning that the team was truly international. The operatives were grouped into 4/5-man teams that were numbered. StormWatch 1, StormWatch 2 etc. The operatives were seedlings found by an activator called Christine Trelane (call-sign Synergy) and trained by team trainer Marc Slayton (call-sign Backlash) and they worked under the organisations leader Henry Bendix (known as the Weatherman) and there were dozens of support staff operating out of an orbital station called Skywatch. With the primary colours on the support staff uniforms and the bald leader it all looks very Star Trek. The comic mostly featured StormWatch 1, which was originally comprised of Battalion, Winter, Hellstrike, Fuji and Diva, but other cast members included Cannon, Fahrenheit, Flint, Swift and Strafe (Battalion’s younger brother) as well as several others, from several other places around the world. The international flavour really helped set the book apart as did the fact that they were more soliders than super-heroes and had no problems dealing out death to their enemies when the situation called for it. Over the next three years the series became a bit bland and lacked anything to make it stand out. Then in the story Fire from the Sky, some former team-mates (Flashpoint, Sunburst and Nautika) came back into the team and the team was betrayed and for the most part decimated.

In the wake of that story, a new writer was brought on board with the remit of shaking the title up and making it something different from everything else. In came current wunderkind Warren Ellis (now, I am aware of the reputation this writer has and the numerous allegations against him. I personally have decided not to buy anything new that bears his name, because I do not want to endorse this man or put money his way, but at the time this wasn’t a thing that was known to many) who in one issue changed the title and the direction of the WildStorm Universe as a whole. After the funeral of Flashpoint, Henry ‘the Weatherman’ Bendix reorganises the teams. Backlash having gone many years past, he puts Battalion into the trainer job, so his relationship with Synergy can be allowed, Sunburst and Nautika (a married couple) are also taken off the team and become consultants. Fuji and Hellstrike work under Winter in the main team of StormWatch Prime. Bendix then recruits the murder machine known as Rose Tattoo to work with Flint under Fahrenheit as part of StormWatch Red, used for reprisals and more violent actions. He recruits spirit of the 20th century Jenny Sparks and Jack Hawksmoor, a man who is bio-engineered to live in cities join Swift in StormWatch Black, the black-ops/espionage division. Sparks was born in 1900 and has lived through the 20th century, seemingly not aging since the 1920s. She’s bitter, drunk and cockney (Ellis had a habit of putting a character like that in every book he did) as well as having been a super-hero at least twice. This more cynical character matched the feel of the book from here. These 9 ‘heroes’ took on aliens, terrorists and rogue states in lethal ways as Bendix worked in the shadows with his own agenda. This comes to a head at the end of the 4th year. This led to a larger story and a relaunch.

StormWatch vol 2, well that’s a different story.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

5 90’s Comic Book Films

It is hard to imagine in the days of the MCU and the DCEU that a vast array of comic book related movies is still a relatively new concept. Go back 15 years and there was a glut of them of varying quality, 10-15 years before that and it’s still varying quality, but there is only a few of them, which meant it was easier to see them all. That said there was some quality in there.

Most of the ones I chose had a very pulp heroes feel to it, with only one being a traditional super-hero from the big two. The was less product, but more variety, which is a bit sad.

First up is…..

The Rocketeer: 1991 – Dir Joe Johnstone

This is not so much an adaptation, but an homage to republic serials of the 30’s like ‘King of the Rocketmen’ and has been adapted to comics several times since. This is a genuinely fun film, suited for a bank holiday afternoon. It’s a period piece, set in that sweet-spot between the pulp heroes era, the start of the golden age of comics and before the second world war. The cast are fantastic with stand-outs being Jennifer Connelly, who does her best with the thankless ‘damsel in distress’ role and Timothy Dalton taking whole chunks out of the scenery. It’s a sort of film that doesn’t get made anymore and we are sadder for it.

The Shadow: 1994 Dir Russel Mulcahy

Before he was known as a Trump imitator, a comedy performer and a guy famed for his anger, Alec Baldwin was something of a leading man. Here he stars as Lamont Cranston, a criminal searching for redemption posing as a rich dilettante by day and crime fighting mystery man called the Shadow at night. Able to cloud the minds of men and alter his face he battles criminals with his skills, his guns and a network of people who owe him their lives. He battles a descendent of Genghis Khan in 1930’s New York while romancing Margo Lane. A lot of it is silly, but this is again a fun film that doesn’t ask much of you and is a lot of fun beside.

Batman 🦇 Forever: 1995 Dir Joel Shumacher

After the culture phenom that was Tim Burton’s Batman films, Warner Bros went in a different direction for the follow up. Gone was the gothic themes and quirky performances and here was something a bit more camp and over the top. Val Kilmer does an okay job as Bruce Wayne and Batman and Jim Carrey channels his inner Frank Gorshin to give us an energetic Riddler. There are missteps, but honestly this is a comic book on the big screen and if you wanted nuance, realism and coherence in your comic adaptations, then you were not reading comics in the 1990’s. Comparing this to Batman, or Batman Returns shows the films flaws, compare it to Batman & Robin and it starts looking like Citizen Kane.

The Phantom: 1996 Dir Simon Wincer

This was one of the last of those campy superhero-esque films of that decade. Billy Zane dons the purple (yes purple) tights of Kit Walker, the current iteration of the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks. Battling pirates, mercenaries and corrupt businessmen in the 1930’s this film feels in keeping with Rocketeer and the Shadow and is again a lot of fun. Zane is not the best actor, but he gives it his all and this puts some earnestness to the character that carries him across the finish line. The Phantom is an interesting character and it’s a shame that this under-appreciated classic didn’t lead to more of a series of films, maybe exploring this past and future of the ghost who walks.

Blade: 1998 Dir Stephen Norrington

This was one of the films that changed the who comic book movie genre forever. Blade was a side character in the critical darling Tomb of Dracula comic by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. New Line took the idea from the comic, jettisoned some of the more 70’s ideas and added some stuff and out came this fun and violent action-horror. Wesley Snipes owns the screen as Blade, a half-vampire/half-human who craving for blood is curbed by a serum and with the vengeance obsessed Whistler fights a nightly battle against a subculture of vampires whose daytime familiars cover up their existence. When a haematologist is turned, Blade becomes personally involved just as Deacon Frost, the vampire who turned his mother, altering him in-utero is trying to change the nature of the vampire/human world. This is a lot of fun, action, some comedy and body horror that put a marvel property on the big screen and made some money. When other studios started paying attention we got the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises and the rest is history.

So that was 5 comic booky movies from the 90’s, all of them are worth checking out if you just want some mindless fun that’s better than you expect it will be.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: The foundation

When 7 of Marvel Comics’ most popular and valuable pencillers left to form their own company, it started something and that thing became so much bigger than those original 7 people. Two of the 7, Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee were almost immediately capitalising on their initial success by expanding their creator owned titles into expanding shared universe comics, much like Marvel and DC had done. I imagine looking into Extreme studios and their books would be interesting, but for me Wildstorm was where the interesting things were found.

I wrote this about the first series released, WildC.A.T.S Covert Action Teams 1, but this initial few issues had elements that would become larger part of this new universe  (no  not that one) and done so in a manner that seemed organic. IO, Jack Lynch,  Team 7, the Daemonites,  the Kherubim and more all were introduced to be expanded upon later.

So the concepts that were fundamental to the Wildstorm universe were…..

The Kherubim/Daemonite war. Two space ships (opposing sides in a war) crashland on Earth 🌍 in ancient times, the human looking Kherubim passing as locals and moving through history like the cast of Highlander.  While imperious, they generally like humans and separately from one another, help where they can. The Daemonites possess humans and live on them as parasites building power and amassing influence as part of a cabal. Its a micro of Marvel’s Kree and Skrull, just limited to one planet and cut off from their warring brethren.

Team 7 and their descendants: Many of the main characters/teams were connected to the special forces Team 7 years earlier. Wetworks’ Jackson Dane, Wild.C.A.T.S’ Grifter, Backlash, Deathblow and IO’s Jack Lynch amongst others were all members and were involved in lots of different adventures which had repercussions that echoed in 20 years later.

Gen-Factor, seedlings and alien s**t: There was usually only a handful of ways to possess superpowers.  1 – Alien or alien interference were nonterrestrial technology or biology is what made someone super. Most of WildC.A.T.S fell into this category. 2 – the seedlings. A comet passed by Earth 🌍 soaking it in radiation, this left them and their descendants possessing the potential to develop superpowers.  These seedling based SPBs (super powered beings) were the majority or the UN special ops group Stormwatch. This prevented the ideas of metas or mutants being too prevalent a thing.  3 – Gen-factor was a mutagenic process which altered many of Team 7 and their children.  The sons and daughters of Team 7 were brought into Project Genesis and several of them fell into the group known as Gen-13.  The benefit here was reasons why there were SPBs without the plethora of variety of metas that Marvel and DC had.

More espionage and sci-fi, less long underwear characters:  International Operations, Stormwatch, the Cabal and other shadowy organisations were the order of the day. Spy-fi and cyberpunk over Silver Age silliness. This was super heroes without heroes, like a lot of Image properties, but with time, a lot of the cliches fell into well realised stories.

So much of the Wildstorm titles had one or more of these elements and it gave the universe a feel that was different to what else was on offer and added the illusion of depth and history that you need to make this sort of thing work and some good titles and stories came out if it

How about all of you, do you remember Wildstorm fondly? What titles did you like? What didn’t work for you.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Weathering the Storm: Introduction

A while back as a sort of retrospective, I looked at Image Comics, 30 years from it’s launch back in the spring/summer of 1992, the post is here.

The studio/line that I was more drawn to was Jim Lee’s Wildstorm. Launched by WildC.A.T.S. (Covert Action Teams) it soon blossomed into a shared fictional universe as complex as anything early Marvel/DC did and with it’s own rules, tropes and cast of characters. With DC trying again to integrate these properties into the DCU (it hasn’t gone great before) I wanted to have a look at the comics, the characters and titles that shaped this line and why it was I so enjoyed it. I want to look at characters, stories and titles that made me enjoy this so much and also ask, where did it go wrong, or did it?

But my first question is to you all, do you remember the initial Wildstorm series and the ones that followed, are you nostalgic for them, feel they weren’t good or that they haven’t stood the test of time.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

5 Times they tried to do Spider-Man again

It has been my experience that in regards to the big 2 of comics (Marvel & DC) the split in regard to origins has often been concept vs execution.

Superman for example has a conceptually perfect origin that in one series was broken down into 8 words. But this origin has been re-done so many times just in the pages of the comics. Some basic things stay, but other stuff gets changed. Batman is the same, the origin’s core concept stays, whilst a lot of the details get reshuffled. It keeps their stories flexible and to a degree timeless. It’s allowed these modern myths to be retold again and again.

Marvel on the other hand, generally keep the stories themselves the same. The themes and the details stay. Some stuff has to move, with the impetus for the fateful flight which led to the Fantastic Four can’t really be pre-moon landing cold war fear and Iron Man can’t really still have come from the Vietnam War. But apart from the moving of the times (thank you the Marvel Sliding Timescale) their origins and basic themes have stayed pretty stable with very few things about them being changed. The clearest example of this is Amazing Fantasy 15 and the origin of Spider-Man.

Beyond the pop-culture touchstones, very little dates this story. The universality of the teenage experience and the struggle to find your place in a world that feels you are already in the right box adds pathos and a degree of realism to a story about a superhero in long underwear climbing walls.

It’s almost a perfect super-hero origin and what came from it is the almost quintessential super-hero story. The young person who is not popular living a regular life, falls ass-backwards into super-powers and then lives a double/triple life: student, family member and masked adventurer. It was a great concept and you can tell that just by how many times they tried again. This isn’t the teen-hero trope like Robin or Kid Flash or even Invincible and it isn’t a hero from humble origins destined for greatness. It’s more the everyman angle. This is the hero who might be you, or someone to whom you can relate. Not many could relate to a rich Howard Hughes type with an artificial heart, or a man who slept whilst the world moved on. But who can’t relate to money troubles, trying to land a date, or even be everywhere you need to be and stuff getting in the way. A lot of the comic reading populace could relate to that, as could most other people.

So like clockwork, every decade or so we get an young everyman hero, trying his best to make it in a world to weird and dangerous to make that easy. Here are 5 of the more successful of that breed.

Richard Rider: The Man called Nova

First appearing in the Man called Nova #1 in 1976, Richard Rider differed from Peter Parker (apart from a letter of the alphabet) in that wasn’t some unappreciated genius. He was average. Average height, average athletic skill, average intelligence and part of an average nuclear family. He was right in the middle and as a result overlooked by his smarter/more sporty classmates and his certified genius younger brother. He was given powers by a dying alien, part of a group called the Nova Corps of the alien world of Xandar. It does sound like Spider-Man and Green Lantern’s origins had a baby, but it set the scene for a hero who was eternally out of his depth. He battled aliens, villains, Thor at one point, ageless beings like the Sphinx and at the end of his series the entire Skrull army. He is also unique in one other way, he quit. He gave up his powers to help Xandar after the war against the Skrulls he was drafted into and went home, a powerless high-school drop out. He was brought back for the 90’s series New Warriors and he keeps doing that, he keeps coming back. Being dead and in the wrong universe didn’t stop this guy from making yet another come-back. He’s a local guy made good on a cosmic scale.

Ronnie Raymond/Dr. Martin Stein: Firestorm – the Nuclear Man

Almost a contemporary of Nova, Firestorm also debuted in 1976, but low sales and other factors kept him out of the limelight until a stint in the Justice League raised his profile enough to earn him a second shot. This was a little closer to the Spider-Man formula, it added the scientist element as well as the hero deal wreaking havoc on the personal life, but this time the hero was a mix of 2 people. Ronnie Raymond was the body with the subconscious of Martin Stein being an advisor. The flipside of it was that since it was Martin’s subconscious that worked in the Firestorm identity,  when split  he had no memory of being Firestorm. This was the way of making the hero stuff a problem for the regular life. It was a Marvel style character for DC and he always comes back.

Chris Powell: Darkhawk

First appearing in March 1991 as one of a group of new titles, such as Sleepwalker, Guardians of the Galaxy and New Warriors it was a basic by the numbers hero book that  followed Chris who is learning to be a hero after the loss of his father who was revealed to be a corrupt cop, adding a secret burden to the title’s star. It hasn’t aged well, depending on 90’s edginess, but lacked the pathos of earlier and later versions of this idea. When revisited, this lacking of originality and star quality was made much more a part of his story. Ironically the thing that made him forgettable was the hook that future writers used to make him worth reading about. I include him mostly because he fit the remit.

Kyle Rayner: Green Lantern

Ou first, but not only legacy character. He first appeared in 1994’s Green Lantern #48 before getting his own full costumed appearance 2 issues later at the end of #50. Up until then, Green Lanterns were greeted with their name and the phrase “you have the ability to overcome great fear, welcome to the Green Lantern Corps.”

Kyle got ” You will have to do. ” which is a very different thing. Rather than being honest and fearless, Kyle was a struggling artist who was quite aware of how out of his depth he was. Early in his career he lost his girlfriend, the helped restart the universe. That is a steep learning curve. But with an apprenticeship with the New Titans and an invite to the JLA, he was someone who learned and could stand alongside any Green Lantern. He was a DC Spider-Man, but definitely one done in a DC way. He was my Green Lantern as he got me back into DC comics and watching him grow into a hero was a great journey.

Kampala Khan: Ms Marvel

This 3rd iteration of Ms Marvel first appeared in her eponymous #1 in 2014. She followed in the wake of the introduction of several Inhuman characters being introduced as a way of created mutant-ish characters that could be used in a multi -media capacity without other license holders havin rights to them. Since all that was needed was some nebulous gene, different nationalities and backgrounds could be considered. Desperate for some diverse representation, Marvel opted to make this character a muslim. Kamala is a teenaged Pakistani -American super hero fan. Her favourite hero is Carol Danvers and when terrigenesis gives her shapeshifting powers, that’s who she looks like. Soon gets the hang of it and is able to use her powers to do all sorts of things and becomes the hero of New Jersey, a member of the Champions as well as negotiate high school life, family issues and being A POC in modern America.

Kamala is of this 5 the one who is closest to the New version of Spider-Man that we see her, but is also the one doing her own thing the most. Giving a new perspective and more inclusive mileu, she expands the number of people who can identify with this type of hero. When the readership expands, the more diverse the characters are, the more people the hero who could be you could be.

So that’s my 5. There have been others, but these are the ones that stuck out to me. Who did I miss?

Take care Internet people.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

So Much Content: The disadvantage of living in a geek golden age

I am a middle aged geek. My comic/sci-fi fantom were forged in the 80s and the 90s and in that time, I have seen a lot of genre fiction make it into our living rooms and into our multiplexes. I have seen the lean pickings, the occasional gems and gob-smackingly bizarre. (The Generation -X tv pilot) I was there when our options were limited and have arrived where those options seem unlimited and some days I wonder, have we overdone it?

I was born when Punk and the Muppets arrived and remember how sparse the amount of good quality sci-fi/generally geeky content was. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s we had very little to show for that, I mean we had re-runs of some stuff from the 60’s and some homegrown quality in Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, but the majority of this was relegated to saturday morning fare and the occasional Star Wars/Star Trek film at the cinema.

In the 90’s this seemed to improve, we got a lot of comics/sci-fi related movies that raised the bar for those of my persuasion. We got a Batman film every 2-3 years and there were several comic-related and other sci-fi movies that were of high quality, but those were few and far between.

But in 1998, that changed. New Line Cinema released Blade. It was a Wesley Snipes vehicle based on a supporting character from the 1970’s horror comic Tomb of Dracula. Blade is a half-human/half-vampire who uses bladed weapons to kill vampires as he searches for Deacon Frost, the vampire that fed on his mother, just before he was born. Every other element of his origin and milieu else was retooled and we got a unique looking film that re-launched the idea of a well made comic-book movie. That led direct to a couple of other movies that changed the game forever. The first was 2000’s X-Men, adapted the then-sales-juggernaut comic to the big screen. This was quite a big success and underlined the idea that a comic related movie could make a lot of money. Then in 2002 came Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. This was a comic that was quite faithful to it’s four-colour roots and gave a relatively comics accurate costume and with Tobey Maguire, the most Peter Parker-like depiction on screen to date.

Then the floodgates opened. Within a few years we got another X-Men, another Spider-Man, Hellboy, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and a year or so after that, Batman and Superman both returned to the box office to no small amount of acclaim.

Since 2008 that has increased exponentially with the introduction of shared cinematic universes. Sony have one, Fox had one with Marvel Characters. Marvel Studios (most of this time owned by Disney) had the ground-breaking Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC tried to the same, didn’t work like, but they are still trying. Even Universal tried something like it with a relaunch of their classic monster IPs that stalled with the Mummy. So we went from getting a comic related movie every few years that may or may not be faithful or good, to getting one every other month that links to a dozen other movies.

Within 14 years, we went from a half decent attempt at a marvel hero on screen to at one point a 20+ series of movies that stand up as a full saga. The second iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the second iteration of a 3rd tier title got their own movie. People who never read a comic in their life know who Rocket Racoon and Drax the Destroyer are, it’s madness.

Still, who goes to the movies every week? It’s a threat to the scale of your DVD/Blu-Ray collection, but still manageable. But what about the idiot box?

TV was in the same boat, we had a Star Trek series, the occasional 90’s gem, but from the 2000’s that seem to explode as well. Smallville debuted in 2001 and we had tonnes come in after that. Heroes, Birds of Prey, Mutant-X (a poundland version of X-Men) Blade and a good few more. Then in 2012, it exploded again. DC brought us Arrow, this spun off into new shows including (but not limited to) The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Batwoman and Black Lightning. Image brought out an adaptation of The Walking Dead, which continues to find an audience after becoming a ratings winner early on. Marvel didn’t do so well, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. struggled to find it’s identity, but still managed last 6 or 7 seasons and Agent Carter was very well received critically. When streaming became a thing, it exploded further. Netflix made a deal with Marvel to adapt their street-level heroes and we got Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher and more recent creation Jessica Jones. We got 13 episodes of each per season and each got at least 2 seasons, then there was the team up series, the Defenders. Fox still owning the X-characters brought of Legion and the Gifted shortly after one another, putting more and more out there.

Then Disney came back in with their acquisition of the Star Wars IP. We got 5 movies, 2 more animated shows and then no less than 3 TV mini-series. Marvel have released at least 6 mini-series in the last two years.

It’s a lot right? It’s hard to keep up and I haven’t mentioned the 4 ongoing Star Trek shows, the DC streaming shows, the plethora of animated shows or the Walking Dead spin-offs. Now that is just current stuff, with the right mix of streaming services, you can watch almost everything that has been on before as well. Sometimes it feels like its too much.

It does come across as poor little geek boy. Complaining that there’s too much to enjoy. It’s a nice problem to have when you really think of it. There’s also the point that your own mileage can vary. What’s too much for me, might be just fine for some, or not enough for another. Maybe I am fatigued and just wanted to take a minute from the onslaught of new multi-media content.

Still, it’s been a pretty interesting 25 years for the geeky among us and who knows what’s next. Who knows what obscure and random characters will now get a TV series, or film or something. It seems that the only place I am not going to see my favourite comic characters in new content is the comics themselves.

I generally don’t know what I was getting at with this.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Farewell and thank you George Perez.

Just to warn you all, this is a bit of a ramble, but it is what was in my head.

On Saturday I learned of the passing of the legend that is George Perez. He died aged 67 after a long battle with illness at home, surrounded by loved ones. He had been ill for some time and he was aware that these were his last days.

A week after losing Neal Adams, this was a loss not just the devastating one to his family and friends, but to the larger comics community, both professional and fans alike and it’s hard not to feel saddened by this tragic event. So I wanted to write something about this man, whom I never met, but had an impact upon my life nonetheless.

George Perez’s career spans over 40 years, covers hundreds of characters for both DC and Marvel amongst other work and commissions from his early works for Marvel to his work during the New 52 era of DC and several places in between. Almost all of the work he did defined both what a penciller could do with a page and added depth and details to many characters. No one will argue how great Jack Kirby’s action packed panels were, but George Perez added a degree of soul to the Thing that transcended iconic.

After some stellar work for Marvel with work on the Fantastic Four and the Avengers titles amongst others, he leapt across the aisle to DC and along with Marv Wolfman relaunched the Teen Titans as the New Teen Titans. He brought back original members Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Robin, adjacent member Beast Boy and introduced Raven, Starfire and Cyborg launching a comic that was well written and amazingly drawn. After a few years of this, in 1985 he went big.

The company-wide crossover wasn’t original, Contest of Champions was years earlier and the big 12 month event was done by Secret Wars, but it was this Wolfman/Perez creation that took the idea to an epic place.

I first got a few random issues of this comic in the 1990’s, seeing almost all of DC’s repertoire of characters for the first time, parallel earths, multiple versions of the same characters and a story both complex to read and beautiful to look at. With new characters like Harbinger, Pariah and both versions of the Monitor he created a story that has endured for the majority of 40 years and still stands up. I never got all of the issues, but I did manage to get one of the collected editions, the one with the Alex Ross cover and I re-read it. When my son was younger, I read it with him and I do a re-read every couple of years. That and his reboot and revitalisation of Wonder Woman cemented his reputation as a comic superstar. But I didn’t know this at that point.

His return to Marvel came with Infinity Gauntlet along with Jim Starlin which made Thanos ‘the’ Marvel villain as well as providing much of the plot for Avengers: Infinity War over 20 years later. But again, this is not where I had come in yet.

In the mid-90s, I started working in a comic shop in the centre of Merseyside, it was there I met my first comics professionals at signings and since I was being paid, was able to read comics that I might not have otherwise read. It was whilst being there, that I saw the announcement for and read the initial issues of volume 3 of Avengers.

I didn’t know the Avengers well and yet here they all were. It was part of Marvel’s Heroes Return initiative, with big stars on what should be big books, Ron Garney returned to Captain America, Alan Davies started off Fantastic Four and the Avengers were pencilled by George Perez and I was hooked. This is what the Avengers looked like with better colours, sharper inks, but the same excellent pencils by a more seasoned George. It led to me reading the Avengers long after I expected to be gone and his depictions of them are to me definitive. He is responsible for my favourite ever panel of Avengers:-

It was never bettered to my eyes and whilst the follow-up run with Alan Davies was good, it lacked that iconic quality that it had but a few issues before.

His work slowed down a bit after that, with the exception of the excellent JLA Avengers/Avengers JLA series that reunited him with Kurt Busiek from his Avengers run that gave us a 4 part prestige format series that is absolutely beautiful, worth the many years of waiting to see Batman meeting the Thing.

But afterwards, he became a face at conventions, all over the world, proving he was as kind as he was talented, I have many facebook friends and acquaintances that all have their tale of the lovely man who did a sketch and spent time with them. He was a lovely man who brought moments of joy to people with his work and his presence.

I was gutted to hear of his illness and the knowledge that he would retire, but he has left behind a library of work that is decades of exceptionally beautiful work, action packed and detailed that speaks to the heroic ideal in the same way Kirby’s did. News came out that he wasn’t going to get treatment for the illness and was instead going to spend what time he had with friends and family.

No, I never met the man, I don’t have a story of meeting him, or a sketch he did for me, but I do have comics that he did that enhanced my life by distracting me from my problems, or taking me into a world and showing me heroes and stories that lifted me up. The fact that there won’t be any more work from him is sad, that his family lost him is even sadder, but his work will endure and as a result, so will his legacy.

The last picture I want to put is his one of Superman, wielding Captain America’s shield and Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor, a picture that reminds me that no matter what, you have to keep going and use whatever you can to do the right thing and get the job done.

Thank you Mr Perez, for what you gave to me and many thousands of others who never met you, you gave us heroes and one of them was you.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Neal Adams

This weekend, I learned of the sad passing of Neal Adams at the age of 80.

Neal was an accomplished penciller with a career stretching back to the Silver Age, with a dynamic style that brought more realism to that era and whose worked reached far into the 21st Century.

He worked on almost all the major characters at DC, particularly memorable on Batman as well as his redesign of Green Arrow helping turn from a Batman clone to a character in his own right with a look that was unlike anything done before.

Whilst his artistic contributions are almost peerless, one of the things I heard most about him was his work for other creators. He helped launch the career of Frank Miller amongst others, but the thing he also did was help existing artists.

A champion of creator’s rights, his was one of the voices that led to DC Comics’ recognising the contributions of Siegel and Shuster in the creation and success of Superman. The credit on every media product containing Superman, shows these two names and that’s down to the work of Neal Adams. That says that as well as a good artist, he was a good man and my condolences are with his family and friends, who have lost him. The comic fans amongst us, we have a massive body of work to still enjoy. From an excellent run on the Silver Age X-Men, to his decades spanning work on Batman to the dozens of other projects and hundreds of pages and covers that were all great works of art, he has left a legacy that we can all enjoy and will keep going.

I could ramble more, but others have said more and said it better, but I just wanted to mark this sad occasion and remember the great stories that this man was a part of.

My personal favourites of his work was the hard-travelling heroes era of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, what about yours internet people?

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Back when the Future looked brighter.

As in my previous post, I looked into DC Comics more in the weeks and months after Zero Hour: Crisis in Time and one of the things that series did was give us a fresh start on the Legion of Super-Heroes.

The original iteration of the LOSH appeared in Adventure Comics 247 from February 1958. Originally used as side characters for the book’s lead Superboy (Superman when he was a boy) they were teems who were inspired by the legend of Superman nearly 1000 years in the future and travelled back in time to meet their idol. They became friends and came back time after time even getting joint billing on Superboy’s own eponymous title, eventually they supplanted  him there.

From 1958-1985 the LOSH were heroes from dozens of worlds many with powers specific to those worlds and others with unique abilities. They were almost exclusively human looking (and white, it was the 50s after all) but were aliens from worlds 🌎 like Braal, Winath, Colu and the Saturnian moon of Titan.

Things have a habit or changing and in 1985 there came a crisis.

In the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths, several titles got a bit of a reboot, including Superman, who now had never been Superboy. Without Superboy, do you get a legion he worked with, or could have inspired??

The initial solution to that problem was a ‘pocket universe’ which did have a Superboy and so when they travelled to meet that Superboy, that’s where they travelled back to. Even this was removed in a gentle re-boot which removed Superboy and Supergirl by adding new characters Kent Shakespeare and Laurel Gand and fitting them in retroactively. This didn’t really help, especially when the adult Legion was met by a teenaged version of the Legion, these Legionnaires were a modernised ‘back to basics’ approach with old characters young again and fresh new designs for the characters. It was all getting a bit convoluted and hard to get in to. For whatever reason, once Zero Hour came along a new start was possible and a full reboot was done.

This reboot era started on 16 August 1994 with Legion of Super Heroes #0 then carried on 2 weeks later on 30 August 1994 with Legionnaires #0.

This told the origin for the new team without the emphasis on Superboy’s example and with updated costumes, names and overall design aesthetic. The story opens with Braalian Rok Krin, citizen of Titan Irma Ardeen and Winathian Garth Rannz meeting enroute to Earth, on the same interstellar transport as wealthy philanthropist R.J. Brande. On Earth, Brande is the subject of a kidnap attempt, foiled by the native powers magnetic powers of Rok, the native telepathic power of Irma and the accidentally gained lightning powers of Garth. These three strangers using their powers to save another stranger becomes a symbol of co-operation in the new United Planets. These three become Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Live Wire and each take up Brande’s offer to join this new team he wants to set up. They are soon joined by Tinya Wazzo, the daughter of the ambassador from Bgztl and Brande’s PA the Carggite Luornu Durgo. Tinya is able to pass through solid objects and Luornu is able to split into three physically identical people, much like the rest of their people.

These two issues start the series off, Legionnaires #0 ends with several other young people being drafted from their home-worlds for membership.

This is where I came in, it was a new story with older stuff in there, neither undoing the previous tale, nor being so pale in comparison. This is the essence of a well done re-boot. I can’t say it was better than the pre-crisis version, nor can I say it was worse, these are personal preferences, not right and wrong thinking. All I can say is that I liked it. There was a hopeful sci-fi future that felt recognisable and also hopeful. There was super-hero action and more than a little soap-opera melodrama. That was my sweet-spot in the 90s. I enjoyed it, reading both of the series which moved from one series to the other similar to what the Superman titles had been doing.

From the ups and downs of the Legion’s fortune, the battle with the Daxamites and betrayals and divided loyalties, this was fun and dramatic and a period that I enjoyed so much.

It came to an end in the mid 00’s with another restart (the threeboot) and then the pre-crisis team ended up coming back and there’s another group now and so this post Zero Hour era is for the most part forgotten and I think that’s a shame. So I just wanted to look at this era, when we still believed in the future and there was some good comics available.

What about you? Did you read this era? Like it, dislike it?

Anyway I have rambled enough, TTFN internet people.