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 ๐ŸŒŽ 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.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: A whole new Universe (no, not that one) to explore – Part 2

In the wake of the DC Universe altering Zero Hour, a whole bunch of jumping on points were deemed necessary as well as new series to start and new continuities to establish and in a smart (albeit cynical) move, DC had a 0 issue for almost all of their ongoing series. These would be origins, or stories about the past, or even things like re-stating the series’ premise and status quo. This led to a lot of issues in the months of August and September 1994 being good starts for new readers and I was one of them.

The first week started strong with the following issue 0s
Batman, Deathstroke: the Hunted, Flash, Legion of Super Heroes (more on that story later), Primal Force, Spectre, Superboy, Superman: The Man of Steel and Wonder Woman.

It was also the time that I started to frequent the other comic shop and for the first time since I was 10 or so, found my people. I spent much of the next 6 years spending my weekends there, both as a customer and then as staff, working a part time job for comic-money. Needless to say, I had a LOT of comics reading done in that time.

The following week brought Batman: Shadow of the Bat, The Demon, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Justice League America, New Titans, Starman and Superman.

The next week introduced Adventures of Superman, Detective Comics, Fate, Gunfire, Justice League Taskforce, Legionnaires (again, we’ll get to that) Outsiders, R.E.B.E.L.S. 94, The Ray, Steel and Xenobrood.

Finally the 0 issues came to an end with Action Comics, Anima, Aquaman, Catwoman, Damage, Darkstars, Green Arrow, Guy Gardner: Warrior, Lobo, Manhunter and Robin.

Some characters had multiple series, both Batman and Superman having one a week and the Legion of Super Heroes having two per month and those linked, but the rest were one offs giving you a taste of these new characters as well as a refresher on who they are and what they were about. Amongst those were new titles, Xenobrood, Manhunter, Fate, the retooled L.E.G.I.O.N. 94 (now known as R.E.B.E.L.S 94) and the critically acclaimed Starman. It was a big push by DC to gain new readers and market share and at least in my own case this was true.

I was already a fan of Superman, but here is where I started seriously collecting it, alongside Green Lantern, I also added Flash, Fate, Guy Gardner, New Titans, Damage, Manhunter and Justice League America to my rapidly expanding pull list.

It was a new world for me to run around in and it brought a new appreciation to this rival to Marvel and it set up a cycle of my rediscovering DC every few years as they tried this idea again and again.

As I look back, seeing what stuck and what didn’t, the thing that strikes me is how DC was trying something different in this era. We had a new Green Lantern, Wally West owning his position as the Flash, a new Green Arrow, new titles like Starman, Damage and Manhunter. This was daring and risky, but to me it was working and many of the characters that this era brought to prominence I followed for many years after, until the versions before that came back.

Anyway, I had no idea what I was saying here, but I leave with a question internet people. Do you remember this era? Do you remember it fondly? What worked for you, what didn’t? Did this work better or worse than say the Nu 52?

Ttfn Internet People, I am outta here

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: A whole new Universe (no, not that one) to explore – Part 1

One of the other formative 90’s experiences was my more substantial foray into DC comics. It started with the new Green Lantern in Green Lantern vol 3 issue 51 which was the introduction of struggling artist Kyle Rayner receiving the last Green Lantern ring following the decent into madness of previous GL Hal Jordan. In real life, it was a time when I moved from my usual comic shop, to a new one on Slater Street.

Whilst I had read Crisis on Infinite Earths (or some of it) earlier and I had read issues of Justice League (America and Europe) and the odd Green Lanterns, my DC knowledge was less than expansive. I was however a fan of post-crisis Superman and the art of Dan Jurgens led me to the latest DC, Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. One of the reasons for this was that it seemed to offer a good jumping on point as well as sort out some of their continuity issues.

One of those things would prove to be true.

Zero Hour was a 5 issue series released between 12 July and 9 August 1994 counting down from 4 to 0 weekly.

The plot was that former hero Hawk, who became Monarch, who then became Extant was doing something to time that caused temporal anomalies and the past and future to be erased.

DC used this as a sort of clearing house event, removing the Justice Society from a position of prominence and giving a fresh start to Hawkman, whose continuity had been a mess for quite a while now.

It also sorted the Team Titans mystery bringing that idea to it’s conclusion. We also lost the Legion of Super Heroes in the build up to Zero Hour. It was then revealed that yet another villain was behind the whole thing and was simply manipulating Extant into doing his bidding. Hal Jordan, former Green Lantern of Sector 2814, now taking the name Parallax.

The series ended with 0 and the destruction of the DC Universe. It didn’t last as a second big bang occurred, this time with nascent super-hero Damage as the spark that caused it at the beginning of time.

Once this was done, history had been altered, a defined decade had come and gone since the emergence of Superman and now things were different, long time histories of the future now no longer existed, Guy Gardner had an alien heritage and all new heroes and villains were on the verge of breaking out.

It was the first time there was a DC event that I was on the ground floor for and I was glad of it. It was an exciting time as new and interesting things look like they were going to happen and I knew one thing more than anything else, I was going to be spending a lot more money on comics in the coming months.

I had no idea.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything part 8

So in the end, what did it matter?

30 years ago, Image Comics debuted in the comics marketplace and took the world by storm. 7 of Marvel’s biggest named creators just walked out and went into business for themselves. But beyond milking their fans for more dollar and narrowing the market share for the big 2, what has been the legacy of these guys doing it for themselves?

Much of the IP is still around from Spawn and Savage Dragon still being ongoing titles by the same company, to Wildstorm’s characters getting a second lease of life from the re-boot in The Wild Storm, to some of the post-Stormwatch characters being seen in the main DC Universe and several revival attempts of Shadowhawk, Cyberforce and Youngblood, the characters struck a chord and their fans keep interest in them alive.

It did two other things too, it made a non-big 2 comics company a viable business idea. Dark Horse did so much more super hero stuff with the Comics Greatest World event that had lots of really good ideas in it. Valiant comics burst forth as well from Jim Shooter amongst others. Now you have Boom Studios, IDW, Vault and a dozen more besides offering alternatives to the unstoppable behemoths of Marvel and DC.

Part of this was the other half of Image’s legacy. Moving more behind the scenes jim Valentino became a larger supporter of creator own series. If people wanted to do their own thing, Image was the place to do it, taking advantage of the hole left by Vertigo’s shrinking and eventual cancellation. Many creators doing work for the big 2 now also do Image titles, retaining IP ownership as well as much of the income and there’s no restriction as to what they can do. Sci-Fi, Super Heroes, Horror, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy and Noir are all up for grabs and there are success stories there. Several series have made it to films and television, including the sales juggernaut that was the Walking Dead as well as Invincible, by the same writer Robert Kirkman, who was inspired by the original 7 and has joined them in the upper management of Image Comics.

I suppose that was the real gain from Image. It was 7 guys showing you that it could be done, that you could do what you like and have it be yours. You could want to draw Batman, or write Spider-Man, but if you also had your own ideas, there was a place to do that. Image Comics showed so many people the way and even now, 30 years on, they still do. Whatever you like to read, there’s something for you and we are all happier for that fact.

There’s more that can be said, but better writers can say it. All I wanted to say was Image is 30 years old and from out of it came some pretty damn good comics. So for whatever reasons they had, well done for leaving and doing it for yourself. The comics world thanks you.

That’s all for me for now folks,

TTFN

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything part 7

The final of those first 7 issues came later than the others and was less separated from the others. Whilce Portacio was an X-Men alum same as Jim Lee and very much came with Lee into the Image team.

Portacio had a style that was similar to Lee and Silvestri, but very much had its own flavour. He had a flair for action and metallic effects and this put him in the perfect aesthetic place to do Wetworks.

Wetworks 1 was released July 4 1994, a full two years into Image’s publishing era. Wetworks was the story of a military unit exposed to some unknown technology that coated them in a golden armour with unusual powers and abilities and these events brought them into a war between vampires and werewolves.

There’s a lot going on there, maybe two much, but this comic integrated into Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Universe of characters and found its place there.

Much like WildC.A.T.S. and others, it was a casualty of Wildstorm’s absorption into DC as a business and then their incorporation into the New 52 universe. I don’t know that I have seen any of these characters since then, but even just based on the visuals, that’s a shame. Maybe we will again one day.

Next time: What is, if anything, the point here.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything part 6

One of the more seasoned professionals of the Image 7 was Mark Silvestri. Silvestri was as much of a name in the 80’s as the 90’s and Rob Liefeld often referred to Mark as the best illustrator of the bunch. Seeing some of his Marvel work in the 80s, there’s evidence a’plenty that it was true.

When it was his time to put a number 1 out, it was one to look for, if you were in it for the art and in that regard he did not disappoint.

Cyberforce 1 was released 9 October 1992 and was the last of the initial creators’ first series to be released that year. Several of the creators’ studios put out companion titles, Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios and Jim Lee’s Wildstorm being the obvious culprits there, but this was the 6th number 1 of those initial debuts.

Cyberforce was very reminiscent of Marvel’s X-Men. Well to be honest that’s being generous. It was a more blatant copy than the subject of my previous post WildC.A.T.S. and this did not really help it stand out on an already stuffed marketplace. It did enough sales to warrant an ongoing and allowed Silvestri’s studio Top Cow to expand into other titles such as The Darkness and Witchblade, both of which proved successful at the time

The characters and concepts in Cyberforce have struggled to maintain their position in the marketplace and have had several reboots and restarts.

As of this writing there doesn’t seem to be a Cyberforce series being published, but maybe one will be along soon.

Next time: Things get shiny with the 7th founder’s first comic

T

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything part 3

Although in 1992 these concepts were new to the comics buying world ๐ŸŒŽ,  some of these concepts were not new at all.

One character that had already had a shelf life already and that was Erik Larsen’s Dragon. Originally a creation from his adolescent years it had only ever been printed on a small press scale. When the chance to go big on something creator owned a modified version of a character he already had fleshed out was obvious.ย  Paul Dragon became Savage Dragon.

Released 24 June 1992, a scant 3 weeks after Spawn #1, Savage Dragon started as a 3 part mini series introducing the titular character who was an amnesiac green humanoid with a fin on the top of his head and was also possessed of great strength and endurance.

This Dragon was found by the Chicago police and joined them as they battled an increasing number of post and non human being dubbed Superfreaks. The police needed their own and that’s where Dragon came in.

This series had everything a teenager would want in a comic, there was action, amazing visuals,  humour and women with physics defying boobs. But other than that and the jabs at comics tropes and famous names on comics, the Johnny Redbeard stuff alone earns the comic the title of Savage there was a couple of things that stood out, one was the sense of stakes. Characters were killed, or injured and these changes stuck. The other was it moved in real time. Whenever one story moved over several parts, breaks happened afterwards and so 12 issues were 1 year rather than the sliding timescales used by the big two.

Another thing to note is that it has been continuous since its inception and still under the pen of its creator. Even at issue 262, Erik Larsen is still the majority of the creative team. It is something of an Image success story in that it’s am ongoing series that was able to compete with the big two at their own game and do it well.

Savage Dragon started nearly 30 years ago and it’s still going strong.

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Miscellaneous

My Life in Comics: Image is Everything part 5

What do you do when you’ve set the sales records at the company you work for’s industry? You go into business for yourself.

After producing the highest selling single comic of all time, Jim Lee was on top of the comic world. His joining McFarlane and Liefeld on their exodus would have been one of the things that made it a serious threat to the big two. Now there are rumours and stories as to why he left, being very much a hard working company man, but whatever the reason, he did and when he was ready, took his shot with his own series.

Wild.C.A.T.S. Covert Action Teams issue 1 was released on August 1992. The series itself was a mix of Sci-Fi, spy drama and old school superheroes that matched Lee’s style perfectly as it was when he left X-Men. Overly muscled men, overly sexualised women and the kind of tech as well as accessories that were only ever seen inย  90s comics. The basic plot is two alien raves waging a secret war using half-human hybrids as fodder. Whilst not the most egregious copy of a Marvel title, you can easily see many of the characters having parallels to many characters that Lee was famous for drawing.

This series also followed a mini followed by an ongoing, but this was different in that the numbering carried on with the first issue of the ongoing was issue 5 and so on. Much like Rob Liefeld’s Extreme studios, Jim Lee’s Wildstorm produced many related and unrelated titles including Stormwatch, Gen-13, Union and Backlash and others done by other creators as well as Lee. Again like Liefeld’s offerings, a lot of the Wildstorm stuff was expanded upon by people other than the original creators and this became a rich and interesting fictional universe that wasn’t bound to one of the big 2. Then DC bought it. For a while, Wildstorm acting like a seperate imprint and Jim Lee moved to DC’s management, but after 2011’s New 52 reboot, many Wildstorm concepts were imported, much of them were either underwhelming or misused and as a result are no longer what they once could have been.

However some of the more out-there ideas did see print once more in The Wild Storm a series written by Warren Ellis a few years back, proving that the concepts had legs then and can still work now. It’s sad that these interesting ideas never really had the chance to shine in the last 10-20 years.

Next Time: If you thought WildC.A.T.S. was blatant….