Saturday, 4 May 2013

LoEB: Comic Books

league comics

Another week, another League post - I'm getting good at this! But this subject, man, what a doozy... COMIC BOOKS. Where to start?

Stage One: Elementary Reading

Paul Ryan
OK, for me it all started with Garfield, but newspaper strips are a whole 'nother art form in themselves and not one I'll talk about this time round. Milton Keynes market, very early 90's, where my Mum used to get me big bundles of comics. I loved Fantastic Four, but only for the frequent appearances of Spider-Man; it was a little while before I realised he had titles of his own! Regardless, from those early days, my favourite issue was the smackdown fight between the old and new Fantastic Fours, leading to Wolverine slashing the Thing's face, and the Thing reciprocating by punching Wolvie through some buildings and then having to wear a bucket on his head. Put that in an issue with the added bonuses of Spidey AND Ghost Rider, and you have a *ahem* modern classic!

Stage Two: Getting Hooked

Artist Unknown
When Sam moved to my village in '93 with a mutual love of comics, I got into them Big Time (see what I did there?). The Marvel UK reprint series 'The Exploits of Spider-Man' gave us modern issues, past classics, posters and news about what was going on in the Marvel Universe. Comics were available at newsagents, and we both devoured anything and everything we could. The 2099 universe was a huge deal for us (Miguel O'Hara becoming a favourite of mine), and together we created our own superhero universe and comics, under the banner Outer Limits. Our flagship character was Lobster Man, and we put together five full-length black and white comics (three Lobster Man, one Mutations and one Ice Master) and three inventory issues, which was impressive for pre-teens. Our efforts saw us get invited to the Marvel UK offices, where we met Tim Quinn, got shown around the studios and offices and given a bag full of free comics, including one signed by Stan Lee himself! Truly epic times.

Stage Three: Hard to Keep Up

Mark Bagley
I loved the Scarlet Spider, and the Clone Saga had me hooked to begin with, but around this time comics stopped selling in newsagents, reverting to the underground of speciality stores. As a kid I still got what I could, but not regularly enough to keep up with everything as frequently. Also I was getting older, and divergent interests, along with peer pressure, saw me start to drop away from comics. I picked up a few issues of the Ben Reilly-helmed Amazing Spider-Man, but stopped before his untimely demise at the hands of the Green Goblin in SM #75. 

Stage Four: Focus

Mark Bagley

In the late 90's I pretty much stopped reading Spider-Man due to the awful storylines and worse artwork, and only read X-Men sporadically (despite Joe Madureira's stunning pencils); however, at that time two titles drew me in with a dedication I hadn't had before - Thunderbolts, and from the pages of Spider-Man, Slingers. Thunderbolts utilised the brilliant concept of villains pretending to be heroes, who then discovered they liked the feeling of being good guys too much to carry out their plan. Writer Kurt Busiek expertly managed the doubts and personal relationships of the characters as they faced Avengers-like situations from their unique point of view, and longtime Spidey artist Mark Bagley provided sharp visuals and costume designs. The short-lived Slingers was an entertaining series about young kids being thrust into the world of superheroes, with engaging character dynamics and energetic, highly-stylised art. This series could've gone on much longer than it's 12 issues (and one Wizard #0), in my opinion...

Todd Nauck
From the Distinguished Competition, Young Justice filled the void left by Slingers and started my shift away from Marvel Zombiedom. Humorous characters, giant slices of character development and drama, and zany adventures all gave a sheen to a series with real heart. I hadn't cared much for DC outside of the big events before reading this series, but my horizons were broadened; so much so that this was the last ongoing series I collected regularly from either of the big two.

Stage Five: Branching Out

Andi Watson
I was winding up my love affair with superhero comics as 'real life' (girls and a social life) began to take over. Then a good friend from school who worked in the local comic shop put a copy of Blue Monday in my hands, and I was hooked. Blue Monday led very quickly to Hopeless Savages, who remain my number one all time favourite comic family, and this in turn led, through the amazing art of Bryan Lee O'Malley, to Scott Pilgrim. From there I embraced the indie publishers, rifling through Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Street Angel, Lenore, Love and Rockets, Channel Zero, and many more.

Brian Wood
I was fortunate enough to meet O'Malley a few years ago, and I got him to sign my dog-eared copy of Ground Zero. He wasn't that flattered that I'd bought his earliest published work, but it's where I fell in love with his style!

Stage Six: Natural Conclusion

Bryan Lee O'Malley
Marvel's Civil War bought me back into the mainstream superhero fold, before Spider-Man's deal with the not-Devil punted me right back out again; all the same though, I began to tread between the indie and mainstream publishers without ever committing to any series completely (save for Scott Pilgrim, DMZ and Scarlet Spider). My love of the medium led me back to creating my own comics and in 2008, after years of drawing one-page strips, I finally started putting together my own mini-comics. I carried this on for many years, before realising I would need to significantly improve to make a real go of it; subsequently I've just (as in, on Wednesday) finished a two-year film-making course to better understand storytelling, both visually and emotionally. I haven't completed any comics in that time, and have a feature film script to write first; but I might just crack out the old ink and pens again sometime soon...

Yours Truly, circa 2011
Wow, that turned into a bit of an essay! The passion's clearly still there; guess I just need to stoke those fires. To those of you who made it this far though, thanks for reading!

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Rich! I could've gone on about so many more comics I loved, like Ghost Rider, X-Force, Daredevil, Marvel Comics Presents, X-Factor, Iron Man, but I think the article overran as it is...

  2. Great post Joe! It definitely brought back memories of my own collecting days. I'm glad to see I wasn't the only 2099 fan out there.

    1. Thanks Chris, and for the follow as well! I have to admit, I was only interested in Spidey 2099, with a passing interest in Doom and Ravage - the other titles didn't do it for me as much. Around the time of Shattered Dimensions I picked up the Spidey 2099 Genesis graphic novel, and it stands up surprisingly well.


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