Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trip down memory panel borders

I was ruminating about how I got into comics (as an adult, mind you) and the effect of comics on my life. I think the earliest comics I would have read would have been newspaper strips like Peanuts. This is probably true for many people. Garfield comic collections borrowed from the school library, and some poor sap's Richie Rich comics are part of dim recollection. I also recall a Goofy comic where Goofy dressed in long underwear and a sheet as 'Super-Goof'. I read Archies, reliable & unchanging no matter what the era (unless it's Archie vs. Punisher!). I ransacked the libraries to read Asterix. I loved the philosophers: Pogo, Opus, Hobbes (the tiger, of course), Bub Slug, Far Side, and finally Foxtrot. I might have been 8 when I read my first Star Wars comic (somebody else's?) It's the Marvel adventure I have somewhere in my collection again as an adult- Han and Chewie are trapped in a collapsing cave with rock-eating mites while the goons of a non-Huttese Jabba the Hutt are throwing themselves to their deaths in pursuit. It was pretty darn cool! But it would be years till I read other Star Wars comics- Marvel and their green rabbits, Shia Brie (cheesy!), Lando in a David Bowie wig, Wookieworld and the lot. The splendid Dark Horse stuff! Ah, Star Wars and comics. It's a visual extravaganza in a visual medium. I'm really glad to have read Tim Zahn's first trilogy as novels- but add the pictures and WATCH OUT! Also, I dare you not to love Tag & Bink are dead. But I digress.
I think I read my first Star Trek comic at 12, the Peter David Starfleet Academy annual, a flashback story with young Carol Marcus and Kirk's 'liason'. Oh, how my virgin heart fluttered for Carol Marcus covering herself with only a pillow! Also, naked transporter revenge on Finnegan. Funny, sexy stuff! So many Star Trek comics since then, and David's are really the top of the heap. I recommend Star Trek Countdown by the guys what brung us the 2009 flick. Also, I'm enjoying Ty Templeton's current Trek miniseries 'Mission's End'.
I think I first met Super-heroes, not counting Super-Goof, or Archie as Captain Pureheart (Braveheart? Ginger-Kid? I'm not sure...), or t.v. where I surely had already seen Spider-Man and before him Super-Grover, or probably Superman who I'd first seen? on the big screen in Superman III (so I was seven?). Anyway, on paper I vaguely decided my first superheroes were in 'The Infinity Gauntlet' which came out in 1991, so that actually makes me fourteen or fifteen, and reading them at some friends' house. Could I be thinking of Secret Wars? I think the sequence I recall is of hordes of ineffectual Marvel heroes hurling themselves at Thanos and his glove, so I'm guessing NO. But geez, 14? When I think now of all those precious years, over a decade without comics, well, brother, I just have to weep.
Cause comics are great!
I even wrote and drew my own comic space adventure "The Adventures of Lynn & Lynn" based on two astronomers I met on a class ski trip about age 14.
In answer to your unanswered question, no, it probably isn't very good, but I haven't had the heart to re-read it for nearly two decades. So maybe it will be cool again by now.
(No, no it won't.)
I also saw and loved Howard the Duck on video. No, I know it's nothing like the comic. I know almost everybody hates it. I love it all the more. It did not, sadly, lead me to the comics. It just strengthened my love of sci-fi, comedy, and George Lucas.
Anyway, it wasn't long till comics provided my first serious crush on a two dimensional lady, the Sensational She-Hulk as written and drawn by John Byrne. From about age 16 to the present day I have a semi-rewarding one-way love affair with a giant green superwoman whose beauty and humor are dependent on who's writing and drawing her. For example, She-Hulk via Byrne ushered me into an affection for the Fantastic Four that also lasts to the present day. She-Hulk also led me to the Avengers, after a fashion, but I only gave a rat crap because She-Hulk was nominally on the team, (not that you knew it from the art or writing).
And I'm sad to say that otherwise I gave up. Some combination of parental pressure, soon-to-be-quashed religious fervor, apathy, and teen alienation caused me to essentially give up on super-hero comics before I got to know them.
In my early twenties, thanks to my intellectual friend Kirk, I read the intellectually stimulating and ground-breaking comics that you apparently HAVE to read. Gaiman's Sandman, Moore's Watchmen, Speigelman's Maus, Ellis' Transmetropolitan among others. I also read the less intellectual Gen13 and DV8 for Caitlin Fairchild's prominent assets.
It was Chapters co-worker Diego who perhaps made it possible for me to sink my teeth into superhero comics again and not feel like the only one who was interested. Probably around age 22, he provided many examples of Marvel's cosmic side and awoke the Marvel Zombie within. The Silver Surfer, the MC2 Universe of Spider-Girl, Adam Warlock and his Infinity Watch (bringing me around to that purple guy with the jewel-encrusted gauntlet again!). Diego and I even collaborated on a comic we never completed that I imagine would have combined his powerful comic knowledge and clever mind with my mediocre art skills and affection for the absurd. 'Kray-Tor and the Infinity Watch'- we hardly knew ye!
The pump was primed. In short order, with no real girlfriend in my life to say me nay, I had acquired (I think the number was) 15 longboxes stuffed with old comics, over 90% Marvel, mostly bagged and boarded, mostly from used book stores, the flea market, and Leading Comics. Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts and an Avengers run worthy of attention. David's astonishing 12 year run on the Hulk, as well as his Star Trek and anything else I could lay hands on with his or Byrne's name on. Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, Next Men, even some Superman (I was insanely loyal to Marvel but, what the hell, it was Byrne).
Then some clever Marvel person began succeeding with Marvel movies and I made two other discoveries thanks to Spider-Man. Stan Lee and Brian Michael Bendis. The Essential black and white collections Marvel put out gave me a great affection for Stan Lee's dialouge in the 1961-1963 period, and the brand-new color exploits of a teen Ultimate Spidey from a modern world brought me into contact with the similarly appealing writing of Bendis. Maybe somebody else has done a better Spidey (Strazynski comes immediately to mind, then I remember how that all ended... and I STILL can't find it in my heart to blame JMS. In fact, I still think JMS could have done something that would have been remembered even longer than the mess 'One More Day' became- if he'd been allowed to continue depicting Spidey in growth and change instead of returning him to the static perpetual childhood that sells books).
The Marvel Essentials were my bread and butter for years. FF, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Howard the Duck, Avengers (it was Good in the early sixties, I swear!) anything Marvel cared to print I could now sort of afford, wondering what it would have looked like in garish color. This led to the quickly aborted attempt to color them in! Not even I had that much free time. I read the Tomb of Dracula, Thor, even finally began down that dark path that will forever dominate your destiny- the X-Men.
I bought trade paperbacks when I could, I bought and followed FF, Spidey, Exiles, some others.
My heart leaped with joy when Dan Slott revived my alluring She-Hulk and occasionally surpassed my nostalgia-sodden recollections of her past.
The Edmonton comic store Happy Harbor made the comic experience a treat beyond compare and I revived my comic writing and art with their 24 hour challenge in 2005. And ever since. Shop there, damnit. Even if you can only afford on comic a month. Even if you think you don't like comics. You do, I swear, you do! Or you will.
I thank Mark Waid and Alex Ross for Kingdom Come, whether I read it at 21 or probably re-read it in 2006. And I thank Devin, Carlos, Kim and Ron for making ever more DC comics available for me to read. How did I think myself satisfied with my existence before discovering the Legion of Super-Heroes? Any era, any writer or artist, I just adore that comic. It's a sci-fi team super-book space-opera dear to my heart and sometimes it seems like number one on my list. Certainly it killed forever any Marvel-only prejudice I had. Identity Crisis, 52, and Infinite Crisis rocked. Booster Gold is my household god. And now Green Lantern- o.k., maybe I'll never like Hal as much as Kyle, Guy, Kilowog, Jade, Mogo or Salaak, but hey, sixth best in a corps of 6200 isn't THAT bad. And Geoff Johns. What can I say about the guy I thought ruined She-Hulk in 'The Search for She-Hulk' but who brought us the utterly awful and logical killing of Max Lord by Wonder Woman, and who restored the GL Corps to awesome, brain-blasting brilliance. What can I say? He's great, that's what.
Marvel failed me with Exiles eventually: treating a trip to Earth 616 (twice in one year?) as a voyage home was the first time I remember feeling dissatisfied with a modern comic- and I still bought the book for two years!
Marvel screwed me over with 'One More Day' and I have not bought Spidey since (except Ultimate Spidey trades.) I swear not to buy it until continuity is restored. Even then I'm not sure what the point is without MJ.
MARK MILLAR IS STILL WRITING FF! Is this the Bizarro universe?
As of 2009, I buy only Booster Gold, Dr Who magazine, Ty Templeton's Star Trek, Mark Waid's Incredibles and I am seriously considering the Muppet Show comic, also from Boom! I read and loved the first three at work. They are splendid.
I'd be buying She-Hulk but somehow PETER DAVID couldn't make it funny or save it?
That still boggles my mind. How can PAD plus She-Hulk equal depressing and canceled? There's clearly a lot of factors I can't comprehend there. Also, I'm buying the She-Hulk Van Lente is writing, and while it's no Slott, it's not bad either. Marvel needs more multi-dimensional adventures with ARMOR, says I.
I try to buy trades when I have the cash. My shelves are very full, but these days my longboxes number only 5. Am I more discerning? Am I a bigger cheapskate? Is it all some pointless, money-drinking waste?
I think not. My 6 's'es of success will always bring me back: I'll always be into a story with sci-fi, super-heroes, sex appeal, sense of humor, surprises, and something new. Or at least new to me.

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