Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Face-Off: Englehart vs. Shooter -- Avengers-style!

Doug: As we're in the midst of our reviews of "The Serpent Crown", how about taking a look at two of the Bronze Age's great scribes, Steve Englehart and Jim Shooter? And, what better place than to compare them than in the pages of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?

Doug: Englehart's tenure on the book ran from
Avengers #105 (November 1972)-#152 (October 1976). Englehart is perhaps best remembered for the epic "Celestial Madonna" arc, of which he famously declares it the first bi-weekly story (once the Giant-Size issues were factored in). Also of note is the aforementioned "Serpent Crown Affair" and the Zodiac 3-parter. Points in characterizing his run are the absence of Captain America for the first 2/3 of his stories, his "pet characters" Mantis, the Swordsman, Moondragon, and the Beast, and the inclusion of most of the heavy-hitters (Thor, Iron Man, and the Vision) throughout his run.

Doug: Shooter came aboard in
Avengers #156 in February 1977 (#151 was his first credit) and was the writer to #224 (October 1982, but with some gaps).
Some BAB love has been thrown in his direction for the "Bride of Ultron" 4-parter and the Count Nefaria 3-parter. The long but quite swell "Korvac Saga" still sits on our to-do list. Pet characters used during his run include Henry Peter Gyrich, Ms. Marvel, and the Beast/Wonder Man buddy concept.

Doug: So who's your favorite during our decade of choice, the Swinging Seventies?



J.A. Morris said...

Englehart. Both wrote some great stories, but Shooter wrote the horrible "Ms Marvel pregnancy" story in Avengers #200. That alone gives the nod to Englehart.s

david_b said...

Englehart to me was the BEST of the BEST.. I emailed him a few times a few years back, just to thank him for Cap's gripping 'Secret Empire' and Falcon wings storylines he wrote, keeping me on the edge of my seat on several occasions, making it my favorite book to that point.

Steve explained that he really wanted to humanize Sam Wilson, stretching him far beyond being 'another Bucky', by giving him a lot of 'street cred' and emotions.

As for Avengers, Swordsman was my favorite at the time and was really sorry to see him go. His angst over Mantis and Vision's responses were some of the best Avenger subplots ever written.. Englehart had a super way of building arcs and characters along with them. He'll always stay my favorite Marvel writer..

Rip Jagger said...

I have huge respect for Jim Shooter as an editor. What he did with Valiant some years after his departure from Marvel was incredibly impressive.

But that said, he's nowhere near the writer that Steve Englehart is. Englehart's work has a naturalness to it that Shooter never achieved. The Korvac Saga has always seemed overrated to me, as good as it was in places. The Celestial Madonna saga had an organic quality that made it always interesting.

Englehart made the Swordsman one of my favorite Marvel characters. While Shooter did do a lot for Wonder Man, he had more to work with there I think.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

It's a tough comparison. Englehart had 3 big storylines but the issues in between them were pretty bland. I've recently reread his entire Avengers run and yeah, some of it is pretty tough going. Another big factor is the art. Englehart had some of the worst artists drawing his stories until George Perez came abaord at the end.
Shooter had much better artists working on his scripts and while there may not have been as many big, memorable events, it was more of a consistently solid run.

Avengers 200 is one of the creepiest comics ever written though...

Steven R. Stahl said...

I'd choose Englehart over Shooter on any superhero topic or character you might name. Two points come immediately to mind:

Englehart wrote stories for young adults and adults. Shooter's stories were oriented primarily toward teens and younger readers.

Englehart's classic storylines were the equivalent of novels. They had solid premises, plots, and themes. If a reader cared to, he could do a paper on the VISION & SCARLET WITCH maxiseries, AVENGERS: CELESTIAL QUEST, the Celestial Madonna storyline, etc., as if he were doing a lit crit paper on an SF novel. The solidity and structuring of his storylines are what separate him from nearly all of the other comics writers who have dealt with superheroes.


Fred W. Hill said...

Gotta go with the crowd and vote for Englehart! I really liked some of Shooter's stories, but overall Englehart was better at characterization. Not to say that Shooter didn't have his moments --such as the resolution of the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, when they finally had a conversation to clear the air and I.M. almost revealed his identity to Cap. But then Shooter had to play his "let's have one of the good guys go bad" gambit with Hank Pym. Great idea for a compelling story, but I felt the execution didn't quite hold up. Maybe it would have worked better if Shooter had shown Pym reverting back to his initial Yellowjacket personality, arrogant and nasty, refusing to acknowledge that he is Pym.
Maybe the main reason I prefer Englehart is that I could empathize much better with most of the characters as he wrote them. Even Mantis, after she'd experienced the shock of seeing the Swordsman slain while trying to protect her.

Anonymous said...

Gotta go with Jim Shooter. His stories were much more enjoyable. I hated the "Celestial Madonna" from start to finish. Every time Mantis said "This One" I just wanted to slap her. It was about the most annoying verbal tic ever conceived for a character. Never thought there was anything interesting about Mantis or the Swordsman. I also intensely disliked "Serpent Crown" and found it poorly written and don't think it holds up when you take it apart and try to figure out what exactly the crown was supposed to do, how it was in more than one dimension affecting things, and so on. Plus they dropped it in the sea instead of just destroying it. Stupid.

Shooter also had the benefit of George Perez after Perez had a chance to mature as an artist. His early stories make my eyes hurt. Thank goodness he got the chance to learn on the job. Art as poor as his was when he began never would have been accepted by Marvel in the Silver Age.

Edo Bosnar said...

This one is really easy: Englehart. His run included some really epic stories that made the Avengers such a great title in the 1970s. Shooter, on the other hand, wrote a few good arcs, like the Korvac saga and the Ultron stories, and good as they were, that's about it. From Avengers 200 (yes, I found that Ms. Marvel story resolution way too creepy) onward, he really started to ruin the book for me, esp. with the "Hank Pym goes nuts and becomes wife-beater" story. I stopped reading the title regularly after that (thus missing out on most of Stern's much-lauded run).
By the way, those "gaps" you mention in Shooter's "run" are significant: he wrote none of the issues in one of my personal favorite periods for the Avengers, issues #181 through #199.

david_b said...

Shooter wrote the Hank Pym arc about going berserk..? I hadn't done any checking on this, but OK, that's a strike against him.. Being a big YJ fan and like most, I never liked that turn of events.

Karen said...

It's probably no surprise that I'd pick Englehart in a heartbeat over Shooter. While I've enjoyed stories by both, I find Englehart to be a more subtle writer, whose best stories tended to work on multiple levels.

As for the debacle that is Avengers 200, my understanding is that David Michelinie had plotted the story originally, and had planned for Ms. Marvel's mystery pregnancy to be the machinations of the Supreme Intelligence, who would eventually face her wrath. Shooter came in and changed it to the Marcus storyline, because he felt Michelinie's story was too similar to another (a What If? can't recall). The fact that he thought this "happy rape" was a better idea says a lot I think. Certainly the most repugnant Avengers issue I can recall. I did enjoy Claremont's 'rebuttal' in Avengers Annual 11.


Steven R. Stahl said...

I also intensely disliked "Serpent Crown" and found it poorly written and don't think it holds up when you take it apart and try to figure out what exactly the crown was supposed to do, how it was in more than one dimension affecting things, and so on. Plus they dropped it in the sea instead of just destroying it. Stupid.

The crown existed separately in various dimensions, but was controlled by the same single entity, who used the crowns to control wearers' minds.

Note that Gerry Conway was the one who had the Vision drop a crown into the ocean. Englehart wouldn't have had him do something that stupid.


Anonymous said...

Englehart’s probably my favourite writer full stop, the way he developed character arcs and story arcs in tandem over long stretches was somewhere between a soap opera and Russian literature. He always seemed to write like he had years to explore ideas. Or maybe it was all the acid that he Jim Starlin allegedly took that made it seem that way to them. Actually, I don’t even think it’s alleged, I think that came from Englehart.

I think Shooter’s dialogue was better. I liked the way character’s bantered with each other with multiple speech balloons back & forth in a panel. It made it read much faster, like real banter. He developed character specifically by using dialogue, which I don’t think Englehart did so well.
But it’s still Stainless Steve for me.
Ref. The rape story (undone by Ms. Marvel’s original writer, Mr. Claremont, in Avengers Annual 10) was indeed dodgy and offensive and more than a little bit weird. Funny isn’t it, though, that a couple of years later despite the furore, Shooter did the same thing again (i.e. had a character seduced while under the influence of brainwashing) and no one said a word, presumably, because the male/female dynamic was the other way round and you can’t rape a man.

jefsview said...

Englehart wins for bring The Beast into the Avengers and for some of the most memorable storylines in Avengers History.

Shooter was great, as a writer, but when becoming an editor, he crippled himself. He wrote some great stuff, but, as others pointed out, it ended with Ms. Marvel and Hank Pym.

Shooter destroyed more than he created.

Oliver Queen said...

I'm torn. When I think of the Avengers, this is the period I think of, from Englehart through Shooter. So many great stories and plotlines with great art by Perez and Byrne.

Favorite arcs have to be The Bride of Ultron, the Count Nefaria issues, the introduction of Hellcat, the Korvac Saga, the Legion of the Unliving....

The Avengers is my all-time favorite comic and it's due to these two men. I'm not picking. I'm saying both! :)

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