Thursday, February 16, 2012

Caveat Emptor!

Doug: Last week in our discussion of creative runs we'd liked to have seen continue, the conversation turned to great runs suddenly interrupted, or even replaced, by comic production ranging from less-than-stellar all the way to gawdawful! Perhaps the "poster child" for this is the four-year period that followed the Shooter/Perez run on Avengers. Beginning with a mish-mash of creators and finally settling in with the artwork of Al Milgrom, this era is for many fans the most forgettable in that magazine's history -- that is, until one Brian Michael Bendis got hold of it and destroyed a lovely history.

Doug: Also of note is the second Vision and Scarlet Witch maxi-series, penned by Steve Englehart with artwork by Richard Howell and various inkers (though mostly Frank Springer). Although I was not in general fond of Englehart's storylines in this series, I'm telling you that he could have written the second coming of "Secret Empire" or the "Celestial Madonna" and I'd have found fault with the book on it's (lack of) art merits alone!

So what are other great runs that had an egg laid squarely in their wake? Our regular-commenter-friend Richard mentioned that a good extension of this topic could be killer covers with rubbish underneath -- got any suggestions there? As always, have some fun dusting off those memories!


Anonymous said...

Loved Jungle Action by McGregor/Buckler/Graham. Kirby's Black Panther - not so much. Like 2different characters.


david_b said...

Marvel had no better poster-child than this run, Doug. I just bought ish 225 solely for the beautiful Hannigan Black Knight cover, but the couple of nice covers we did get during this tenure (ish 223 with Hawk and Antman ranks pretty memorable), the stories were pure dribble.

Between Milgrom, Hall and LaRocque, it's bad when you cannot even WANT to figure out whether the story has merit because the art is SO bad. The faces and body postures were done so sophmoric. If these artists had stronger inkers, perhaps it could have gone better..

Other strong runner ups..?

1) WCA - Nice Limited Series, totally unmemorable initial run until Byrne came on, then at least the art was nicer.
2) and special mention for the "My Eyes Are Bleeding" Award, Robbins and Kirby following Sal Buscema in Captain America and Falcon. I felt like I was a kid playing way out in left field, and my team just lost the game. And there was no stopping for custard on the way home..

And a smiling Vision always gives me the creeps.., it's like looking at a sleezy used-car salesman.

Psst...: If we all stop talking for a moment.., you can actually hear my skin crawl.

Doug said...

West Coast Avengers suffered from horrible art and horrible-er ;) scripts. That series was flat-out BAD. Hmmm... I see a trend developing for Steve Englehart in the 1980's...

Thank goodness he had a nice run with Marshall Rogers on the Silver Surfer series.


dbutler16 said...

I'd say there was quite a dropoff in the Fantastic Four after Byrne left. Byrne to Stern was not a good transition. Stern's run only lasted about 8 issues, but was followed by Englehart's run, which wasnt much better. By the way, I thought the first 25 issues of Englehart's West Coast Avengers were pretty good, but it definitely dropped off after that.

Doug said...

At issue here is the ages-old argument that good writing saves bad art. That just doesn't happen for me. At the end of the day, I can still look at a book that has good art and a bad story; the other way around, I'll never read it again.

What does everyone else think of that? I certainly don't mind a few splinter discussions today.


William said...

Most notable stand-outs for me in this regard (almost heart breaking in fact) are:

1. Daredevil post Miller/Janson. I was so disheartened by that fact that what was (at the time) my favorite book, became unreadable after they left. I haven't followed the title regularly since.

2. Uncanny X-Men without Byrne... nuff said.

3. Amazing Spider-Man after DeFalco/Frenz were gone was definitely not my favorite era for that book.

4. Almost any book after John Byrne leaves seems to go downhill fast. Good examples include: Fantastic Four, Superman, Captain America and West Coast Avengers.

5. Teen Titans without Wolfman & Perez was basically a waste of time.

I could probably think of ten more examples if I had the time. But those are the first that come to mind.

J.A. Morris said...

To answer Doug's question:
No, writing can't redeem bad art, not in a a predominantly visual medium like comic books.

Average art/mediocre art can be redeemed by great comic writers.

Great art can redeem bad writing, but even that gets old after a couple issues worth of stories.

david_b said...

William, THANKS for the Titans mention. The magic was gone when Perez and Wolfman left.

I spent a year or so later with García-López and Eduardo Barreto after him and wasted some good cash I should have spent on vintage back issues.

Perhaps it was me, but the title's endearing charm left when Robin and Kid Flash said goodbye. Nightwing just didn't do much for me.

Anonymous said...

Doug – in our favourite Schumer book, Gil Kane flat out says ‘people buy comic books for the art not the story’. I guess he would say that, but I think we all agree up to a point. The question is: where is that point?

Great art and really rubbish
writing, I always find disappointing....and I can think of a few Gil Kane examples there!

Great story and mediocre art, I
can live with. I’d cite the first 40 Defenders here. Superb stories from Englehart & Gerber, with perfectly OK, but not stunning art from Sal = really great comics.

Crap art = game over, regardless of writer. Frank Robbins, please report to Nuremberg.

On the topic of great cover, horrible inside, I think the Invaders, with a run of wonderful and dynamic Kane covers and Frank Robbins art inside.....well, the word ‘crestfallen’ is on my lips. Xmen 49 (Steranko cover, Don Heck inside). Latter-day Defenders had some stunning covers by Sienkiewicz and Kevin Nowlan, but mediocre Don Perlin art inside (with very occasion flashes of beauty and genius, I seem to remember).

And, to tie back in with art vs story vs cover....the Korvac saga. Wonderful writing, great covers by Perez and Cockrum....and then Dave Wenzel inside. Hard to believe Shooter was Editor In Chief and presumably in ultimate control of the art assignments. Doug.....I’m throwing that one in to test your ‘I’ll never read it again’ rule?


Doug said...

Richard, as I recall the Korvac Saga, the build-up was better than the pay-off. Much of that probably had to do with the art. The Perez cover with YJ, the Widow, and Herc blanking out (#173) was the best in the run. And even as a 12-year old, the Wenzel art did disappoint. Perhaps this was the beginning of the end that would commence, as said in the original post, after issue #200.


Karen said...

It seems like the mid to late 70s, early 80s, Marvel had a lot of mags with Perez covers and then Heck or someone similar doing the interior pages. So disappointing!

Anonymous said...

No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. You know as well I do that post Korvac, we got Gyrich chucking everyone out in 181, great Bryne art on the Absorbing Man story (even if the story wasn’t inspiring) and the Wungadore thing. I reckon #192 is the start of the wheels coming off.

I am also going to have to pick up the gauntlet on covers: Perez did lots of good covers on the Korvac run: 167 is a nice Guardians of the Galaxy one, 168 is Gyrich as Bond Villain, and my favourite is 172...Hawkeye in action. That was a great cover. And I know you can see each and every one of those in your mind’s eye, Doug. Now don’t be telling me that you don’t love that Hawkeye cover....


Anonymous said...

Actually, re-reading Doug’s posting of the topic, it just occurred to me that terrible one-offs and fillers are actually much more jarring in the middle of a good run than a bad run following.

The Avengers were terrible criminals for this: 136 exploited the Beast joining to print a reprint before he’d even started in the team, 145 & 146 in the middle of the Serpent Crown, 150 ( ...for God’s sake !), 169 in the middle of Korvac....and actually 178 straight after which was clearly filler.

Also, that Ditko issue in the middle of Miller’s Daredevil gave me pretty bad whiplash, Xmen 106 was bad filler just as the Shi’ar story climaxed, Xmen 117 was clearly filler despite being C&B, and I think that Warhawk issue was pretty suspect as well.

For some reason, it’s really, really hard to call filler issues to mind. Probably the very obvious reason.


Doug said...

Richard (good sir) --

Kindly wipe off your middle-aged peepers and re-look at my comment. I just said #173 was my fave -- yeah, I like all of the other covers. But if you want Hawkeye and some floating heads (always an Avengers mainstay) over a full-figure Perez image of Natasha, well then go ahead and indulge. I was 12 then. No further explanation necessary.

As to what came between Korvac and post-200: I just said the Wenzel art might be traced as the beginning of what would be sub-par Avengers art. Sure, I know Perez had a second run and Byrne was in there. But there were also a couple of fill-ins, nothing memorable. This bait-and-switch tactic that we saw with Korvac was only to get worse (and permanent in some cases) around two years later.


Inkstained Wretch said...

The most severe drop-off in quality that I remember was Alpha Flight after John Byrne bailed. Not only was the art nowhere in the same class but the storylines seemed like they were written by somebody who had a grudge against Byrne.

I just finished reading the Essential Iron Man Vol. 2, and, man oh man, is there a drop off in quality after Stan Lee and Gene Colan leave and are replaced by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska.

And pretty much all of the Superman-related titles were in dire shape in the year or two before the Byrne revamp, without any consistent editorial team and most of the work being done by second and third stringers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug....yes, I did suspect your motives. At age 12 and now, actually :0) And I have to admit, if I had to choose who to get stuck in an elevator with and the choices were Jeremy Renner or Scarlett Johannsen....

Whilst I love Perez, I prefer my Natasha a little more flowing. Colan or Byrne for me, please.


Doug said...

Richard --

I just purchased the Marvel Premiere Hardcover of 'tasha's earliest adventures, including the Amazing Adventures run. John Romita also did her justice in the ASM story that introduced the black catsuit. Julie Newmar, eat your heart out!


david_b said...

Doug, love the Natasha/Herc/YJ cover for 173 as well, my healthy appreciation for Perez drawing Natasha so well has been spoken elsewhere, but more for the only DECENT YJ-featured cover for most of Silver and Bronze Age.

I never liked the YJ origin cover on Avengers 59 much, and I'd add it was the first cool Hank Pym cover since Goliath on ish 51.

PS: Hate this new Blogger word verification. Tough on, dare I say, bi-focals.

Doug said...

While we're ripping on Blogger, for those of you who like to use our log of comics we've reviewed -- you may have noticed that we're stuck on 283 comics. Been that way for about a month. For some reason I can enter our new post-links, but they won't save. So we're probably at something like 290 in that category. Maybe someday it will be fixed -- I've reported it, as have other blog owners.



Anonymous said...

Doug - I am not worthy.

Is the JR SR Spidey the one where you just see her shadow on the wall? I love that cover.


Doug said...

Rich --

That would be it, yes.

There's a panel or two in the interior that rivals Colan's shower panels from AA.


But we digress...

Anonymous said...

sorry...what were we talking about....?

david_b said...

Hey, regarding shower scenes with Ms. Natasha, I believe Stan said it best.., "With Great Power Comes Great Personal Hygiene",

or..well, words to that effect.

dbutler16 said...

First, to Doug's question, I favor writing over art. If the writing stinks, what's the point of reading the comic? Certainly, bad art can sabotage good writing, but without writing, it's just a bunch of pretty pictures, rather than being any sort of literature. After all, we read comics, we don't just look at them.

Anyway, as far at the Teen Titans, obviously there's going to be a drop-off after Perez leaves. I actually think that Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez (he drew and amazing Kole!!) and Rich Buckler did very nice jobs after Perez left, but neither was on the Titans book very long and the art took a further drop-off after they left (that includes Barreto).
Sure, the X-Men had a drop-off after Byrne, but I still think it was a good book, with the occasional stinker, for a few years before it really became bad.

Avengers post-Korvac: Was stil excellent for another 22 issues, until #200m with the exception of the first post-Korvac issue, #178. Possibly the worst single Avengers issue ever, starring the Beast and drawn by *gasp* Carmine Infantino. Overall, though, I thought the art between Korvac and #200 was good overall, with maybe only 4 I didn't care for (2 Infantinos, one Jones, one Sal Buscema). After #200, however, it dropped off with the Gene Colan art for a little while.

Dougie said...

Lone voice in the Pictish Wilderness here: I bought WCA and FF faithfully in the 80s for Englehart's scripts (even the one with Cactus, the Living Cactus). I also love Frank Robbins on Invaders.

Count me in as disappointed in the Avengers circa 77-80. Issue after issue of workman-like pencils and tiny panels. I didn't read it regularly until John Buscema came back.

I didn't really lose interest in X-men until Silvestri started. I thought the 87-90 era was just awful. Similarly, post-Perez Titans was simply depressing for about four or five years!

Anonymous said...

The mid-70's revival of the Teen Titans ranks high in my disappointment archives. The original series was goofy thanks to Bob Haney, but consistently had some of the best art available at DC. Nick Cardy was the primary artist, with stints by Gil Kane & Wally Wood, and Neal Adams.

What do we get in the revival? A revolving door of poor to moderately competant art culminating in...dasing Don Heck. At his absolute worst. The most ill-suited artist ever for the titans.

And the gods! Haney's hopelessly unhip hipster-speak was gone, but so was his infectious energy. What did we get from Bob Rozakis? A bunch of boring, depressed titans moaning about how depressed they were. Aqualad showing just to catch a cold and make the panels more crowded. And the Joker's Daughter. And Mal changing from Mal to the Guardian to a horn blower to Mal to the guardian to...

And of course, I kept buying them. My wife the therapist could have a field day with that one.

James Chatterton

William said...

Inkstained Wretch mentioned Alpha Flight after Byrne, and I totally agree. I will also add Namor to that list. I stuck around 3 or 4 issues on AF post Byrne, but I don't think I even bought the next issue of Namor after Byrne left. I never could stomach Jae Lee's artwork. It just so ugly and hard to look at.

I will also agree with another commenter that, in comics, bad art is a bigger offense than bad writing. I've bought plenty of comics over the years on account of who the artist was. But, with few exceptions, I've rarely picked up anything because of who the writer was if I thought the art was terrible.

david_b said...


Thanks, The mid-70s Titans were yet ANOTHER series I desperately wanted to like, along with Batman Family, again with Mr. Heck at the pencils.

It was painful. Slow and painful, especially after that stunning and hopeful DC Special featuring reprints of Cardy and the Titans at their best.

J.A. Morris said...

Sorta related, here's a brand new post about C-grade talent working on A-grade series:

And count me as a fan of the Widow drawn by Perez.

ChrisPV said...

I may get a push out the door for this, but I really didn't care for Roy Thomas taking over for Stan on FF. Or his run on Thor. Basically, if it isn't the Assemblers, I get really wary or ol' Rascally Roy. Especially since, for me, I can abide crummy art till the cows come home if the story's good. Pretty pictures cannot make up for a bad story in this man's eyes.

Also, and for a more recent example that still predates Bendis, anytime Chuck Austen turns up on your favorite title head for the bloody hills. He will just flat out demolish anything and everything he touches. Cap, the X-Men, the Avengers, Superman, you name it he'll wreck it. Just dreadful.

Anonymous said...

I really had a soft spot for the Thomas & Robbins run on the Invaders in the 70's. I haven't read them since then, but I remember that they seemed to have this really fun kinetic energy to them.

Robbins' art on Batman & Capt. America just did not work, but for some reason it did on the Invaders for me.

Al-Star Squadron, on the other hand, bored the hell out of me. Despite the art being much better. Granted, I was in my early 20's by then, and had largely given up comics. I wonder if it's circumstances or quality that truly seperate the two?

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

As a 10 year old budding Marvelite, I had my spirits crushed when I picked up Werewolf By Night #17 (May '74) .....Ploog was gone and I thought Perlin was awful and led the title to a very slow, painful death. Over the course of a few short years he did the same to Man-Thing, Ghost-Rider, and the Defenders. Late in '74, like many other followers, I was crushed when Sal left CA&F and the Robbins torture began. Much as I loved Sal, it was depressing when Trimpe left Hulk the following year.....the book never seemed the same always seemed to exist in it's own universe when Trimpe drew it, despite whoever was guest-starring. Guest stints by Don Heck on any title were painful. All of these things seemed redeemed when Byrne and Perez burst onto the scene a bit later in the decade.

humanbelly said...

Well, this is going back a bit, but Mark Texeira left the short-lived Jonah Hex sci-fi vehicle "HEX" after issue #14, and handed the pencilling duties over to. . . Keith Giffen (!) I have never, never seen a book that was improved by Keith Giffen's straight, minimally-inked pencils. And there is no common visual ground whatsover with Teseira's immersive, detailed style. A friend of mine once described Giffen as "the guy they put on a book when they've decided they want to kill it." Good grief!

Book was toast, and ended with #18. Although to be perfectly honest, the writing was surely on the wall, and that's why Tex left anyhow.

ALSO-- I've just come across a forgotten contender for this thread. An early 90's series I've just started re-reading, QUASAR started out with the familiar & beloved team of Paul Ryan & Danny Bulandi-- a charming artistic duo that helped keep DP7 alive long after the New Universe had largely imploded. After a few issues, though, Ryan left to be replaced with Mike Manley. Manley's weaknesses were obscured for a few issues by Bulandi's inks-- but when Bulandi exited as well, we were left with markedly inferior visuals for the book.


humanbelly said...

Wow, to Anonymous Poster above me, there-- can't believe I missed the Ploog-to-Perlin call! There could not be an artist less suited to a dark, organic, tension-filled horror series than ol' stiff, conventional, perspective-less Don Perlin. And it took, what, about 2-1/2 years to finally pull the plug. That was one of my two books for awhile. Ironically, Incredible Hulk was the other one. BUT, I have to say the Trimpe to S.Buscema transition was almost as painless as they could possibly make it. A huge benefit was the first-rate (albeit rather unsung) inking job that Joe Staton (I'm pretty sure) did across the transition period. And Sal clearly had a love for the Hulk that approached Herb's own. In fact, I would almost say this instance is the exception that sort of proves the rule. . .

HB (again) (sorry)

B Smith said...

Well, I must have been dropped on my head as a baby - I loved Robbins' work on CA (as long as Engelhart was still writing it) and Avengers #178 was the kind of filler that to my mind makes filler issues bearable. Quirky art (Infantino inked by Rudy Nebres) and a Gerber-penned story that had real heart to it (a blind beggar personifying the Beast's inner feelings) be perfectly honest, some of it kind of left me puzzled but puzzled-in-a-good-way, not puzzled-jeez-this-is-stupid way.

Garett said...

Was there ever a great artist working on the Flash? I loved the character as a kid, and they had good covers by Andru or Garcia Lopez or Giordano or Adams...the best inside was Irv Novick, but after him?

I recently looked at early Flash by Infantino and he was actually very good back then! He was one I disliked in the Bronze age--seemed like he didn't really care for what he was doing.

Green Lantern seemed to die a slow death, with the classic Adams issues, then good Grell, then OK Staton, then...? Recent art by Reis has caught my attention again after years away.

Superman Family had good covers by Andru/Giordano or Buckler/Giordano, but not much of note inside, despite the big size and several stories.

Moon Knight's never been the same since Sienkiewicz left, and the current series totally changed the characters in a way that turned me off despite the possible goodness of Finch's art. Lousy writing compared to Moench.

Anthony said...

Because I'm a Hulk fan I would have to go with the 5 issues done by Al Milgrom ( 320-324 ) after the short run by John Byrne. I think John left suddenly because of a dispute over story and the only one that could come on board quick enough was Milgrom. He would continue writing it until 330 except for 328 which was written by Peter David. Peter David mentions in Hulk Visionaries Vol. 1 that " ... writers and writer/editors weren't exactly falling over each other to grab the writing reins of The Incredible Hulk. "

Another jarring change was Liam Sharp taking over for Gary Frank in the middle of issue 425 of The Incredible Hulk. The book has also had fortune shine on it as Trimpe's run was followed up by Sal Buscema and in the 90s Gary Frank would follow Dale Keown.

Looking beyond the Hulk I'd have to agree with William about the John Byrne Effect. Books feeling that effect would include Namor, Alpha Flight and Avengers West Coast. ( Sounds less clunky than West Coast Avengers. )I still read Alpha Flight with Bill Mantlo but didn't care for the Mike Mignola art.

And how could I leave out Ultimates Vol. 3 by Jeph Loeb. I loved the first two series but this was awful. Loeb was concurrently destroying this book as well as the Hulk. The change in art from Byran Hitch to Joe Maduriera was very equally jarring.

Rip Jagger said...

The one that crossed my mind was when DC tried to revive Kirby's Fourth Worlds books after the King had left for other climes. As good as the talent was which worked on those books and it was signficant, the material fell so far short of what Kirby was doing that it makes me wince to think about the missed opportunity. DC realized all too late what a cache of great characters Kirby had created and while they wanted to take advantage of them, they have never captured that magic again.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

I just would like to agree about the, 'Milgrom run' on the Avengers...and what, Mr Bendis is doing to my favourite team book...Can anybody stop him? Please, can somebody stop him. Somebody, anybody please stop him...Oh, no, I'm starting to sound like all the characters he writes....

humanbelly said...

@ Anonymous:

No. . . you're not quite there yet. Try this:

"--the Hell? Someone. Please. Stop. Him."

Sprinkle liberally (okay, lambaste heavily) with trendy, unfunny, repetitive, out-of-character, unfunny topical quips.

Repeat for every single character you write.

Now you've got it, chum!


humanbelly said...

Oops, used "unfunny" twice. How Freudianly ironic. . .


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