Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Marriage Made In...

Doug: It's been a long time since we've had a good, ol' fashioned Versus! Today we're going to ask you about five books that suddenly had a guest-star thrust upon (or within) them. Of the five, which was your favorite, which would be non-favorites, which worked better with the line-up change and which should have been left alone? For your musing, we've provided the last cover under the old title and the subsequent change the following issue. Of course, in all but one case, the new resident had been in, well -- residence for some time prior to the official renaming of the book. Have at it!



david_b said...

I see all the listed examples as solo books, waning in sales, looking for a fix. Two points I'd like to offer is whether the decided 'partner' was designed to emulate/be similar to the star, or contrast; and second, and pretty importantly, how was the book after the 'partner' left..?

Obviously the GL/GA pairing was mixed in with a grander plan of switching the flavor of the book to relevancy by O'Neil and Adams, proving that in some cases, thought balloons just can't offer enough point/counterpoint. Obviously the approach was at times preachy and heavy-handed, but it did force some level of charactersation-broadening or deepening of story content. Post-Ollie, I never saw Hal as having that interesting of a supporting cast, nor personality frankly.

Lesser so with Cap & Falc. The storylines continued as such, with some good urban twists (Cap didn't need to revisit 'Nam again..), and I loved the pairing. I tried a few issues of post-Falcon Cap and I frankly missed the chemistry. It really was more than not, how the heroes lives were 'defined by each other'. When I wrote to Steve Englehart a few years back about writing Sam Wilson, he said he consciously 'didn't write sidekicks'. It showed.

I didn't get the sense the 'defining each other' idea was evident on DD; by the time Natasha left, I felt DD's supporting characters and storylines were in a stronger place, which could have just been from Matt's return to Hell's Kitchen and Miller coming on board (whether Natasha stayed or not..). 'Course as previous contributors have agreed on, she was a welcomed addition to the covers, prior to moving on to heading the Champions.

William said...

Of these five, the concept that I think worked best was Power Man and Iron Fist. Taking the "buddy cop" formula and applying it to a super hero comic was pure genius, IMO. Even though it was such an "out of left field" pairing between two solo characters that had no previous connection, it somehow worked brilliantly. And of all five examples you provided, PM & IF are still the characters that are most closely associated with one another to this day.

As for the others on this list, I guess my next fave would be Cap and Falcon. Even though I always preferred Cap on his own, there were some pretty fun stories that came out of that era. However, a lot of the "blaxploitation" contained in some of them was a bit cringe-worthy.

I thought DD and BW worked pretty well. Like Cap, I prefer DD as a solo act, but at the time it was an interesting and original move to team him up with his super hero girlfriend. It made for some good character interaction moments.

As for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, I never could stomach that book. I tried to read it to see what all the hype was about, and I just couldn't get into it. The whole concept didn't work at all for me. Whereas Power Man and Iron Fist was an "oil and water" team up that worked great, GL & GA were the opposite, IMO. There was just no chemistry between the characters, and the forced PC story-lines plain bored me. A guy with Green Lantern's power dealing with problems like drug abuse and urban blight, etc. makes about as much sense as when Batman used to fight aliens from other planets. It just doesn't work.

Never really read Superboy and The Legion, so I can't really comment on that one. But from what I understand, it had a pretty big fan following.

dbutler16 said...

To some extent, I like all of these team-ups, but by far the best to me is Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Taking Superboy and adding the Legion of Super-Heroes is like taking vanilla ice cream and adding hot fudge, peanuts, whipped cream, and a cherry. 'nuff said!

Edo Bosnar said...

Curses, William picked my favorite (Power Man & Iron Fist) and made pretty much all the same arguments in favor I was going to use. I'll just add that in addition to the "buddy cop" formula, there was a bit of odd couple mixed in there as well. Plus, great supporting cast, esp. Misty and Colleen, who are characters strong enough to headline their own stories or ongoing series.
As for Superboy and the Legion, eventually the 'sidekicks' outgrew the headliner, and Mssrs. Levitz and Giffen showed that the Legion could function perfectly fine without Superboy, or with Superboy only making occasional guest appearances.

J.A. Morris said...

I think Power Man & Iron Fist was better with the line-up change. Those stories are sort of forgettable punch-ups, but they're still fun. And there are fewer awkward moments of "white guy writers trying to write "black" slang" when Iron Fist becomes the co-star.

And I prefer Green Lantern with Green Arrow too. GL by himself has never been interesting. At the end of the day, GL is just a "guy with a weapon". Same reason I never got into Iron Man's solo stories.

DD and the Widow work as a team, but only because DD of the 70s wasn't the DD we know and love post-Miller. Sadly, the departure of Natasha led to the pairing of Matt and Heather Glenn, one of the worst comic book love interests of all time(in my opinion).

david_b said...

William, I think you hit upon another column idea for the future..: What title would you invest in that you haven't read of yet, but would be interested in diving into..?

Obviously Essentials and Masterworks compilations help out most vintage titles these days. I'm delving into Silver Age Strange Tales now for Ditko's Strange and Steranko's Nick Fury, but would love to buy up some PM&IF just to see all read up on what everyone's said about 'em.

Anonymous said...

I liked Cap and the Falcon. If you’re going to have some black superheroes, it seems to me that there are two ways you can do it: one is the very self-conscious Luke Cage way of doing of it (I can practically hear the Shaft theme tune as I type) and the other is to set up a black character with a very white, middle America character and let the contrasts develop. Given that Cap’s wandering around basically dressed in a flag that was designed by a bunch of slave-owning, white aristocrats; I think a black social worker made a pretty stark contrast.

I don’t remember if PM/IF developed in that way, but there was certainly plenty of room for contrast. I think strength of PM/IF was that they were both lost souls, but Cage’s back-story kind of prohibited a strong supporting cast, where Danny’s made it easier and with the two together, you could finally develop a character arc for Cage.

Daredevil and the Widow. Now there’s an era I need to revisit.


William said...

david_b, Power Man and Iron Fist was a pretty good book. The stories weren't too deep or profound. Just good old super hero action stuff with a "Starsky and Hutch" kind of buddy cop vibe. A lot fun to read. The "origin story" of their partnership that ran through Power Man #48-49 and then Power Man and Iron Fist #50, was especially excellent, as it was written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne. It's still one of my favorites. I didn't follow the rest of the entire series religiously or anything, but the issues that I did read I liked quite a lot. I read both volumes of Essential PM & IM, and they are worth a look. Check 'em out.

Garett said...

Power Man/Iron Fist is one I used to read quite a bit, and enjoy. I may look those up again.

Inkstained Wretch said...

"Given that Cap’s wandering around basically dressed in a flag that was designed by a bunch of slave-owning, white aristocrats"

Richard, the truth is much more complex than that. Yes, Washington, Jefferson, and others owned slaves. But other founding fathers (Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Sam Adams, etc.) didn't. Some were prominent abolitionists and Washington freed all of his in his will.

In any event they devised a system of government based on rules ("unalienable rights") that were fundamentally incompatible with slavery, something that I believe that they understood at the time.

So the notion that the founding fathers didn't understand the wrong of slavery or didn't care is false.

Sorry, but those kind of arguments tend tick me off ...

Inkstained Wretch said...

Regarding the five listed the only ones that I have read enough of to offer an informmed opinion on are Cap & Falcon and GL/GA.

I actually just finished reading Cap Essential Vol. 4, which is mainly Englehart & Sal Buscema. I think that the Falcon improved the book by broadening Cap's world, but that that was also a low bar to clear. Even during the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby heyday Cap was kind of an underachieving book. Something about Cap seems to stymie a lot of writers. I think it is the need to not just be a hero but a symbol of America as well, which can be a burden. The addition of the Falcon didn't change that that much.

In any event the Falcon didn't leave much of an impression. There was no big farewell - The title just unceremoniously removed him with one issue and that was it. It doesn't much figure in the current Cap mythos.

GL/GA was a much more memorable combination. GL had a great run in the 60s with Gil Kane and the addition of GA would seem to be little more than a gimmick (green and green, get it?) but the characters meshed well. GL needed grounding in the real world; GA needed to be more than Batman-with-arrows. Even today their partnership is referenced in their respective mags and in Justice League Unlimited. I think the O'Neil/Adams run is overrated, but the revived series with Mike Grell art is a favorite of mine.

Redartz said...

Captain America with the Falcon was definitely a step up from Cap solo. Their interaction allowed greater insight onto both characters. I recall, for instance , Sam's frustration at not possessing super power, and Steve trying to deal with this.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow is another book I feel worked better than its solo counterpart. Loved the Adams artwork, but I agree with Inkstained that later stories hold up better.

I didn't follow Power Man/ Iron Fist much; I must check these stories out further.

Daredevil was a book that , although I read it regularly, never really grabbed me until Miller's run. I liked the Black Widow, but it seemed the book could have held up equally well without her.

As for Superboy and the Legion, I preferred both separately to their pairing. The Levitz/Giffen run of Legion remains a favorite.

Bucky Barnes said...

I alway thought these team-up/sidekick books were try outs for future solo comics. I'd would have definitely been intersted in a solo Falcon book or Black Widow. What would have been a good team for say Iron Man or Sub Mariner? Cyclops? Triton?

Fred W. Hill said...

Of the 5 the only one I was regularly reading at the time of the transition was Power Man -- I'd actually started reading both Power Man and Iron Fist for several months before IF's solo mag was concelled and he was partnered with Luke. Certainly the team of Claremont & Byrne helped make for a compelling transition and even after they left, Mary Jo Duffy wrote some entertaining stories and the art was usually very good.
With DD, I did get issue #91, then missed several more until 99 (when Hawkeye arrived to raise hell!) but only became a regular reader with 104. I enjoyed Gerber's writing, but, yeah, some of his stories weren't well-suited for DD (but then, even Stan wrote many klunkers during his time on DD). Gerber inherited the DD/BW match from Conway, but from interviews I've read he wasn't happy with the match and before he left the series, he essentially did a reset, breaking them up and moving DD back to NYC (I don't think anyone made any references to Hell's Kitchen in the series at all until Miller's run; sure, Matt grew up there, but as an adult he got away from there and except when mixing it up with the underworld didn't return there until the Born Again storyline; Gerber himself wound up in Hell's Kitchen when he moved to NYC). While I didn't much care for the Heather Glenn character when she was introduced, she did ultimately prove a catalyst for some very good stories as DD's universe became progressively darker and more intense, first under Jim Shooter and, and of course Frank Miller.
As for Cap, I did eventually get the issues introducing the Falcon (but there's a gap in my collection between issues 120 and 153). Frankly, even the Kirby action in the pre-Falcon years couldn't mask that Steve Rogers was a boring character who really had no life outside of his costume. Englehart at least started the process of fleshing out Rogers' character more than any previous writer, although he didn't give Steve an occupation -- exactly how was he earning pay in those years? Was the Stark Foundation paying a salary to the Avengers?).
I've read the '80s reprints of the GL/GA O'Neil/Adams issues -- loved the art, but some of the stories were over the top. Otherwise I've only read a handful of their solo stories and I never got into either Super Boy or the Legion of Super Heroes. I recall one LoSH tale I got featuring the Tornado Twins -- it failed to make me want to read more LoSH stories, but I was even less interested in reading solo Super Boy comics.

Rip Jagger said...

A sudden guest-star or full-time companion usually indicated a sales slump on a book.

My all-time fave was the Cap and Falcon team. I love the Falcon's original green and gold, as I think it offers a greater contrast to Cap's classic colors and speaks more directly to Falcon's urban roots. Once he dons his red and white he ceases to be as distinctive and his wings really take him out of his street-level mileau.

The most significant team has to be the Green Lantern and Green Arrow team up, a pairing that shook up comics and still defines the form in many ways. I missed most of this at the time, only getting a few issues, but I've read the sequence many times since. After Adams left, the team lost some of its appeal to me.

DD and Black Widow was significant because of the hot and heavy romance they had. It was a very adult relationship and pushed the classic boundaries of what had passed for comic book romance before. The tepid shenanigans of Lois Lane and her lot were doomed.

Power Man and Iron Fist were an unlikely pairing but have proven to be a durable team. They were slapped together, a bit like the Champions, but thanks to some clever writing they had a chemistry that really made the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Both characters might be lumped in with Sons of the Dragon and Black Goliath had they not found each other.

The Legion edging out Superboy was a great move as far as I was concerned. The Legion offered up sleek modern adventures with a real pop while sadly as fun as they could be, Superboy stories tended to be bland despite some great craftsmanship on artwork.

A neat question.

Rip Off

david_b said...

I'd like to look at whether one pairing influenced another, in chronological order.. Having not read Power Man, I don't know how close it emulated the pairing of Cap & Falc; obviously the pairing in Cap's mag was very successful sales-wise, so was PM&IF influenced by that earlier pairing. I'd certainly like to think so.

Was Cap & Falc's pairing influenced by GL/GA..? It would make sense, but the relationship didn't bear too many similarities.

I'd like to think DD/BW was more influenced by the British 'Avengers', but I'm sure I'm wrong on that.

While Sam was birthed in Cap's mag specifically for Cap's supporting cast, both Nathasha and Ollie had separate, minor supporting roles elsewhere prior to their respective pairings. Would either have done anything substantial in the Bronze Age if they weren't paired in these mags first..?

MattComix said...

Lantern and Arrow just seems like "Hey they're both green, they should be in the same book!" I really think that's also the logic at work when they made Hal the Spectre. "Hey, Hal's dead and the Spectre wears green! Hmmmm."

Out of all the one's listed here in terms of it being the title of the book, I like Powerman and Iron Fist. It has a ring to it and I think there's just a good buddy-cop type dynamic going on there. Probably inspired by Starsky and Hutch.

All that said, I enjoy Cap and Falconbut I think the problem there is that if he's in the title then there's a bit of an obligation to have him in every story and I think there should be room for Cap to have solo adventures, or ones with Sharon Carter or Nick Fury etc.

Anonymous said...

I'll take anything over Green Lantern/Arrow. Can't take the preaching and strawman arguments. Never liked Neal Adams' art. The whole book shrieks desperately for attention and stinks wretchedly of "liberal" bias: all business is evil, hippies are wonderful.

Cheese Messiah said...

Glad I'm not the only one who found the GL/GA run over rated. I used to see that cover advertised in back issues I had. I was desperate to get my hands on it since I thought Neal Adams was a god. I only managed to get it years later and was terribly disappointed. Not much action and a lot of finger wagging.
I am a big admirer of the 60s LOSH in adventure comics but feel that by this stage they had become somewhat stale.
All the marvel double ups have a lot of recommend them though. If I had to plump for one I would choose CA and TF, which probably sustained my interest for longer than any of the others.

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