Sunday, June 23, 2013

Discuss: X-Spinoffs





Doug:  Below is the updated bracket.  As we've moved to the "Elite 8", which artists left behind certainly would have been worthy of being in this round of honor?  From my perspective, Jim Aparo stands out, as does Rich Buckler.  I wouldn't place Buckler in the category of "technical master" as I would, say, the Buscemas, Adams, or Byrne, but for sheer output and his oft-mentioned morphing style (which I actually like -- on the one hand it sort of dates the art for the viewer, and I do think aping Kirby and then Adams, and then developing a style all his own, is no small feat), he truly is a Bronze Age treasure.  So we'll have two discussions today -- the one at hand, and a continuing conversation on artists.


36 comments:

Rip Jagger said...

Starlin beat Kirby!?! Really? Sheesh!

As for X-spinoffs, the most interesting has to be New Mutants. It was an exceedingly well done book, at least in the early stages and was admirable in that it introduced all new characters, which was a relatively brave thing to do when the X-bonanza began.

X-Factor was a book worth doing, but sadly it never really got done correctly to suit my tastes. Angel was revised beyond recognition and the Beast is more interesting blue and furry.

Excalibur seemed like a book that should've worked better than it did. I loved the artwork, the characters are some of my faves (Kitty excepted) but for some reason this book never seemed to find its heartbeat.

The X-world is largely gone from scope these days save for the movie now and then.

Rip Off

humanbelly said...

Worthies that could have hung into this bracket under other circumstances? IMO, Definitely Joe Kubert and Jim Aparo. Possibly Jack Kirby (focusing primarily on his Fourth World output in the early 70's). I can't quite get on board for Rich Buckler just because of the whole "swiping" issue. . . despite his talent and versatility, it lends a bit of taint to his legacy for me. (Oh! Doug, I daresay he had a first-rate John Buscema-influenced period in FF, too.)

Agh! Too many X-Books for one lifetime! Rip's right about New Mutants-- what a delightful book in its first couple of years. Aaaaaand then the Bill Sienkewicz expressionism bonanza set in, and (IMO)it simply never recovered before it turned into the X-Force Cable-centric Liefeld-Fest. It was also a particular victim of that saturated color process they were experimenting with that tended to make books unreadably garish.

X-FACTOR, I'm sorry, I just hated from the get-go. The cop-out of resurrecting Jean- regardless of how "brilliant" the device was that they used to do it- was a major, major betrayal to the fans who had gone through a legitimate grief process for the character (as weird as that sounds). IIRC, the art team changed almost immediately (showing a major lack of confidence in the book's viability or value), and the Beast sub-plot was a stupid convention that should never have been green-lighted in the first place, as it wasn't even handled well for what it was (If using his strength is slowly killing him, then he needs to NOT BE ACTIVE ON THE TEAM, for pete's sake-!! There's no half-measures or hand-wringing involved, here!!)

And then things really started to pile up, didn't they? X-Force, Excalibur, X-Men, assorted X-titled mini-series', re-launches/re-vamps of existing X-titles-- oh what a flippin' mess. Aaaand it eventually made me drop ALL X-books completely, rather than try to keep up w/ multiple titles with characters that bore little resemblance to themselves anymore.

HB

Fred W. Hill said...

I loyally got the New Mutants and X-Factor along with the main title, but as I was slipping into buying a lot of comics I wasn't reading or enjoying less when I did read them, I dropped nearly everything a bit before things went really crazy with so many X-Men related titles. An overabundance of product didn't work in the long run to get my money.

david_b said...

In the '80s in college, I decided to start 'current' comic collecting again, having met a cool new roomie who was big into X-Men. X-Factor seemed like the best route, since I didn't know any of the 'new X-Men' and in light of all the 'X-plosion' going on, liked the concept of the original team being back together again.

Oh well, like everyone else I believed it would be the resurgence of some coolness at the House of Ideas. So disappointed, I pretty much turned my back on any mutant-related collecting.

Seems in hindsight, I saved a LOT of money..

Ray Tomczak said...

I haven't read much New Mutants, aside from the kickoff graphic novel (a review of which you can read on my blog Gutter Talk), a couple of the Sienkewicz drawn issues (which are notable mainly for the art) and the final issue (which is also notable for its art, though not in a good way) However, I haven't been all that impressed with what I have seen.
I liked the initial idea of X-Factor; reuniting the original X-Men (and I wasn't reading Uncanny X-Men when Jean was killed, so I didn't have the emotional investment in her being dead that Humanbelly did). The execution however, left much to be desired. The idea of pretending to be mutant hunters while trying to secretly help mutants seemed poorly thought out, to be frank.
I dropped the book around issue #5 and didn't pick it up again until Peter David took over and essentially turned it into Marvel's version of the Justice League International--a humor laced book about a government sponsored team of second and third stringers.

Anonymous said...

I didn't get into the X-titles until later (early 90s); I enjoyed them for a few years (especially Peter David and J.M. DeMatteis's X-Factor), but the endless crossovers and super-duper platinum hologram covers finally took their toll and I dropped all of them.

Mike W.

William said...

Rip, I think Jim Starlin beat Kirby based solely on their "Bronze Age" work. I think we can all agree that Kirby's Bronze Age stuff paled in comparison to his epic "Silver Age" output. (Machine Man, anyone?) While Starlin was breaking new ground with his work on Warlock, Captain Marvel, and various other Marvel titles at the time.

As for X-Men spin-off titles, I read most of them at when they came out with varying degrees of interest. I liked the very early issues of the New Mutants, but when Bill Sienkewicz came along, and employed his psychedelic art-house style to the book, I quickly lost all interest. The same with X-Factor. I had a modicum of interest when it first started, but I tired of it rather quickly and I stuck around for maybe 15 issues before I moved on. Excalibur had pretty artwork, but the whole concept just didn't excite me, and I think I only read the first couple of issues before I gave it up.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I was actually into X-Force when it first came along. I was also into the Jim Lee X-Men books from the beginning. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that I was in art school at the time, and it seemed (back then at least) that this new generation of comic artists were doing some cool and innovative things with the medium. These days, when looking back on that period, all I mostly see is a lot of flashy style over substance artwork that just looks dated to me now.

From a point of hindsight when looking back on the entire history of the X-Men franchise, I can say that the only period that still holds any appeal for me is the Byrne/Claremont era. Every other incarnation of the book pales in comparison to those halcyon days of yore. I truly believe that every creative team since then has been trying to live up to that legendary (lightning a bottle) period in the X-Men's history. And so far no one has even come close to recapturing the magic of those stories.

david_b said...

William, you really hit it on the head for me with the Jim Lee stuff. I hated it back in the day (being more an old school Marvel art fan of the Buscema's and Romita's and Kirby..).

And I can't even look at it today. Way too dated.

Karen said...

I liked New Mutants when it first came out, as it was getting back to the idea of Xavier's as a school for mutants. But it soon got caught up in the morass of sub-plots that an unbridled Claremont brought to the book.

I never thought X-Factor was a good idea and its arrival was about the time I stopped reading comics regularly for many years.

When I did come back to comics, I was never able to get back in to X-Men, as it had just expanded too much and become too complicated for me to find easy access.

Edo Bosnar said...

Like others here, I liked New Mutants initially, but dropped out soon after Sienkiewicz came on board - Sal's art was definitely better suited to the title, as he at least drew them so that they actually looked like teenagers. And yes, once Buscema left the book, the stories not only got darker, but also more convoluted.

I started reading X-Factor when it was already about 15 issues in, when I restarted reading X-men out of curiosity during one of those crossover events (the mutant massacre I think). I actually stuck with that for a while (while dropping X-men again) because I liked Simonson's art on it, and I thought Louise Simonson was writing some solid stories.

Excalibur I never read, although I've heard good things about it. However, at this point I doubt I'll ever have the finances or time to see for myself.

As to the brackets: damn straight Starlin beat Kirby. Sorry to blasheme, everybody, but Kirby shouldn't have beaten Simonson as far as I'm concerned. (And don't everybody dog-pile on me for being a Kirby-basher - I fully respect his place in the medium's history, and do in fact like his art, I just think so many of the artists who have already fallen out in this bracketolgy in the first & second rounds are so much better.)
As for artists I think should have made it this far, obviously I think Simonson deserves a spot here, but I agree with Doug's points about Buckler and Aparo - I felt so bad about voting against him in that last round, but would have felt even worse voting against Sal Buscema. I had a similar dilemma today when I saw Sal pitted against another all-time favorite, Gil Kane.

Humanbelly said...

Edo, LOVING your impassioned stance on the Kirby/Starlin match-up! Not quite as committed to it as you are, perhaps, but loving it, regardless--!

For me, it was a much, much closer choice than that. I think Kirby's art in the early 70's at DC may have been some of the best of his career in many ways-- but it was definitely a last major hurrah that took place very early in the time period we're considering. Starlin, of course, was pretty much a looming figure throughout all of those years-- doing nothing but growing and improving. BUT, even in some of his earlier issues we've seen reviewed recently on this site, you can certainly spot aspects of his pencils that need serious work. It sort of gets masked by his composition in general, and by his other skills, but he had an awful lot of trouble with proportion between different body parts-- particularly heads to necks to shoulders. I'd noticed this even as a youngster, and was glad to see him get a handle on it over the years. And this is a little ethereal, but I don't think his "cinematic" eye early on was anywhere near as good as Kirby's. With Jack, you could, of course, follow the story w/out the words being there. Definitely not always the case w/ earlier-Bronze Starlin. Still, I did vote for Jim on the strength of his best Bronze vs. Jack's best Bronze. . . but it was very, very close.

Man, this Perez/Adams match-up had me worried even back a couple of weeks ago, when I could see it coming down the pike. What's Adams best work in the Bronze age, exactly? I've always thought of him as so much a Silver Age harbinger of artists to come. . .

HB

Doug said...

HB --

Not to be a smart-arse, but Adams output post-1970 mainly consists of --

Kree/Skrull War
GL/GA "Hard Traveling Heroes"
Batman, allied again with O'Neil
Inhumans in Amazing Adventures
Thor -- short stint
Numerous covers for comics, magazines, and prose paperbacks (notably Tarzan)

That's all.

:)

Doug

Doug said...

I would add that I agree with HB's assessment of Starlin's improvement throughout the decade. Now, were we to do a "Best Creators" of the Bronze Age, Jim Starlin might very well run away with that. As I've said several times, and I think that David B. might agree with me, I'm not much of an aficionado of Starlin's cosmic epic; that's Karen's domain. However, having looked at almost all of it in preparation for this month's reviews, I would put his 4-year Thanos saga up against any major storyline from any era. It truly is epic.

Doug

Humanbelly said...


BWAHAHAHA!
Ah, thanks Doug. CLEARLY a case of me not having my mind properly wrapped around what works happened when! (I had pretty much lumped all of that as vaguely "oh, between '68 & '70" in my head-- good grief! Could I be more of a rookie??)

That body of work right there? Definitely a legitimate challenge to Mr. Perez, although it almost becomes like Jack Kirby, as to my mind he kind of fell off the map very suddenly.

I actually have some of those Tarzan novels w/ his cover art!

HB

Doug said...

Ah, no sweat. Before I did get all high 'n' mighty with you, I had to consult Adams' chronology over at the Comic Book Database. After all, it is important when entering smart-arse territory to truly know that of which one wants to be a smart-arse about!!

And yes, it is quite a body of work. Would you put Perez's second stint on the Avengers and his New Teen Titans stuff up against Adams?

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, while I agree with you about Kirby's DC work in the early '70s being a career high for him (his second stint at Marvel - and I'm talking about the art here - was definitely sub-par for the most part), but I think his last hurrah was his Captain Victory series for Pacific in the early '80s. The art was really nice for about the first 6-7 issues, and the stories were unbridled madcap fun.

As for the Adams/Perez match-up, yep, I'm a bit troubled by that as well. I understand why Adams is getting so much love, but I tend to prefer Perez here. I think his work from the mid-70s to mid-80s stacks up well against Adams' output.
And Doug, I am shocked to see that your post-1970 Adams list does not include the incredible awesomeness of Ms. Mystic and Skateman! ;)

Garett said...

I liked the early New Mutants by Bob McLeod. He had a great art style penciling/inking at this time, nice covers as well. While I liked Sienkiewicz on Moon Knight, I couldn't get into his New Mutants...felt his art distracted from the story by this point.

X-Force, I picked up a couple to see Liefeld's art...he had lots of energy and it seemed like something new was happening. Not a fan of his art now. X-Men, Jim Lee I think is an excellent artist, but I don't necessarily love his comics. I think his X books were impressively drawn and hugely influential on comics of the last 20 years, for better or worse. Perhaps it's the flow of action from panel to panel that is lacking? Something Byrne or Kirby excelled at.

Yes, leaving Aparo behind is a crime! Kubert as well, although his inking is a big part of his appeal. The Colan/Kane matchup was interesting, such different styles...I'd sure prefer Colan on Dracula! Kane's got the structure, Colan's got the shadows and mood. Barry Smith's Red Nails would have to be near the top if this were "Best individual comic" art of all time. As mentioned, Mike Zeck had a tough draw...it would've been interesting to see how he'd do against Joe Staton, or Marshall Rogers. I agree with Kirby beating Simonson, when you look at New Gods, Kamandi, the DC art...powerful stuff.

themiddlespaces said...

Funny, to me Sienkiewicz's art is synonymous with what made the New Mutants such a great series.

Love those covers still.

Garett said...

I liked the early New Mutants by Bob McLeod. He had a great art style penciling/inking at this time, nice covers as well. While I liked Sienkiewicz on Moon Knight, I couldn't get into his New Mutants...felt his art distracted from the story by this point.

X-Force, I picked up a couple to see Liefeld's art...he had lots of energy and it seemed like something new was happening. Not a fan of his art now. X-Men, Jim Lee I think is an excellent artist, but I don't necessarily love his comics. I think his X books were impressively drawn and hugely influential on comics of the last 20 years, for better or worse. Perhaps it's the flow of action from panel to panel that is lacking? Something Byrne or Kirby excelled at.

Yes, leaving Aparo behind is a crime! Kubert as well, although his inking is a big part of his appeal. The Colan/Kane matchup was interesting, such different styles...I'd sure prefer Colan on Dracula! Kane's got the structure, Colan's got the shadows and mood. Barry Smith's Red Nails would have to be near the top if this were "Best individual comic" art of all time. As mentioned, Mike Zeck had a tough draw...it would've been interesting to see how he'd do against Joe Staton, or Marshall Rogers. I agree with Kirby beating Simonson, when you look at New Gods, Kamandi, the DC art...powerful stuff.

Doug said...

Edo, you caught me wearing my Big Two zombie-glasses! Which, honestly, I always wear. I should stretch out a bit, I know...

Doug

Garett said...

Perez vs Adams is really interesting--how do you define best penciler? Adams has the unusual perspectives and panels, great faces and sharpness...but Perez has that great appeal and warmth, and solidly constructed figures and compositions. I'd say my head goes with Adams but my heart goes with Perez.

I'll go with John Buscema over Starlin for just sheer drawing ability. Buscema seemed to live and breathe drawing, the figures and scenes...although not so much machinery, which I've heard he disliked drawing. Compare Conan by Buscema and Starlin.

I'm picking Kane over Sal...I think Kane had such great structure to his figure drawing, the foreshortening, etc. I always return to Sword of the Atom, and Blackmark from 1971 squeezes into the Bronze age as an early experimental graphic novel.

Byrne gets my vote over Wrightson, although I'm not as big a fan of Byrne's as many here. If inking was included I'd go with Wrightson, as he's one of those guys who gets into the "fine art" category with his super inking.

Doug said...

I have grown to appreciate Gil Kane in my adult years, but I like realism more than stylism; hence I could never vote for Kane over any of the other artists who remain.

Doug

Humanbelly said...

I confess I've never seen Captain Victory. However, one even later Kirby shout-out would have to be an unpublished splash page he'd done for Destroyer Duck that was reprinted in KIRBY: KING OF COMICS. Just an incredibly dense, layered warehouse/factory shot, w/ the duck working away on something at a table in the center. It's one of those pictures that immediately makes you want to know what's going on in the story. Never saw the light of day. . . and yet clearly shows that the aging giant had retained far more of his artistic brilliance than maybe he was getting credit for even at the time.

Geeze-- that Perez/Adams thing is still givin' me the ague. If it included Adams' X-Men run, I'd go w/ him. If it got to the Busiek/Perez Avengers, George would get it. Sheesh.

I. . . I still can't decide. . .

HB

Rip Jagger said...

Starlin versus Kirby.

I'm not looking to fight with anyone at all. But I find it ironic that Starlin of all artists beat out Kirby since his Thanos stuff (which he's mostly famous for during this period) is largely copped from the Fourth World for sure.

Starlin is danged fine artist, a good storyteller though I do find him a bit one-note after a while, but compared to the King anyone falls short, Bronze or Silver Ages.

Just saying.

Rip Off

William said...

If this was called "Best Comic Book Artist Of All Time" (and not just Best of the "Bronze Age") I think that Jack Kirby would (and should) win that contest, probably hands down. But if we throw out all of the King's Silver Age and Golden Age work, and pretend it doesn't exist, and only judge the work that was done in that 12-15 year period that we call the "Bronze Age", then I believe there is some definite room for debate.

Karen said...

What William said. For me, the question is Kirby's Bronze age output versus Starlin's, and in that case, I have to go with Starlin. Now obviously it complicated by the fact that Kirby is the grandmaster and has had an influence on practically everyone in these brackets, but even so, based solely on artistic merits, I go with Starlin.

I feel the same way with Perez versus Adams. The majority of Adams' impact was felt in the Silver Age. Yes, he was a huge influence on all who came after him. But the sheer artistry and amount of work Perez did, at high levels of quality, in the Bronze Age, makes him the winner of that match up for me. But if you put the two against each other based on their entire bodies of work, I might have to go with Adams. That's a tough one though.

William said...

I agree with Karen about Perez and Adams. It's a tough call, but again, if we are strictly talking Bronze Age, I'd have to give the nod to Perez. His Avengers stuff alone puts him in the running, but when you factor in his work on other titles like New Teen Titans and Fantastic Four, I think Perez comes out on top. In a strictly Bronze Age capacity.

I am surprised to see that Gil Kane in now beating Sal Buscema in the poll. Kane is a great artist and he did some awesome work in the Bronze Age, (most notably on Amazing Spider-Man), but Sal was everywhere back then. In fact, you would be hard pressed to name a Marvel comic title in the 70's and 80's that Sal B did not work on. Plus, I consider his Incredible Hulk to be the definitive version of the character. And when I think of Captain America, it's usually Sal's version that comes to mind as well. I can't think of one iconic character that Gil Kane worked on that I would consider the definitive representation.

Doug said...

I agree with you, William. Even Green Lantern, who I would most associate with Kane as the premiere artist, loses out to Adams' depiction in the early 1970's.

But then, losing out to guys like Johnny Romita and Neal Adams can't be all bad, can it?

Doug

Humanbelly said...

Yes, Kane over Sal at the moment has me perplexed (and nervous again!) as well. I don't see him as being nearly a dominant Bronze Age figure as Sal. And while his best B-Age work (Sword of the Atom, I'm thinking?) might just edge out Sal's best work (Rom? Crossroads Saga in the Hulk? Captain America? Defenders? Geeze- he's always good!), Kane could DEFINITELY turn in some sub-standard efforts (*cough* Marvel Team-Up *cough*), whereas I can't think of a single instance where Sal B turned in a book that looked BAD, y'know? Truly, his mean (his median?)over his career may in fact have been higher than just about anyone else's. So I'm still comfortable giving him the nod on that basis alone.

Sheesh-- I feel like him his publicist, these days!

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, while I agree with absolutely everything you've said about Sal (I've been voting for him consistently), I have to put in a few good words for Kane - another big personal favorite.
First, I'm not at all mystified that he's doing so well here, since in my opinion his work from the '70s and '80s is far, far better than his work from the Silver Age and earlier (seriously, he's the definition of an artist who got better with age).
Second, don't forget that he also handed in some really nice and often highly-praised non-super-hero work: you mentioned Sword of the Atom (super-hero in name only), but there was also stuff like Blackmark, the occasional Conan stories (both in the Barbarian and Savage Sword), John Carter, and that excellent Star Hawks newspaper strip. Also, in the '80s, the more obscure Talos of the Wilderness Sea and Ring of the Nibelung.
Third, his early '80s Superman art deserves a special shout-out, both in Action Comics and those two Superman Specials (and DC Comics Presents Annual #3).
Alas, all of that is still not enough to get me to vote against Sal. In fact, out of this final 8, there's only one artist left (Byrne) who could prompt me to vote against Sal...

Karen said...

The bracket that's killing me right now is John Buscema vs. Jim Starlin (and I predicted via email to Doug that this decision might occur and would be heart-rending for me). However, based on overall impact in the Bronze Age, I had to go with Buscema...but it absolutely rips me up.Both are huge favorites of mine and having to choose one over the other is painful. But that's what these sort of 'best of' lists are all about, when you come right down to it, making the hard decisions.

humanbelly said...

Yeah, you're right Edo-- I definitely don't want to come across sounding like I'm down on Gil Kane at all. AND it's a grave injustice to let a discussion of his contributions go by w/out mentioning the bajillion first-rate covers he produced during the bronze age, as well. In a very real way, he was gettin' the books out of spinner racks and into hands. And like I said, if the criteria becomes more best-work vs. best-work (which is a reasonable measure as well), I think the scales might tip Kane's way a smidge. Ohhhhh, it's so tricky.

Poor Karen's a-dyin' up there. . .

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, I feel your pain: as I pointed out in the comments above (and previously) I was equally torn in the last two brackets involving Sal Buscema: first against Aparo and now Kane.
The Buscema/Starlin one is a toughie as well, but I actually went with Starlin - maybe just because I've been reading all of that Captain Marvel stuff lately.

Garett said...

I almost changed my vote to Starlin today after thinking about Dreadstar and looking at his Captain Marvel again. But I pulled out some Savage Swords by Buscema and that tipped the balance back again.

I was looking at Wrightson's Frankenstein illustrations again, to add to his side vs Byrne...astounding amount of detail in some of these, with the test tubes and apparatus. Great care in the lighting and inking. Came out in '83, after 7 years, and was an unpaid labour of love for Wrightson that he worked on in between assignments. If it came down to individual works, I don't think Byrne could match these. I still voted Byrne, but now having second thoughts.

I'm not really a Sal fan, so that one's easy for me. I think he's good but not great. I'd put the other 7 in the great category. I'd be curious about what everyone thinks are the greatest works by these top 8, or your favorite work by them.

Humanbelly said...

Wow, two potential upsets of seeded contestants in the works, here. This is exciting!

HB

Humanbelly said...

But Sal could still pull this off, folks! C'mon-- it's just like the Public Broadcasting pledge drives, where the last dramatic calls pull it off in the 11-1/2th hour!!!

HB

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