Tuesday, September 24, 2013

True or False: Steve Englehart Was My Favorite Writer of the Bronze Age



30 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

Much as I like so many of his stories, especially in Avengers and Detective Comics, I'm going to have to say false, just because there are a few other writers of the period whose work I liked better then, and still like better now.
(Maybe it would have been better to do a "Spotlight on..." instead?)
Also, since the image shows some of Englehart's post-Bronze work, I thought I'd provide links to some of my personal favorites from the Bronze Age, i.e., the cover to the Strange Apparitions tpb:
http://www.comics.org/issue/62433/cover/4/
The start of his brief, virtually forgotten, but thoroughly enjoyable stint as writer on Mister Miracle (where he also teamed up with Marshall Rogers):
http://www.comics.org/issue/31402/cover/4/
And the original cover of his 1980 novel Point Man (by Rich Corben):
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/876603.The_Point_Man
(sorry, that's the best image I could find on short notice - it is enlargeable).

Doug said...

Ah, friend Edo, but the point of the post is for our commenters to give a "complete answer". So if Stainless Steve was your guy, gush all over his work. But if, say, Jim Starlin was more phenomenal in a reader's eyes, then he/she should try to convince us of Starlin's merits over Englehart's.

I know what I'm doing... ;)

Doug

William said...

I'd have to say False. There are several writers that I personally prefer over Englehart. Such as Chris Claremont, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern, David Michelinie, and Roy Thomas.

I would embellish further on my choices, but I'm a little pressed for time today.

Doug said...

William raises an interesting point (I'm using my inference skills here) -- if a writer was not your favorite, did they have stretches where they peaked and those runs or individual stories are your favorites?

So if Englehart was your overall guy, it could be possible that he didn't write any of your top three stories.

Doug

Matt Celis said...

False. Wasn't he the one behind Mantis on the Avengers? This One can't stand the whole Celestial Madonna storyline. This One also was no fan of the silly Nixon-as-supervillain storyline in Captain America, which This One seems to recall was by Steve Englehart, too. Someone correct me if I'm misremembering.

I prefer Roger Stern on Avengers, Jack Kirby on Captain America.

Matt Celis said...

I need to check some credits so I can come back with some candidates for favorites of the era. I am the comic book reader who never remembers who wrote most of the stuff!

Doug said...

Although Mantis's speech patterns grew tired after awhile, I personally hold the Celestial Madonna saga as one of the best story arcs of the Bronze Age. It's scope was immense, it had numerous pay-offs throughout, and the fact that it basically became a bi-weekly when the Giant-Size issues were thrown in was groundbreaking.

Ditto on Secret Empire. For the time in which it was written, the pay-off was sharp political commentary.

And I say those supports of Englehart in no way to denigrate the writers others have offered. Love Roger Stern's Avengers and some of his Spidey, among other writers mentioned.

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

My false vote in no way diminishes the fondness I have for Englehart's stories, by the way: I also love the Celestial Madonna saga, and the Serpent Crown affair, and really pretty much the entirety of Englehart's Avengers run.

And to sort of address Doug's point above, I will say this: I think Englehart's stories in that brief run in Detective are my favorite Batman stories of the 1970s.

Doug said...

Edo --

In regard to Englehart's run on Detective, I cannot imagine those stories without the great Marshal Rogers. Talk about two guys hitting their max at the same time! Just wonderful; wish it wasn't so short in duration, though!

Doug

J.A. Morris said...

False.

I enjoy some of his work, but I wouldn't call him my favorite.

Karen said...

True for me. Stainless Steve wrote Avengers and Cap right in my prime reading years, as well as a number of other titles. He got me to buy Justice League for a brief period of time. I thought he was the best during the early to mid 70s at writing people in a realistic manner. He also picked up the baton from Roy Thomas and carried on the tradition of finding minute details from Marvel's past to weave into the fabric of current stories. His stories were innovative and expansive. They've stuck with me more than many others. So yeah, Steve's my guy.

Doug said...

Since Roy Thomas has been brought up, I'd say that one of my problems in discussing Roy's work is the fact that because he wrote just about everything, and generally for an extended period of time, it's hard to pinpoint the true gems of his career. Obviously the Kree/Skrull War stands out, but does any of his FF work? His Conan is always good, but there's just so much of it (and many stories were adapted from Howard, deCamp, et al.).

Doug

Anonymous said...

I guess "True" for me. Loved his Cap (Secret Empire, Nomad), Avengers (Defenders War, Mantis). I drifted from comics during the late 70s-early 80s so don't know much else of what he did. But I recently started reading his late 80s FF run on the DVD (which I guess is technically post-Bronze) and am enjoying it. I need to finish that up.

Tom

Anonymous said...

False. I like Englehart's stuff, but I'd take Stern, Moench, Claremont, even Conway over him.

Mike W.

J.A. Morris said...

His creation of Mantis' speech patterns are enough for me to disqualify him as my "favorite" Bronze Age writer.

Doug said...

Curious --

Why aren't Mantis's speech patterns "characterization", as Hank McCoy's and/or Ben Grimm's speech patterns are "characterization"?

Doug

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Englehart. I don't think that he was generally as crazily brilliant as Starlin, Gerber, or Kraft could sometimes be. However, the sheer bulk of his output, so much of which was memorable-that clinches it for me. His run on Captain America was fantastic.
Actually, I liked Kraft best, I just wish he had written more. And I enjoyed Kirby's stories, too, although the dialogue could be a bit painful.

david_b said...

Quite frankly, 'This One' doesn't find Mantis-speak any odder than Lee's hilariously campy Thor-isms or Hulk-speak we've had to put up with (or enjoy...) for decades.

Seriously, I'll throw my vote to TRUE.

1) Avengers-Defenders Clash pretty much negates most criticism uttered thus far.. It WAS my 'Summer of '73', along with Gwen's death and the Carpenters and Wings on the AM Dial.

At that point, a Marvel Zuvembie became my true and only destiny.

2) Steve's subtle, yet powerful conscientious objector writing on Cap (ish 163) was a timeless look back at very poignant viewpoints back in the early '70s. Only Steve had the balls to do that.

Period.

3) Steve's portrayal of Sam Wilson, pretty much defining both him and Steve Rogers by their partnership, one of the first buddy teams (besides GL-GA) which suitably retired the hero-sidekick Gold and Silver Age partnerships..

("Bucky who..?")

4) Yes, the Secret Empire/Nomad saga, which under Steve's hand made CA&F among the top sellers for a few years there.

Ah, Quentin Harderman and the Committee.. Hmm, could Steve had gotten any more cryptic..?

5) Swordsman and Mantis, FINALLY, the Avengers developing some layers of jealosy and contempt in the ranks.., pushing Wanda out to a forefront to actually become an interesting character, just before her and Vish both moved to Dullsville USA as husband and wife..

6) Steve also solidified the Defenders, a good setup for Gerber to come in and make 'em weird again.

I never read his DC work, but early Marvel Bronze..? Steve was easily my hero.

Psst, it does helps to ignore his mid-80s WCA work ever happened. His evil twin, perhaps..?

Vintage Bob said...

True! So very true! If the only thing Englehart had ever written was the Avengers/Defenders War, that alone was good enough to permanently cement him as my favorite comic writer of all time. Add to that his fantastic work on other storylines of the Avengers, Capt. America, Detective Comics, Mr. Miracle and others, and he comes out on top.

The rest of my Top Five Writers would be: Gerry Conway, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Chris Claremont. Jim Shooter was one of my favorites until he utterly lost his mind and created Secret Wars. I think that alone would suffice to kick him off my top ten even.

But something about Englehart's work just always stands out as the best.

Doug said...

Another curiosity from me --

I've heard the name of Jack Kirby invoked as a writer a few times today. For those of you who feel that way, are you talking about his plotting through the years, or his scripting? Because if it's the latter, we're going to have to sit down and have a talk...

Doug

Fred W. Hill said...

For me it's a bit of toss up between Englehart and that other Steve -- Gerber! During the Bronze Age I would definitely have given the edge to Englehart as I loved his writing on the Avengers, Captain America, & Dr. Strange, among others. Even when I thought the art was terrible, as during Frank Robbins run on CA&TF, I still enjoyed his writing. The key for me was characterization. He built up and expanded on what Stan & Roy had started. Certainly, Marvel had several stellar writers during the Bronze Age -- aside from the Steves there was Thomas, Moench, McGregor, Wolfman, Claremont, and the artist/scribes, Starlin & Miller, just to name some of my other favorites who had significant runs in the Bronze Age. I didn't check out Englehart's run on Detective Comics until several years afterwards, but that was some topnotch work too.
Anyhow, overall, putting myself into my 13 year old mindset circa 1975-'76, I'd answer True on this question.

redartz said...

Englehart was, and remains, a favorite for me, but I still must go with false. His Avengers was stellar, and those Detective issues were the first Batman books I bought. However, my top choice would be another Steve (Gerber). Yes, his body of work is much smaller, and doubtlessly less renowned. Yet the uniquely esoteric, psychologically kaleidoscopic (say that three times fast!) stories grabbed my teenaged mind like no other. Man-Thing, Omega, Howard, and primarily his wild run on Defenders nail it for me. Must get the Essential Defenders...if only for the Headmen!

Incidentally, I never minded Mantis' speech patterns. It simply made her one more interesting individual in that Mighty gathering that was Englehart's Avengers.

Anonymous said...

As far as Jack Kirby, his value as a writer was in the massive wealth of characters and ideas he introduced to D.C. and Marvel in the 70's...no need to list 'em all here. He'd come up with half a dozen new characters while the other writers were still brushing their teeth, most of 'em still around. Even Devil Dinosaur pokes his big red head up once in a while. He approached things differently than those other guys, being from an earlier age. And the guy could come up with some wild plots. The scripting, well, even that has a sort of goofy charm. In small amounts.

Rip Jagger said...

This is possibly true. I have to give a nod to Nicola Cuti, but on the whole I really enjoyed Englehart's work as he took what Roy had put down before him (just as he had done with Stan) and took it to new places.

You don't hear much about it, but his run on Justice League if epic! As good as his Avengers stuff is, I prefer his JLofA I think.

Rip Off

Logan said...

True. Absolutely true. So true that it was pointless to even ask the question.
On a more serious note, Englehart will probably always be my favorite Marvel writer, but I'm more convinced that it is due to nostalgia than anything else...although his Cap & Falc run is hands-down the best run of the character ever...and his Avengers was as well...he made comics grow up a little in my opinion.
But what do I know...I'm only a fan, and not qualified to be a critic...but he was fun.

Anonymous said...

True:
Stainless Steve wrote the best comics of the Bronze age.
There were other good writers, Gerber, Moench, MCGregor, to name but 3.
But Englehart had the scope, the attention to detail, the grasp of humanity, and most of all, managed to take a "house style" and run with it, pushing further and better than anyone else managed to, both at DC and Marvel.
People complain about Mantis being shoe-horned into the Avengers, but I thought she was a fine character who took what could have been a bunch of stereotypes and somehow made something bigger.
I never had issues with her speech patterns, either. A non-native English speaker raised by Kree pacifist priests having some idiosyncratic diction and syntax makes sense to me. It also lays the groundwork for her being different enough to warrant her being the Celestial Madonna, and establishes that her "powers" are more about how she thinks than being bitten by a radioactive mantis.
And each character having a distinct "voice", complete with individual vocabulary, syntax and above all character was part of what made those comics much better than many which came before or since.
His run on Captain America took a struggling book to a top seller.
His Avengers run was unique because it actually had characters develop and change, but seldom sacrificed superhero action to bring us this.
He wrote in a glorious period before "the illusion of change" became the mantra of Marvel, so he could make the Vision more human, have him fall in love, Have Wanda marry Vision, have Thor realize how much he holds back around mortals, and so on and so on.
Stories which revolved around change and growth. Stories like the flipside of Hawkeye's redemption; the Swordsman's attempts at redemption. Taking a minor character who for a decade had been no more than a stock villain and having him attempt to reform was not a common thing back then.
It had been a long time since Hawkeye, Pietro and Wanda switched sides. Now it's commonplace to see Magneto or other villains become "heroes", but because Swordsman's tale had a beginning middle and end, it was a story, not an absurdly long and complex Villain/hero/villain/amnesiac hero/villain/hero ongoing yo-yo of supposed morality like Magneto or Juggernaut.
I could rant on and on.
There are no objective criteria by which I can "prove" why he was the best writer of that period, but take my word on it; he was.

david_b said...

Anonymous, excellent points kinda expounding on what I mentioned earlier, but I really like your take on Steve's stories 'revolving around change, growth and redemption', especially shown in both Secret Empire and Swordsman arcs.

Karen said...

Anonymous -thank you for that well-written response on Stainless Steve. You really nailed what made his writing so great in the 70s. Now if only we knew who you were! Please don't be a stranger. I'd like to hear more from you.

Greg said...

So many good comments here. Englehart's not my favorite, I'd probably go with Claremont. When I re-read older stuff he just seems like a better writer than most of those guys. His Iron Fist and Marvel TeamUp stuff are faves. But I like Englehart too, I liked the Celestial Madonna storyline as a kid- not sure how it would hold up now. Never minded Mantis' speechisms. I thought that priests of Pama thing was cool. I do think that storyline was very influential and enriched the Marvel U a great deal. Same with his Cap run. So even though he wasn't my favorite, thinking about it as I write this, he was very important at 70's Marvel. Quite a legacy.

Anonymous said...

Englehart was the best writer of the 70s. They all took the Stan Lee football and ran with it, but Englehart EXPANDED on it, whereas most of the others just repeated it. By "it," of course, I mean the Stan Lee writing formula that made Marvel such a success in the 60s. The 70s heirs to Stan's throne each focused on a different aspect of Stan's writing and copied it, with minor changes. Except for Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber and Don McGregor. They expanded on it, and Englehart did it better than the other two. Marv Wolfman took the basic superhero plots of Stan's. Len took the purple prose. Gerry Conway took the soap opera. Roy took the plots and grafted his own "hip" narration and dialogue onto it. Same with Mike Friedrich. They all took an aspect of Stan's winning formula and turned it up to 11. The two Steves and Don brought more to the table. The main thing Englehart had in his favor was a healthy respect for what had come before as far as a character or title went. He built on what had happened and went convincingly from there. His writing was smart, fun, fascinating....MORE than what had come before. Len was all about FEELING and MOOD and his plots were basically Super-Hero Comics 101. Marv's plots were ok, but in the writing of narrative captions and dialogue stage, he changed his mind and screwed things up sometimes. Gerry Conway was a super-prolific writing machine who took the easy, lazy, soapy way out almost everytime. Gerber was a fantastic wordsmith and his plots were so original and out there. McGregor reminds me of Kirby in the sense that the concepts and plots are great, but the actual writing really hurt it. With Kirby, it was not being comfortable enough with words to write smoothly; with MCgregor, it was being too comfortable with words and over-writing to the point of not self-editing for grammar and clarity. Claremont came later and what you all see in his writing that is good stuns me into near-silence. My god, he made his own cliches and drove them into the ground ad nauseum. His writing seemed great when I was an adolescent, but as an adult, years later, I see it for the precious, cloying, and precocious crap it is. Stern is mediocre; a notch above Wein. Shooter can be good when he's not trying to sell toys, and please do not get me started on the over-rated J.M. DeMatteis!


Jeff Clem, jkaclem@yahoo.com

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