Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spotlight On: Steve Englehart

Karen: It seems only fitting as we're currently reviewing the Secret Empire saga from the pages of Captain America to throw our spotlight on super-scribe Steve Englehart. The Stainless One was a prolific writer for both companies and produced some of the most memorable and beloved works in comics (and he's a big favorite here at the BAB).  He had noted runs on Avengers, Defenders, Dr. Strange, Captain America, Detective Comics, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, and so many others. His work was layered and his characters were complex. He could write down-to-Earth guys like Cap or Batman, or go way out there with the likes of Dr. Strange. You name it, Steve could write it, and make it all seem exciting and fresh. But let's hear from you -what are your favorite titles and stories by  Stainless Steve?


Edo Bosnar said...

I could have sworn you already had a Spotlight on Steve Englehart already (you didn't), but he's discussed so much here, and you've reviewed so many of his books, that it seems like it. Plus, this post comes really close to being a spotlight, and his merits were pretty extensively discussed here as well.

Englehart isn't my absolute favorite writer of the Bronze Age, but he's right up there in the top 3 or 4. He really is one of the biggest names among Bronze Age writers, and he wrote so many great stories for both Marvel and DC in the 1970s on their most notable titles/characters: the Avengers, the Defenders, Captain America, the JLA, Batman...

My very favorite stories by him include pretty much every issue of his all-too-brief run on Detective Comics (#s 469-476), but especially the Joker story.
His whole run on Avengers is really quite good, and I like the Celestial Madonna and Serpent Crown sagas in particular.
And I also really liked the (now virtually forgotten) four issues of the revived Mr. Miracle he wrote in the late '70s.

david_b said...

Steve was/is/will always be my all-time Bronze Age Hero..!!!


His stint on CA&F was so wonderfully, carefully pieced together.., from the super-strength, to the Sharon/Peggy conflict, to the Secret Empire, to the Cap-Falc conflicts, to Nomad. Majestically done, and done in the most subtle ways, with no heavy-handed anti-war, anti-establishment hitting you over the head like Denny did with GL/GA.

I adored Steve's style in all those issues I listed.., like he really drew you in, not treating the reader as a bystander, but making you sympathetic to all the opposing sides one way or another. It's truely his masterwork to this true believer, and will always be.

If Steve never took over CA&F, I probably would have collected because I liked Cap from the Kirby Silver Age, but he wouldn't have resonated anywhere near the issues Steve wanted to confront Cap with.

A very close second to that will be his Avengers run. He made Swordsman and Mantis such a great pair and he introduced what I felt was more mature relationships in the Avengers, anger, jealosy, bitterness, flirting.., ok, most of that centered around a certain 'This One', but I loved it.

You simply say, "..Why Not..?? It's frankly about time."

I liked his Defender stint and read his comments on not exactly knowing what to do with Doc Strange, other than have him throw energy off his hands; his delving into more mysticism was a nice, earnest development that readers really got to enjoy over the course of his tenure.

Obviously I didn't read as much of his DC work, but his Marvel work will always be my favorite stuff.

(As DavidB conveniently ignores Steve's terrible WCA stint, but I blame the terrible Milgrom art more than the writing..)

Unknown said...

To me, Steve Englehart was the MAN... largely in part to his run on JLA -- probably my most favorite series run as a kid.. He took a rudder-less book and gave it some much needed personality and direction. The book was transformed from a standard size to GIANT size, giving me more Dick Dillin artwork to view. He brought back Red Tornado and the Phantom Stranger, added Hawkgirl to the line-up (about time!), and even added the Manhunters to the GL/Guardians legend. "Millenium"-- now that's another story... (sigh)

Doug said...

Thanks, Edo. Karen and I decided that this post would be a good idea today due to the increase in traffic we got from yesterday's Super-Blog Team-Up. We ran about a 20% increase in readership over a typical mid-week day, so with the potential to have some of those new users come back we felt that a discussion of Englehart would tie in perfectly with our posts from Monday and Wednesday of this week.


Anonymous said...

This is going to be a scattered post but hold gets to the end.

My first Avengers was issue 139 so I think I may have jumped right into the deep end of the Englehart pool. The whole Roxxon Oil/Patsy Walker/Moondragon then Hyperion and Hawkeye in the old West. Having to include Iron Man and HIS NOSE. This to me was my Avengers. And as I did with Spider-Man, The Avengers led to Marvel Triple Action. I started with issue 27 which is the one where Goliath is holding the bridge together. Many of the characters that Englehart was using in the current Avengers were coming together during this run in reprints.

I was never a big reader of Cap or Iron Man's solo books. I did read Thor but not those guys. I remember reading where Englehart's ideas for Cap ran into Kirby's return in 1976. Cap was one of the books Kirby was going to be on so Steve had to be back as Captain America. The original plot line that Englehart had had to be thrown out the window.

And now's the time for me to ramble on.....

Yesterday was so FREAKIN AWESOME!!!! And then it wasn't. When I would scroll down the page my desktop computer would lock up when I got the last two Vision covers. Then I would get into this hellish loop of "recover webpage". I couldn't click the links or leave a post. It was a true "RATZ FARTZ" moment for me.

I echo the comments about finding some really cool new blogs but worrying about finding the time to read them all. I started with Grantsbridgestreets blog which bounced me over to Steve Does Comics to the Peerless Power of Comics to youse guys here. Now my bouncing seems to continue.

The Prowler (time I was on my way thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay but now it's time for me to go got no time to for spreadin' roots, the time has come to be gone and though our health we drank a thousand times it's time to ramble on).

Anonymous said...

I'd agree about Englehart's Avengers, Batman, and JLA runs. And I know I'm probably in the minority, but I liked his West Coast Avengers stuff too...he brought in some cool guest stars and tried to get a unique voice for each character; Tigra didn't come off too well, but you can't win 'em all...

Mike W.

Doug said...

David B. would support me on this -- any merits Englehart's WCA scripts might have had (and I generally didn't care for that series) were crushed by the art on the title. Joe Sinnott is one of the premier inkers in all of comics history, but he and Al Milgrom together were a lethal combination.


david_b said...

Not to raise the ire of Milgrom lovers here and abroad, but the art was so very FLAT, the faces terrible, I gave up after the first dozen issues.

And honestly, it was a series I WANTED TO LOVE more than ever.

The limited series was so good.

I didn't think much of the catpeople or Master Pandemonium storylines, that seemed to go on month after month after month..

But as someone wisely said here, despite good writing, comics are primarily a visual medium and will suffer accordingly in the wrong hands.

Or better said, hands not appreciated fully by some.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, Milgrom and Sinnot combined made for some really bland art.

Otherwise, although I've not read it, Englehart's WCA seems to be pretty highly regarded in some circles - it's even gotten omnibus treatment.
I've also noticed the same type of rather polarized opinions on some other Englehart work from the '80s and later, like his run on Fantastic Four, and the aforementioned Millennium. Kind of major contrast to the almost universal praise his '70s work tends to garner.

For my part, I recall being pretty disappointed with Dark Detective, in which he reunited with Rogers and Austin to do a Batman story. It actually wasn't that bad, but it wasn't great either. The problem is I had such high expectations, and I thought neither the story nor the art lived up to them.

Doug said...

Edo -

I have the Dark Detective series reprinted in the Marshall Rogers hc. I haven't read it yet, but your assessment reminds me of criticisms I heard back when it was recently-completed. But I will have to get to it sometime (along with a billion other things I have on my shelves!).


Doc Savage said...

I'd take Milgrom over Rogers any day. But WCA (ongoing series) had really lousy writing full of plot holes and non sequiturs. I have about a dozen issues. The miniseries was a lot better. Too bad.

Graham said...

I caught the tail-end of Englehart's Avengers run....the Serpent Crown/Hellcat/Squadron Supreme series and enjoyed it. I missed his CA & F run, but have gone back and read it. As david_b stated, he didn't bang you over the head with his take on the issues.

When he came on board with JLA was when I really started taking notice of him. The Giant-Size format was perfect and gave him a chance to develop the characters (I think he pointed that out on his website). The first Batman run in Detective was fantastic, but Dark Detective was sort of a letdown, but really what else could have happened with it? The first run was the gold standard for Batman.

Doc Savage said...

Bill Finger is the "gold standard for Batman."

Anonymous said...

Englehart was definitely in the top tier of Bronze-age comic book writers, and comic book writers in general. Even on Super-Villain Team-Up his stuff was cool.
Top-notch 70's Marvel coolness.

Im_Omac_youre_Omac said...

I loved Englehart's work on solo characters (Beast, Captain America, Dr. Strange, Batman to name a few), where he did a great job of in-depth characterization. I was less fond of his work on teams, where he had less space for characterization of each character and tended to go for overly elaborate plot twists, where the writing came off as too wordy. After the initial great success with the Cap of the 1950's storyline, he then went way over the top by retconning everything under the sun. Madame Hydra was really the Space Phantom? The origin of the Falcon was set up by the Red Skull? Some of these strained even a comic reader's suspension of disbelief. In my opinion, Roy Thomas, Jim Starlin, and Gerry Conway quickly come to mind as examples of better storytellers than him.

Anonymous said...

Huh, what?? Madame Hydra was the Space Phantom?!
Boy, he sure fooled me.

Fred W. Hill said...

As a kid collecting comics in the '70s, I quickly came to appreciate Steve Englehart's talent and loved his stories, particularly in Captain America & the Falcon and the Avengers, although his runs on the Defenders and Dr. Strange were favorites too. His run on Captain Marvel obviously paled in the shadow of Starlin, but was still entertaining enough to me. Of his later stuff, Coyote was very good and certainly different, and although I didn't get them until years after they were published, his Batman stories were excellent too. Like David B, I really wanted to love WCA, and I found aspects of his run there very good, but other parts were so so, particularly the art. I mostly quit collecting comics in the middle of the time travel story, and also, fortunately before Byrne came on board and tore up the Vision.

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