Thursday, April 24, 2014

Addition Through Subtraction - Comic Edition

Doug: Personally, the Avengers became a better magazine when they were no longer literally "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Let's face it -- if you were going to pick up some Silver Age Avengers to read or re-read, you probably wouldn't go for the first 16 issues as your primary choice of entertainment, would you? I wouldn't. I'd start with issue #19 and then move forward. From that point on, the book went through a pretty incredible run all the way through the 1970's (with a "miss" here or there). Over in the Fantastic Four, the replacement of Vince Colletta on the inks over Jack Kirby's pencils allowed that book to really blast off visually. Joltin' Joe Sinnott arrived, and the rest is history, from the mid-#40s over the next three years. Top notch stuff. And nothing against Vinnie at all -- over on the Thor mag, one could make the argument that it was his feathery inks that gave the God of Thunder and friends that signature look.

Doug: So that's today's topic, and it's not in any way mean-spirited or denigrating to any creator or character. What we want to know is, when did a comic catch fire for you after the removal of a character or characters, or right after a creator change? Again, there's no need to bash anyone, but it would be helpful if you stated just what it was that "now" put a given book over the top for you. Above, I think the Avengers became more accessible to me, a young child, when they weren't quite so godlike. Additionally, the dynamics between the various members of the Kooky Quartet created a real soap opera-type feeling. Heck, those characters behaved like people I knew! And then when Hank and Jan rejoined... Now we had a founding founder (as opposed to Cap's ex post facto anointing) back in the fold and that created another set of interesting circumstances. Of course I'm speaking of reading those great Silver Age stories in the pages of Marvel Triple Action and ragged original copies, while reading the #120s on as off-the-rack fare.

Doug: Feel free to cover comics from any genre, any company, any era. We'll open this one up as wide as you want it to be. And come back in a week, when we'll do the same drill but in the entertainment industry!



24 comments:

Humanbelly said...

Pete Best out, Ringo in.

Oh wait-- daggone it, that's NEXT week. . . !

(sorry)

HB

Colin Jones said...

This is an obvious one but replacing most of the X-Men was a stroke of genius. The original team was just boring,especially Iceman and Angel.

Humanbelly said...

*gasp*

Colin. . . I. . . you. . . you. . . I. . . *grnrgle*. . .

(And w/ a thud, HB is out--)

I LOVED the original X-Men! Heck, I loved the fact that for quite a long time they were held up to the all-new/all-different team as the gold standard of achievement-! Although I will submit that losing the original drab blue/black and gold uniforms fits into today's premise pretty nicely. I do always think of that team in its later pop-art looking garb.

Here's a subtle one that occurred to me from a re-read this past summer: getting rid of the endless (and solutionless) Peter Parker/Betty Brant romance late in the Lee/Ditko Spidey run. It never quite made sense, as Betty had to be about three or four years older than Pete (at least), and was firmly ensconced in the full-time adult working world. . . and Peter, no matter how you look at it, wasn't even a senior in high school when that relationship became more serious. I'm as sappily romantic as the next mush. . . but that just doesn't have a healthy ring to it, sorry. Getting Peter's attentions focused on his contemporaries and peers after making a clean, healthy break with Betty was like opening a window for the first time on a spring morning.

HB

Doug said...

HB - You took one of my examples in next week's post. Both of us -- stating the obvious.

Is it too bold, or even incorrect, to say that any book improved once George Perez came aboard and took the reins of the pencil chores?

Doug

Redartz said...

Good call on Betty Brant, HB! Following on the web-spinner, I'd add Amazing Spider-Man 224. Prior to this issue, there had been (in my humble opinion) a couple years of rather unmemorable stories. There were certainly exceptions, but this was the period of Fusion, Rocket Racer, Big Wheel, etc. Issue 224 brought in Roger Stern, who had been doing great things in Spectacular Spider-Man. And I'm not focusing necessarily on the writer here, but on the tone of the book. Stern seemed to take some of the 'silliness' out of the title and the results were dramatic (in style and effect). Consider: who would you rather read about, Spider-man vs. Ramrod or Spider-Man vs. Juggernaut?

Murray said...

I cannot think of a specific character moment or creative team that Made the Moment. All the Marvel comics had this stiff, stilted "Golden Age" styling in art until roughly the mid-60's. The horrible art in the Avengers panel you provide is a perfect example. Then..WHAMMO...the art teams across the board woke up. Suddenly there was composition, flow, power. That non-specific time is where all my collecting starts.

And on a side note, I had no use for the "Kooky Quartet". I can only sympathize 100% with Thor when, desperate to find a missing Jane Foster, went to Avengers Mansion for help. He took one look at the three punks (Cap wasn't there) and left.

Doug said...

Murray - curious...

When did you start liking the Avengers then (assuming you do -- who doesn't?)?

Doug

Doug said...

Gerry Conway directed his tweeps to this column by Kurt Busiek. Off-topic for today, but I toss it your way as a public service.

Doug

KevinFermoyle said...

The improvement in Marvel art that Murray mentions above came about in large part due to John Buscema, Gene Colan, John Romita and Jim Steranko all coming on board within a few months of each other. All four went from virtually anonymous to comic book superstars within a short time span.

Murray said...

Doug - my first ever exposure to the Avengers was issue #83. Goofy, womens lib story. Great John Buscema-Tom Palmer artwork. At the same time, at the same newstand, I snagged the Mighty Thor with even better John Buscema-Joe Sinnott art!

(This ties in.)

Issue #84 of Avengers- "Thor is an AVENGER??"

Mind blown.

Collected both titles without fail for about 130 issues. Always kept my eye out after that, cherry-picking stories and artwork that caught my fancy.

Collecting and keeping back issues for Avengers, I stopped at issue #50.

Cheers!

Doug said...

Thanks, Murray --

Nothing at all wrong with the issues you've collected. Great art (for the most part) all the way through!

Doug

William said...

If we're talking creative team changes, there are a couple of examples that leap to my mind.

1. When John Byrne came on as penciler of Uncanny X-Men. Probably one of the most significant and influential creator changes in comics history. I sincerely doubt the X-Men would have exploded into the phenomenon they've become if Byrne had never worked on the book. I personally think that to this day, the X-Men are still riding the wave from that time period.

2. Frank Miller on Daredevil. Talk about transforming a character and a book. DD went from a 'B' lister to an 'A' lister during Miller's legendary run on that title. It still remains one of my all time favorite comic runs, and definitely my favorite time for Daredevil.

3. John Byrne on Superman. I never cared much for Superman comics until Byrne took over, and then after he retooled the Man of Steel, it became one of my must read books of that time.

I'm going to stop now, but I can think of at least a 1/2 dozen other examples where a new creative team greatly improved a book or character in my eyes.

Doug said...

William --

While I'd never deny Byrne's impact as an artist, especially on the X-Men, I'm wondering if his arrival as co-plotter was just as influential?

Doug

david_b said...

Regarding Perez.. His first couple of Avengers issues were/are pretty rough, nearly a chore to read; but he did do pretty well on most titles later on in his career.

As for me, I started with the Avengers at that same time, around the Defenders clash, ish 114.. It was a glorious team synergy with Swordsman/Mantis back in 1973, plus the MTA reprints featuring the kooky quartet. It was fun reading the old Heck issues with Clint as an Avenger, then to read the current mag with him as a Defender fighting the Avengers.., it gave the MU such a cool continuity vibe, that at Marvel, characters change, but also grow, develop, etc, etc..

In the minority here, but I loved when Swordy and Mantis were in the team; Swordy's death and the Celestial Madonna arc ending spelled my interest waning quite frankly. Englehart introduced some vibrant dynamic in the team for his tenure with adding both a previous B-listing villain and a mysterious and limber.., well, diva/whore.

This internal conflict surpassed a lot of what had happened prior and what was to come in the few short years following, thanks also to Bob Brown's art (and occasionally Big John).

Similiarly, I kept reading Defenders into Wein's tenure as long as Sal drew the comic.

I guess it's true with me that I'm partial to the team's current line-up when I start reading a new title; when they change, I drift, despite the current line-up being only temporary to begin with. Case in point, I enjoyed Medusa with the FF considerably, but when Sue came back (and both Big John and Buckler left..), I left as well. Same for DC's NTT, when Robin and Kid Flash left in ish 39, the spark was gone.

I could literally hear the shark splashing out of the water, again when Perez later left.

J.A. Morris said...

I thought X-men improved when Cyclops took a leave of absence in UXM #138. He's never been my favorite X-person and I welcomed his departure.

Garett said...

Not one specific issue change, but the change from Curt Swan Superman to Neal Adams/Garcia Lopez/Gil Kane Superman was welcome. Swan is a solid artist and very good at faces, but the other artists mentioned brought in a more athletic, dynamic Superman. I read through the Wolfman/Kane issues recently--good stories and great Kane art, maybe at the peak of his artistic powers.

There's an interesting tidbit in Comic Book Artist magazine about the Superman vs Muhammad Ali book by Neal Adams. When Joe Kubert's art was rejected by Ali's people for being too "scratchy", DC put together a presentation of every artist they could possibly get to draw the book. And Ali's people chose... Kurt Schaffenberger! Probably he was the image the general public had in mind when they thought of Superman in the mid-70s. DC later convinced them to go with Adams.

I picked up Comic Book Artist Collection vol 1 recently for $5. Outstanding so far! Interviews with Neal Adams (a ton of sketches for the Ali book), Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Jack Kirby, Archie Goodwin, Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Barry Smith, Jim Starlin, Gil Kane etc etc. Recommended!

Anonymous said...

My first thought was Miller's on DD. But as I mulled it over more, I would have to say Captain America's withdrawing as a full time Avenger. The team at that time was Clint, Pietro, Wanda, Hank and Jan. Then T'Challa and the Vision came aboard. Dane Whitman. I've said before, my first Avengers issue was 139. After that, I jumped into Marvel Triple Action at number 27, the reprint of The Light That Failed. Hank straining to keep bridge together. Cap was eased out and I think Hercules was the first to be added.

The Prowler (just subtracted some chips from the pantry).


Humanbelly said...

Ohhh, did one of those thoughtful posts that then inadvertantly disappears w/ an incorrect keystroke. Brutal, brutal. . .

But here's another legitimate one I wanted to toss in before the closing bell:

Rick Jones subtracted; "classic" Hulk (childlike mentality that so many of us associate with the character) added.

Throughout the Tales to Astonish run, Rick maintained his on-again/off-again status as side-kick and enabler. IIRC, this even carried into the early issues of Greenskin's solo title, w/ Rick getting injured, I believe, during the Missing Link arc in issues 105/106. But by #109, Rick had become little more than a forgotten afterthought. I think he appears in one cutaway panel w/ Betty in, like, issue 110-- showing the two of them convalescing in some idyllic sanatorium (she'd gotten hurt/had a breakdown/something-or-other at about the same time as Rick), and. . . that is ALL for Rick Jones in this title for YEARS AND YEARS to come. Why was this good? Because Rick, I think, was still be viewed as the "sympathetic" eyes that provided the reader's window into the story-- a perpetually mistaken assumption that he would be that "plucky", cocky, heart-on-his-sleeve sidekick kid character that us-boys could relate to, making the book interesting for us. And man, it just didn't work. It was actually Stan returning to the book (after turning it over to. . . Mike Friedrich, I think?) that made the difference as well. He rather quickly phased Rick out and just as quickly solidified the less-articulate, third-person-speaking, angered Innocent that is the Hulk most of us came to recognize. And THAT was a character that we truly did find interesting and could care about. It also freed Greenskin up as to just how far-flung his adventures could take him w/out having to come up w/ contrivances to keep the sidekick in tow. Hulk #111 could not have happened w/ Rick underfoot. Really, none of the next three or four years of stories would have worked at all. Even the brief Jim Wilson era painted that fine young man as more of an occassional pal rather than an interdependant sidekick.

The funny thing is, I started that series at pretty much issue #109, and that panel I mentioned above, w/ injured Betty & injured Rick? NO IDEA FOR YEARS who that guy was, until I started filling up my collection later on. Bless his heart, but the poor guy really was an albatross. . .

HB

Teresa said...

John Byrne on the Fantastic Four. Totally pulled me in.

In the Averngers, the Wonder Man and Vision subplot fascinate me. They were basically brothers. Throw in the Grim Reaper and it could make Soap Operas blush.

Dave Cockrum, followed by Mike Grell got me hooked on the Legion of Superheroes.

Mark Waid and artist Greg LaRocque on the Flash. Especially "The Flash: The Return of Barry Allen" story. Wow!

Fred W. Hill said...

Thor went through two big positive game-changers -- the first was a bit gradual, when Lee & Kirby firmly took the reigns after some really bad art & writing during much of the first 17 or so issues of the series (when it was still Journey Into Mystery) but even with Lee & Kirby in charge, Thor only really took off around issue 114, when longer, continued stories that included more Asgardians and other immortals became the norm, rather than one or two issue tales featuring mortal super-villains trying to grab Thor's hammer. Post-Kirby, most Thor stories were so-so, even when the art was great, until Simonson took over on art and writing and produced what I consider one of the greatest comics runs ever, and IMO it continued to be great even when Sal Buscema took over on art.

Edo Bosnar said...

Oooh, I'm late to this party. And Teresa (Byrne on FF) and Fred (Simonson taking over Thor) mentioned the two examples that immediately came to mind. Another one I'd add is when, in Legion of Super-heroes, writer Paul Levitz was joined first by artist Pat Broderick and then Keith Giffen - I went from being a sporadic reader of LoSH to an ardent fan.

Humanbelly said...

Ooh-- how about subtract Don Blake, get a Thor without cliche'd Secret Identity complications?

(Although I always thought more could have been done with having Thor and Don being portrayed as ONE PERSON with completely shared memories and knowledge. . . )

HB

Fred W. Hill said...

Regarding David B's comment on Perez' first Avengers run -- yeah, it was a bit rough, still as a reader of the series at the time, I thought it was a tremendous improvement over George Tuska's art of the previous few issues. Overall, I loved the split up "Kang in the Old West/Squadron Supreme" story line, which was pretty unusual with the divergent storylines. I also loved the way Perez drew Patsy Walker/Hellcat. When they got around to picking new members, I was a bit saddened that she wasn't included as I enjoyed her interactions with Hank McCoy, and when she was brought in to the Defenders later on, she really didn't seem like the same character and I didn't find her as interesting. But then, while the Defenders had once been one of my favorite titles, after the Scorpio storyline, I kept collecting and reading it more out of habit than actual enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

Thor. Subtract Jane Foster, subtract Donald Blake identity.

Sif is obviously a better companion for Thor, and the Don Blake alter-ego was mainly just a cliched Achilles heel.

David in Wisconsin

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