Saturday, August 29, 2015

BAB Classic: Dude, Look -- It's My Magnum Opus!

NOTE: This post originally ran on March 24, 2011. I've had "Kraven's Last Hunt" on my mind as I've been looking through the Mike Zeck Artist Edition. Fabulous art in that tale. So this weekend we'll revisit this fun topic/argument. Thanks!

Doug: So the other day I'm down in the comic room sliding side-to-side on the Total Gym (just like Chuck Norris), looking at my library, when the trade paperback for Crisis on Infinite Earths catches my eye. Of course I note that it's by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and I'm suddenly struck with an inspiration for an Open Forum! Today's question is: Toss out the name of a writer or artist, and give us your opinion on what is their very best work. And if you can narrow it to a particular story or arc, that's even better. When did they peak?

For example, let's go back to Wolfman. Would anyone out there say that Crisis was "it" for him, or would you lean more toward some of his work on the New Teen Titans mag? How about something out of Tomb of Dracula? Perez? Man... Personally I love his art on the first several issues of the Wonder Woman reboot back around 1987 or so. I thought he drew Diana's hair in a different and very attractive fashion -- I know that may sound weird, but it was far removed from any depiction of her we'd seen before. That was eye-catching, and the rest of his images, notably the way he drew Paradise Island and the various Greek backdrops was super as well.

What the heck would you say about someone like John, or brother Sal-, Buscema? Curt Swan, Neal Adams, John Byrne? Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, or Roger Stern? Stan Lee?? When was their very best output?

It's your turn. Who ya got and when ya got 'em?


Glenn, kenixfan said...

I didn't read comics between 1982 and 2000 so when I returned to the fold and found Perez doing The Avengers again, I was thrilled. I could recognize his artwork but it had progressed. So that run is pretty good.

I am especially found of Jack Kirby's work in the 1970s, especially on Captain America.

HannibalCat said...

Sal Buscema has been around for what seems like forever and forever in the shadow of his elder brother. He has been called workmanlike in his approach, his art benefiting from different inkers like Klaus Janson and Bob McLeod. But to me, the series he put his heart into was Rom Spaceknight. I loved his work on that and wish I had some of them still. Back to ebay!

Anonymous said...

Well, it's not Bronze Age, but I think Byrne's best work was early in his FF run, issue #234. He's inking himself, but it's not the "scratchy" look of Next Men, and it is one of my all-time favorite FF stories.

(Under duress I could be convinced to change my choice to his Batman/Captain America crossover. But I'm not sure he inked that?)

The problem is picking the "best." :-) Miller's work on DD is utterly amazing, but it is better than 300? Or Dark Knight Returns? Are they better than DD? I see them as almost being different enough to be different genres.

I think Simonson's run on Thor is his best. As much as I like his FF work, his seemed a better "fit" on Thor, and his writing was especially great.

How about Paul Gulacy on Master of Kung Fu? Bronze Age AND some outstanding stuff. The last panel of #29 is almost etched in my memory.

J.A. Morris said...

I'll start with two obvious examples:
Starlin on 'Captain Marvel'. I'm not really into cosmic stories, but his Mar-Vell stories are some of the best of all time.
Claremont/Byrne/Austin have done lots of great work,but it's their X-men stories that comic fans still talk about more than anything else they've done(and rightly so).

Miller/Janson on DD. Remember,Miller without Janson isn't the "Miller" art as we think of it. That's one reason 'The Dark Knight Strikes Again'(the sequel story) didn't work for me.
Englehart's Avengers.
Gerber's Defenders issues featuring the Headmen & Nebulon.
Trimpe's Hulk.
Eric mentioned Gulacy's Shang Chi art, I also believe that's Doug Moench's best work.
I'll stop there before I get carried away!

Karen said...

It's early Bronze Age, but I'd say that the Kree-Skrull War was Roy Thomas' magnum opus. Roy has written many great stories but I think this one eclipses them all.


Edo Bosnar said...

There's many good suggestions above, but for some creators this is a really hard to do. How do you state unequivocally the "magnum opus" for writers like Goodwin, Englehart, Gerber, Stern or Thomas (sorry, Karen, loved Kree-Skrull War, but don't necessarily agree that it 'eclipses' everything else Roy wrote). Too much stuff to choose from. Byrne is my favorite comic artist, and among my favorite writers. Again, can't choose - although his run on FF and the Batman & Captain America team-up, and also Next Men, would be sound choices.
Ones that are easier for me: Simonson on Thor; Frank Miller's first run on Daredevil (hands down: I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I think he's basically been going downhill ever since); Don McGregor's complete run in Jungle Action (Panther's Rage and the Klan story that followed - even if he never finished it himself); Greunwald's Squadron Supreme; and, as a sort of joint magnum opus, I would say Mantlo & Golden on that first long story arc in Micronauts.

david_b said...

Hmmm, this is deceptively easy.

Since we're focusing primarily on Bronze Age..:

- Sal Bucema/Englehart on Captain America and Falcon
- Conway/Romita on Spiderman
- Perez/Wolfman on early New Titans, with Perez still at his peak on WW (which I never read, but always appreciate his fine pencils on drawing Donna Troy..)
- Byrne on Avengers (most of what what saw in FF was sketchy)
- John Buscema and Thomas on FF
- Starlin on Capt Marvel: His art drew me in immediately..

Great input, everyone..!

Doug said...

I think John Buscema's best output in his career was his run on the Avengers, before and just after the introduction of the Vision. Just stunning.

Miller's work on the first couple of issues Daredevil was superb. The two issues with the Black Widow and Bullseye gave us a taste of where it was headed with Bullseye.

As a runner-up for Big John, the Under Siege storyline that ran in the #270's Avengers was outstanding. Yes, he was only doing lay-outs by that time, but there is so much raw emotion in that story even before the last scene with Cap and the torn photograph.

Gerry Conway -- ASM #'s 121-122. Nuff said. Powerful stuff.

I'm sure I'll have more later. :)


Anonymous said...

I so want to say something original & surprising in response to this, but I got nuthin’.

Roy Thomas – Kree/Skrull. Although Xmen 56 – 65 are tough to beat.

Moench & Gulacy – MOKF #33-35. Corker.

Barry Smith – the song of Red Sonja.

Englehart – the whole Avengers run, Celestial Madonna, Serpent Crown etc. But the Cap stuff is hard to put second.

Gerber – Defenders, but should have been Omega. He was robbed.

Adams – Xmen over Avengers.

Kane – Captain Marvel

Colan – I’d have to choose Doc Strange over Drac or DD, but that’s a toughie.

Byrne – Xmen over FF, every time. Austin inks Byrne better than Byrne.

Starlin – Avengers Annual 7.

Buckler – Deathlok, quel suprise.

Perez – I can only talk about Marvel and by all accounts his best work (Crisis & TT) was at the other place.

Palmer – Avengers 93.

Janson – inking Miller on DD, although he’s an excellent inker on others, esp. Gil Kane

Bob Layton – Iron Man

Trimpe – hate him, but inked by John Severin on Hulk, wow.

Steranko – Cap over Fury.

And...Big John.... I’m gonna have to say the Surfer. It was nice knowing you all.


Doug said...

Richard --

John's single best work, and perhaps Sal's as an inker, is the immortal Silver Surfer #4. That may be the single best comic book ever produced.

And that could be a whole 'nother Open Forum topic!!


Anonymous said...

And there was me thinking I was going to get a thousand lines!

Above my bed (and I mean now, not in 1974) I have a giant poster made for me by a colleague who is a designer at an art consultancy firm. It's a painstakingly beautifully blown up comic cover taken from a VFN / NM comic of mine.

Three guess which one.

Fred W. Hill said...

Sticking with the Bronze Age, for Jim Starlin, my pick for his best is the Warlock/Magus story. And I'll echo the kudos for Moench & Gulacy's run on Master of Kung Fu. My favorite for Sal Buscema is his work with inks by Janson on Gerber's Defenders, although for Gerber's peak I'll go with Howard the Duck. Other artistic peaks are Brunner on Dr. Strange; Colan on Dracula and Barry Smith on Conan.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Many good ideas here. Let me add a few others that I don't think have been mentioned.

Roy Thomas and John Buscema on Conan the Barbarian.

Steve Gerber on Man-Thing (Yes, over Defenders or Howard the Duck. Imagine how hard it must have been to write for a vegetable and make it work. Nobody has been able to make the character work since.)

Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema and Steve Ditko on Rom: Space Knight.

Jim Shooter, on the Avengers with the Korvac Saga.

And a personal fav: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier, Groo the Wanderer

Teresa said...

John Byrne: Generations I & II.

The Groovy Agent said...

Roy Thomas and Barry Smith's "Red Nails". Buckler's Deathlok. O'Neil and Adams' "Joker's Five Way Revenge". Claremont/Byrne/Austin on Star-Lord. You guys named just about everything else worth naming. ;D

david_b said...

Groovy, NICE mention of O'Neil and Adams' "Joker's Five Way Revenge". I didn't read much Batman overall (despite loving the 60s series), but I did pick that up. A classic.

Fred, totally agreed on Sal on Gerber's Defenders, where I discovered Yellowjacket. Beautiful renditions. I couldn't get into Sal on his MTU work (after years of Andru and Romita on Spidey..), but his Defenders work was superb.

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Inkstained, while I went with Howard rather than Man-Thing re Gerber's peak, it was a close call for me. Mayerik, Ploog and Mooney all did some of their best artwork on the series, and John Buscema contributed a couple of stellar fill-ins. And it was with Man-Thing, with all the inherent difficulties of the title character, where Gerber really mastered the craft of writing comics while maintaining his distinct narrative voice and vision.

William said...

For me Marv Wolfman and George Perez's best work was on the New Teen Titans, and the pinnacle of their run on that title was "The Judas Contract".

John Byrne is my favorite creator, and I love just about all of his work on titles like the X-Men, FF, Superman, The Avengers, etc. so it's kind of hard to pick. But if I had to choose only one story to call his "Magnum Opus" (a work in which he did both the art and writing), I'd have to go with his version of the "Galactus Trilogy" in FF #242-244. I remember reading it when it first came out, and it really blew me away at the time.

And I have to say his best work as a collaborator is definitely the "Dark Phoenix Saga". Still one of the greatest (and most perfect) comic book stories of all time. This would also be Chris Claremont's definitive work as well.

While on the subject of Claremont/Byrne, I would just like to give an honorable mention to their great (and oft overlooked) run on Marvel Team-Up, (issues 59-70 and 75 & 79). Some of my all time favorite comics, ever.

Frank Miller's Magnum Opus was definitely the "Death of Electra Saga" during his first stint on Daredevil. For me, he's never been quite as good as he was when he was doing Daredevil back on those days. I absolutely loved that book when he was on it. However, I was never a fan of "Dark Knight Returns", and "All Star Batman" is just mind-blowingly bad, IMHO.

Stan Lee always said that his personal favorite thing he ever wrote was Daredevil #7 (DD vs. Namor). So I'll with go with that for Stan.

My favorite Steve Ditko work was Amazing Spider-Man #s 31-33. Still one of the best Spider-Man stories ever, if you ask me.

As for Jack Kirby, it's tough to pin down because his body of work is so vast. But I guess I'd have to go with something he did while working on the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee. And since the original "Galactus Trilogy" is probably the most famous story from that legendary collaboration, I'd have to go with that as Kirby's Magnum Opus.

J.A. Morris said...

I posted a bunch of things back in 2011, so I'll keep it short here.

I think Crisis on Infinite Earths is good. But in my book, Wolfman's Magnum Opus is the Fantastic Four saga that featured the Skrulls, Nova Corps, Galactus and Sphinx. I know I'm in the minority, but hey, I'm a "Marvel Guy." The only bad thing about it is that Wolfman was in the process of leaving Marvel and didn't get to properly tie up the loose ends.

ColinBray said...

Tricky wiithout knowing every comic these creators have been involved in but how about:

Englehart - Captain America run

Mantlo - Hulk run (Rom runs it close)

Shooter - pre-#200 Avengers run

Moore - 'From Hell'

Bendis - Daredevil run

Byrne - Marvel Team Up issues, beautiful work

Sal B's Hulk issues

Martinex1 said...

J.A. I really liked that Wolfman FF run as well. And I'm with Colin on Shooter on Avengers pre 200. Also I noticed ROM mentioned a few times above; although Sal may not be most remembered for that book, it really was an excellent and entertaining comic. I see that IDW is doing something with ROM and Micronauts in 2016.

Michael Golden was definitely at his peak in the Micronauts and I would say Mantlo as well. The story was strangely comfortable and familiar with its team tropes and Star Wars riffs, but it had enough change and good characterization to keep it fascinating. Golden was so good in his detail and expressions.

George Perez did so much astounding work, but my favorite was some of his work in Two In One during Project Pegasus. The interior of the Thundra story is really nice and the cover of the Deathlock issue is fantastic. He was really good on covers. Teen Titans is right up there neck and neck.

I liked Mike Zeck's work on Captain America, but I haven't seen much of his in MOKF to say for sure; I loved his Kraven story but just preferred the Cap stuff more.

I know Colan's Tomb of Dracula is outstanding, but I like him on early Daredevil. He is not always great on superheroes but with Daredevil and villains like Hyde, Cobra, and the Trickster, Gene Colan really clicked for me. Dark, shadowy, weird, and kinetic.

I'm with Doug on John Buscema and the Avengers circa issue 57, but I think his Silver Surfer is a close second. The first few issues of that book are so nice to look at.

ColinBray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gerber- As much as I love Defenders, Man-Thing, & Hard Time, I have to say his definitive work is Howard. He poured his heart and soul into it in a way few other people have in mainstream comics.

Englehart- tough call... Dr. Strange, Avengers, & the Batman stories he did with Marshall Rogers all qualify... since he gave us the best Joker story, I'll go with Batman.

Colan- Tomb of Dracula, the most beautiful comic of the Bronze Age.

Kirby- New Gods and Mr. Miracle. I prefer Kirby unrestrained to Lee writing over his art, even if the dialogue could suffer. He went so big with the 4th World comics it's a shame they ended before he was done.

Perez- hmm... My favorite work of his is Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect. He got to ink his own pencils, and nobody inks Perez as nicely as Perez.

Stern- another tough one. I love Under Siege but I think Triumph and Torment is even better. The tight plot, good dialogue, and gorgeous art by a young Mike Mignola and Mark Badger add up to an amazing package.

Sal Buscema- Incredible Hulk 300. I think he had a chip on his shoulder (justifiably) when he was told his art was not in style during the '80s. With some great inking by Gerry Taloc, Buscema turned in one of the best super-hero brawls of all time. I don't know if it was his final issue but it felt like Buscema wanted to go out on the highest note possible.

- Mike Loughlin

SESchend said...

Chris Claremont's best was God Loves, Man Kills (the X-Men Graphic Novel) with Brent Anderson.

Roger Stern's was the Masters of Evil Siege of Avengers Mansion.

The one I have the toughest time with is Roy Thomas, as I love his Invaders, his All-Star Squadron, etc. and can't choose a singular best, though if forced to, I'd throw the vote to What If #5 (which ended up not being a What If but retcon to set up a lot of continuity for Vision, Ultron, Captain America, the Patriot, Spirit of 76, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Big John...Avengers 54-59 and 75-84(minus the Sal fill-in on 78).
Talking of Sal...Defenders-all his run but especially inked by Janson.
Barry W Smith...Conan; Red Nails...but is there a splash page in all comicdom that compares to that that kicks off 'Hawks from the Sea'?...well, apart from Avengers 95 or...actually why don't we have a discussion about favourite Splash Pages sometime?

Edo Bosnar said...

I stand by my comments from over 4 years ago, with the possible exception of Simonson and his Thor run - now that I have the Orion omnibus, I'm not so sure (I haven't actually starting reading it yet, but just flipping through has given me second thoughts, at least about the art).

J.A. and Martinex: count me as a fan of Wolfman's oft-maligned run on FF (we select few should form a club or something); and while I'm not sure I think the Skrull-Nova-Galactus-Sphinx saga is his magnum opus, I really do like it - I even have the In Search of Galactus HC.

Like before, I'm still not sure what I'd pick as Gerber's magnum opus; for me, it comes down to a toss-up between his run on Defenders and his Man-Thing run. Howard the Duck has it's good points, but I find it flawed in many respects as well - some facets of those stories haven't aged well, and sometimes the tone just rubbed me the wrong way.

Redartz said...

Loads of fine stories listed here! Edo, I'd agree on Gerber and Defenders / Man-Thing. Indeed, I would add Mike Ploog's work on Man-Thing to the 'best of " list.
Also, I agree with the commenters who named "Red Nails" for Berry Windsor-Smith. Especially the colored version in the Conan Treasury edition; absolutely beautiful.

May I add a couple additions, in the form of specific peak issues:

Roger Stern- Amazing Spider-Man 248; "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". One of the best stories in the web-slinger's entire history, at the peak of Stern's run on the book.

Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko- Spider-Man Annual 1; I've mentioned this as a favorite before. Certainly one of the all-around best comics of all time.

Jim Starlin- the one-two punch of Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-in-one Annual 2. Jim at his finest.

John Byrne- very tough call, but Marvel Team-Up sure showcased his great artistry; especially issue 79 featuring Red Sonja...

The J-Man said...

John Byrne - the Generations trilogy.
With the Next Men saga as a close second.

William said...

I'll go with three of my favorite artists: John Byrne, Frank MIller, and George Perez.

Someone like John Byrne is a really tough to pin down, because he's had so many memorable runs on so many different books (FF, Captain America, Superman, The Avengers, Alpha Flight, Iron Fist, etc.), but I would have to say that he is best remembered for his legendary work on the X-Men (along with Chris Claremont) of which the highlight was "The Dark Phoenix Saga". But, my personal favorite remains their work on Marvel Team-Up.

Frank Miller is another creator who has had a lot of success with different books. Most would say that "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" is his "Magnum Opus", but I would argue that his star making run on Daredevil (culminating in the "Death of Elektra" story) remains his greatest body of work. At least IMO.

For the great George Perez I would have to go with "The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract". I just remember it as being such an epic and dramatic story, that resulted in Dick Grayson finally shedding his green Robin shorts and becoming his own hero in Nightwing. Just really awesome stuff with incredible art by Perez at the height of his powers.

Garett said...

I'm going to consider comic creators who did the whole enchilada-- created the character, wrote the story, and drew the art. Narrows the field down, and you can say that the comic creation was truly their own. Did Mozart get help writing his works of musical genius? Nay!!

Mike Grell-- Warlord. 50 issues of one big story. Excellent art (not even marred by Colletta's inks in the later issues), and a different kind of "barbarian" story for the Bronze age. Intelligent hero, emphasis on relationships including his son, lots of action, and humour as well. Not bad for an idea that he came up with while in Carmine Infantino's waiting room, when he was supposed to pitch a different idea!
--Runner Up: Jon Sable. (How many guys would have 2 top series on this list??)

Jim Starlin-- Dreadstar. First 10 issues or so.

Dave Stevens-- Rocketeer. Not much else to choose from in his comic career, besides his awesome covers...but he hit a homerun with this creation.

John Byrne-- Alpha Flight. I don't know all of his created characters, so maybe a bigger fan could suggest another title--Next Men? But I liked Alpha Flight, fun characters, nice art by Byrne. I think it would've been interesting to see him do 100 issues, focus deep on just these characters and see what he could pull out.

Jack Kirby-- New Gods. It's the one with the most power. I like reading Kamandi better, but New Gods feels more important as a Magnum Opus and has characters that have had a bigger impact.

Frank Miller-- Sin City. Later works I found weaker in art and story, and Ronin I found confusing.

Howard Chaykin-- American Flagg. He's had other noteworthy stories, but this one seems to be the essence of Chaykin--politics, snappy dialogue, and women in lingerie.

Jerry said...

Its fun to see so many folks identify the same books/writers/artists from the Bronze Age that connet with me as well.

Adams: My first exposure to Adams was Giant-Size X-Men #2 with the reprints of the classic Thomas/Adams Sentionals run from X-men 59, etc... (it confused me, as I had just purchased the iconic GS X-Men #1 a few months earlier, and this 'new' team confused me for awhile, but the art is something I'll never forget!).

Gerber/Buscema//Giffen: The Gerber run on Defenders (w/Sal and others) was another hit for me. I even dug it during those weird early Keith Giffen books.

Perez: Perez's intial run on Avengers with the whole Squadron Supreme/Serpant Crown storyline also got me hooked.

Thorne on Red Sonja? Wow!

Englehart/Buscema/Robbins: Ditton on Englehart/Buscema Cap, so I'll comment on Robbins; I've read others and I know there's a VERY mixed feeling about Frank Robbins, but it was another of those very eclective seventies runs that I kind of dug. At the time, I thought this 'Frank Robbins' character must be some sort of new, cutting-edge avant garde artist (even at 11 or 12, I could tell something was very different about his stuff)! Little did I know at the time.

Colan: It was only as I got a couple of years older and could get back issues like Colan's Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel stuff that I really dug him.

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