Friday, February 26, 2016

"With the right mindset, it's a lot of fun."

Doug: Are there comics that you have to get "psyched up" to read? You know -- stuff you feel like you should read but often have a tough time pulling the book off the shelf? I've remarked several times, although not recently, that most of Marvel's Silver Age titles should just be left laying if you're talking about the first 12-15 issues. Of course there are some exceptions -- Amazing Spider-Man was a hit right from the start, and I can generally make it through the first many issues of the Fantastic Four without much trouble. But you can have most of the early runs of Incredible Hulk and the Ant-Man/Giant-Man beginnings from Tales to Astonish; ditto the Human Torch feature in Strange Tales. But once most Silver Age Marvel comic books hit the middle teens or around issue #20, they all seemed to find their way and take off (at least in my opinion). Avengers definitely falls into the latter parameters. There were some hits in the first year, but I really start to pay attention once the Kooky Quartet arrives.

Doug: Our Super Blog Team-Up colleague Paul from Longbox Graveyard was alerting the world last weekend that he was reading the new four-color trade from DC, The Justice League of America: The Silver Age, Volume 1. He made the folllowing tweet, and I engaged him. Funny exchange:

Doug: What are your "brain-melting" comics reading experiences? We had a wonderful conversation last weekend about all kinds of comics. Maybe the comics that you have a hard time opening aren't even from the Silver or even Golden Ages... maybe they're from our very own Bronze Age or even beyond? And don't think you have to go all the way to brain-melting. "Slightly unpleasant" will suffice if that's all you got!


Humanbelly said...

"Right mindset/lot of fun" being the key determiners here, correct?
Like, HEROES REBORN shouldn't even get past the guardhouse gate, yeah?


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

Doug- your point about Marvel's Silver Age books hitting their stride after the first dozen issues or so struck a chord. I have been working my way through the first Spider-Man Omnibus (reprinting the Ditko era), and enjoying it very much. Many of these stories I haven't read in decades. It seemed the first 9 issues, although good, weren't as classic as I'd remembered. But about issue 10, the book really cranks it up. The stories are more involving, the characterization deepens. And it seemed Ditko's artwork started 'pushing the envelope'; wilder action shots, more facial expression, a greater 'sense of excitement' if you will. These issues actually seem better than I recalled.

Of course the topic today regards 'brain melting' comics. I'd put much of DC's Silver Age product in this category. Fun reading, but wading through a couple issues of Action or Superman and the multitude of plot contrivances therein; can be taxing. Supergirl opens a magic box and grows horns. Perry White loses his memory and learns Superman's identity, then forgetting the reveal when his memory returns.Superman loses his memory and forgets his invulnerability (amnesia really seemed to be a common problem in the S.A. DC universe...). And then there was red K... again fun reading, but if you start thinking about it, your head begins to hurt.

As for Marvel- Kirby's Captain America run in the 70's was a struggle for me. Just couldn't get past the clunky dialogue; this was especially glaring coming after Englehart's brilliant issues. They might read better today, but at the time, the only reason I continued to buy them was to keep the series collection complete.

I also found Conan the Barbarian to be a challenge to get through. That is, after the first 50 issues or so (those being excellent). By the hundredth issue, the stories just seemed to blend together for me, nothing really standing out. Not bad, just that reading them seemed more a duty than a pleasant diversion...

J.A. Morris said...

If this comment had a title, it would be called "A Tale Of Two Jimmys."

The first book that came to mind was vol.1 of Kirby's Jimmy Olsen 4th World stories. I've had it a couple years and thumbed through it when I first got it. The art looks great, lots of cool vehicles and Kirby Kollages. But man, every word balloon is huge, almost every sentence ends in an EXCLAMATION POINT! I owned two back issues of the series and thought they were okay, but I'll have to be in the right state of mind to finish the tpb.

On the other hand, in some ways it's easier for me to read a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen story like "Elastic Lad Wrestles Ugly Superman. Silly, sure. But at least it was intentionally tongue-in-cheek.

On a related note (and this might be controversial), I'll be honest, I find most Silver Age stories to be a bit of a slog anymore. The early Spider-Man stories are still lots of fun, the Fantastic Four stories that featured Kirby inked by Sinnott. But I don't plan on picking up any reprints of Giant-Man, Iron Man or Human Torch (solo) tales.

William said...

Ha! If you guys think Silver-Age DC is a tough read, try some Golden-Age DC (or Marvel/Timely for that matter). I have some DC Archives that reprint the early adventures of Superman, Batman, and SHAZAM! (Captain Marvel to me), and some of that stuff is so out there it would practically take an act of Congress to get me to read it again.

Oh, but if you enjoy cringe-worthy blatant racism, Golden-Age comics are the way to go. I promise that you don't know the meaning of the word "uncomfortable" until you see Billy Batson in black-face uttering the line "My mammy from Alabammy." *shudder*.

Doug said...

Colin -- I totally agree with your take on the 1968 Silver Surfer series! About the time I finish #4, it starts to go downhill quickly. Which is such a shame, as the art throughout is beautiful.

Redartz -- Funny you should mention Conan. I've chosen an issue of Savage Sword to review in April. Honestly, I just plucked one of my volumes of "Essential" Savage Sword from the bookshelf and cracked it open. I figured one Conan story was as good as the next. Now, to be totally transparent, I did end up switching the story I first saw, as I saw just a tale earlier a more intriguing art team. Stay tuned.

Glad to hear I'm not alone in finding some early Marvels to be a slog. And I feel bad about that, but it's generally always been my sentiment toward those stories/books.


Edo Bosnar said...

I'd agree that Spider-man was good from the get-go, while other Marvel Silver Age titles took a while to hit their stride.
Meanwhile, pretty much all of DC's super-hero stuff from the '50s and '60s is a pretty rough slog if you read a bunch of it at once. I liked the way the DC digests from the late '70s/early '80s presented this material: in small doses, featuring a selection of the best stories, and sometimes padded with a Bronze Age story or two.

By the way, not to derail the thread or anything, but I'm wondering if those JLA Silver Age tpbs morph into Bronze Age books. And how long will it take for that to happen...

Anonymous said...

A silver age DC collection is probably best appreciated by someone who read that stuff as a kid when it first came out.

During the newsstand era, comics were designed to be consumed as single units - even when stories were continued - and I'd suggest that without the benefit of nostalgia most collections of 70s comics are just as much of a hard slog as anything from the 60s.
Actually, its surprising how often a reread of even a fondly remembered run can be disappointing - Longbox Graveyard is quite good on this theme.

Have to disagree with a couple of comments above, as I think Jack Kirby is underestimated as a writer (OMAC and Kamandi are well worth revisting)

Hey, Doug - so far as my memory goes, the first two dozen or so Savage Sword of Conans were really good. Looking forward to what you have to say....


Karen said...

Agreed about most early Silver Age Marvel runs. I recall finding the early issues of X-Men particularly difficult to grind through.

Once I gave up expecting any character development or real plot progression, I found I could be sucked into Kamandi and just appreciate the parade of bizarre ideas and designs. But if it had had all of that, it would've been a great book rather than just an amusing one.

A lot of the Silver Age Legion issues are also best read this way. Appreciate the novelty of it all and don't get too caught up in trying to put any import to it. That's the problem with being a bronze age Marvel reader trying to go back and read Silver Age DC. It just feels too light..

Doug said...

Sean -- the story I chose is from SSoC #14. The art is phenomenal, as it is throughout the book's first several years. My justification for any denigration I implied is simply that after awhile (and I think Redartz implied this as well), Conan stories do sort of blend together. It's not a feeling too far astray from the feeling many of us have reported from the Burroughs Tarzan novels. Although I would say those are worse and slide into "formulaic".

Karen, for some reason when I first started buying the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives I was able to approach those early stories as "cute" or "quaint". Is that to say I had low expectations? Not sure. But I know I didn't come to those as I would have a Marvel from the same era in the Silver Age. Take that Supergirl story I reviewed a couple of months ago. I really enjoyed it, but with an acceptance of what it was and its target audience.

So I think Paul from Longbox Graveyard is right.


Anonymous said...

Just one more gripe about the Silver Surfer's original series - the inclusion of Shalla-Bal. This made no sense at all as when the Surfer first appeared in Fantastic Four he had been Galactus' herald for eons but Shalla-Bal is no older than when he left Zenn-La suggesting the Surfer had been Galactus'herald for a couple of years at most.

Martinex1 said...

I agree with so much that has been said already from the Golden Age to Shalla-Bal. My Golden Age perception is that 90% end with the spy or thug or robber being horribly killed in the last act and 50% have a femme fatale involved. Now I honestly haven't read many, but even randomly how can that be the go to plot so frequently? Re Shalla-Bal Colin, I too had an issue with that even as a seven year old. It made no sense and emo Surfer looked so cool, but please get over the whining already. I shouldn't be hoping for Galactus to just eat you!

My main struggle is reading Superman. I think my exposure to him on the Super Friends just killed my interest. He was too powerful while at the same time being too bland. In my first Superman comic, he fought Mxylptrk (sp?), and the "villain" turned the Daily Planet into a newspaper and Supes into a lizard. It was so lame my eyes bled. It took me years to read another Superman comic. Still hurts.

On the Marvel front and more recently (1980s) "Solo Avengers" was such a letdown. I had hopes for that book, but the tales were so weak; it felt like a return to Silver Age filler. I didn't last long. Likewise the revamped "Strange Tales" with Dr. Strange and Cloak & Dagger was something I wanted to work but it just left me so underwhelmed. Last but not least, I really liked Kirby's "Machine Man", it was no FF or even Kamandi, but it was in a way classic Kirby. When Ditko took over the art, it was such a drastic change and seemed like it reverted what could have been complex and weird to a rough sketch of Inspector Gadget. Horrible. (Even though I really like Ditko).

Those may be weird examples, but if they ever came out with collections I would avoid them..

Anonymous said...

Doug - I know what you mean about the repetition in Conan, although I think thats where SSOC scored over the colour title by at least varying the chronology a bit. And the artists, of course, which is what really made the book - loved the Buscema/Alcala team, and issue 14... that was Neal Adams (or, at least, his studio), right?
Been ages since I've seen (let alone read) any of those.... I must correct that soon. Thanks for the reminder (and apologies for going off topic)


Doug said...

Sean --

No worries! And yes, SSoC #14 is by Neal Adams and "the Tribe", although I think the inks are pretty clearly by Tony DeZuniga -- at least for the most part. I've seen him credited on some databases.

I was originally going to do an early issue of Thor, right after Kirby left the book. It's still on my mind, for the simple reason that while the John Buscema/Joe Sinnott is a familiar combination that certainly has its merits, the Neal Adams/Joe Sinnott combo does not.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I remember that one, Doug... yeah, Adams and Sinnott were something of a mismatch.
An interesting topic for another time perhaps - creative combos that don't quite work even when they do a good job.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I can agree with most of what's been said here. Early Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man, DD, and X-Men all start slowly...for me, anyway. LSH didn't really take off for me until Shooter started writing it. My problem with early JLA stuff was that the team always split up into smaller teams...they should've been facing threats that forced them all to work together.

As for comics I have to psych myself up to read...for me, it's kind of a (sub)genre thing; I have to be in the right mood to read stuff other than superhero comics. So I have to be in a certain mindset to read cosmic stuff (Warlock, Legion, Quasar), Westerns (Jonah Hex), Fantasy (Conan, Warlord), War Comics, Horror stuff, and so on. That's why I still haven't read all the Conans, or Swamp Thing, or Hellblazer, or whatever.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

I thought the Invaders was hard to read, and the art sure didn't help. I already know how the war ends.
Claremont's X-men is painful for me. I can't put my finger on what it is that bothers me about it. The characters just annoy the crap outta me. Too much chatter, or emotional turmoil, or something.

pfgavigan said...


In complete agreement with the 'right mind set/lots of fun' premise. Occasionally find myself in such a funk that nothing, repeat NOTHING that I have in my collection can bring forth a chuckle, not even a tither. And when I'm feeling a bit more human, and despite what HB might advocate that is not a novel experience, the same material brightens my mood.

I will state that binge reading, in my case perhaps, is a mistake. A few years ago I picked up the Complete Don Martin, a three volume collection of his Mad days (daze?) and consumed it in a single setting. Big mistake. Heart wrenching to watch the progress of developing talent to pinnacle of powers and slow decline. Should of just taken everything in small doses since I put the books into storage the next day. sean's point about single unit consumption does have very considerable merit as some titles, in my opinion, should be read as continuous over several issues and some are better as one and done.

Hey Colin Jones; I'm not much of a DC fan myself but I did indulge, especially back when they were publishing those Giant editions with a mix of new and reprint material. Len Wein was writing Justice League at the time and doing a pretty good job with it. Maybe it was because of this that the Gardner Fox stories that were included just looked better to me at the time. Yeah, kinda formulaic and the inker didn't do Sekowsky any favors, but in this format I could enjoy them.

Maybe Marvel had the advantage back during the Silver Age, smaller shop and fewer books could mean that the sense of stale repetition wasn't present, or at least, not as notable. Maybe they didn't have the oppressive weight of an out of date and out of touch house style dragging them down. Due to the distribution agreement with National Periodicals they could only put out eight titles a month. Heck, does anybody here know when Spider-Man started being published monthly? I do remember seeing a couple of banner/blurbs about it back during the day but can't recall when.

Hey Redartz, my interest in Conan's four color title pretty much petered out around the same time as yours did. I really don't think Thomas knew what to do with the character post Belit. I also think that the Rascally One did himself considerable harm as an original writer by doing so many adaptations during the course of his tenure. Sometimes it just seemed that he was putting more effort into tying together multiple plot lines than the final product warranted.

I think my opinion of Kirby as a writer has probably been established to the point of tedium so enough said.

Before I sign off; Doug, Thomas felt that Adams was going to miss the deadline for SSoC so he took the partially inked pages away to be essentially finished by DeZuniga. Good for business, probably bad for the finished produced as Adams is such a difficult penciler to ink.



Redartz said...

William- you called it on Golden age stories (some, at any rate). I just picked up a run of Fantasy Masterpieces reprinting Golden age Captain America, Submariner and Human Torch stories. They are interesting historically, and the art (particularly that of Bill Everett) is work a look. The issue reprinting the All Winners Squad appearance was fairly decent, but none of these would make my list of great reading.

Doug and Sean- yes, my comments on Conan did reference the 'sameness' of the later color books. The first several years featured many excellent stories, which even today stand out ("Tower of the Elephant", "Song of Red Sonja", "Tower of Blood" just to mention a few). But later on, it's hard to bring any to mind. As for Savage Sword, it's been way too long. Also looking forward to your review, Doug!

PFG- you also make a good point regarding binge reading. "Too much of a good thing", and all that. While reading through that Spiderman Omnibus, I keep it to one or two issues per session. That's about all the time available to devote to it, anyway...

Humanbelly said...

Aaaaaand at Missouri State University this evening.
(LAST round of college auditions--- geeze, what a month. . . !)

This has been a great discussion, teammates! I've pretty much been nodding along with just about everything everybody's been suggesting.

Periodically-human PFG's comment about Don Martin struck a particularly resonant note, as I've recently been pulling all of my decaying, old, yellowed, crumbling BC, CROCK, and WIZARD OF ID pocket paperbacks up from the comic book room a couple at a time, and turning to them for that last-few-dozy minutes of bedtime reading before sleep finally conquers. For the most part, these were really little more than a highly enjoyable diversion during late adolescence and early teen-hood. But, y'know-- when the guard is down, and the funny-bone is easily and readily tickled, and you're not in anything like a judgmental frame of mind-- they still have the ability to make one accidentally laugh out loud and disturb one's sleeping mate. (What's funny is that she has since confessed to reading them a bit now as she's starting to drift off as well-- and says there a heck of a lot more amusing than she ever remembered. . . ).

Hmm-- in the comic book realm?
How about Power Pack? Although I think that once you have kids its impossible to surrender to it ever again. It's honestly any parent's most horrific nightmare right there in every issue. The Mom, I believe, does comPLETELY fall apart late in the run, IIRC, because she cannot cope with that level of deception, loss of control, and extreme post-event terror of what her kids have been doing and experiencing w/out her knowledge. Am I right about that?

Also, I don't have many and don't see them often-- but all of DC's more generic horror comics (GHOSTS; SECRETS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE, etc, etc) were rarely a disappointment as an easy, enjoyable diversion.


Anonymous said...

I echo everyone's comments about Golden Age comics, Silver Age DC, Conan, and other older material. I just realized I have a similar problem with most unremarkable super-hero comics from just about any era. Be they Denny O'Neil Marvel comics, most '90s X-Books and Batman comics, Thor by almost anyone not named Walt Simonson, or Geoff Johns Green Lanterns, I get itchy after about 2 issues. At least older comics were meant for younger readers, modern comics don't have that excuse.

- Mike Loughlin

Anonymous said...

Hmm not too much comes to mind when trying to read a comic with a 'with the right mindset, it's a lot of fun' attitude. Certainly, classic Spidey and FF are keepers, but yeah to me most Silver Age stuff (both Marvel & DC) can be viewed like that. Early Thor issues were classic but somehow Don Blake's pining for Jane Foster turned me off somehow!

- Mike 'with the right mindset, I can be thin and handsome!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

Oh, the Thor comments-- that's right, thanks Mike & Mike.
When I think "old Thor", an image or memory comes to mind of a long, sorta-space epic w/ Thor & the W-3 and a buncha Asgardians rowing a Viking longboat through the interstellar void. . . or something. I may be mistaken, but it just seemed to be an endless arc that was more Iliad and less Comic Book. . . (but I suppose, with the right frame of mind. . . )

HB again

Rip Jagger said...

I'll just say that the earliest issues of both the Avengers and X-Men are some of the finest Marvel produced. Full-bodied adventures with great Kirby-Stone artwork. The soap operas pick up steam as these series progressed, but those early adventures are mature for sure. But to each his own.

Rip Off

William said...

I don't have any problem with most of the Silver-Age Marvel stuff. Some of my absolute favorite comics to read when I was younger were Marvel reprints of the earliest adventures of The FF, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, The X-Men, and etc.

Unfortunately the same can't really be said for Silver-Age DC. It's seems that the "Distinguished Competition" was still stuck in that campy Golden-Age mindset for most of the Silver-Age. Once the Bronze-Age kicked in DC wised up a little and got more with the times. But it took them quite a while to catch up to Marvel in terms of story and art.

Ward Hill Terry said...

I completely agree with the caveats of "right frame of mind," and "binge-reading." If it was meant to read monthly, reading six on an hour is going to be a drag. What really sets me off are the overly complex back-stories! "My future-self's clone disrupted the time-stream in the past and created a separate earth where my resurrected former-partner has created a mutant-android governing coalition that has fabricated the only substance that I need to survive, but I think I'm falling for the villain who mustn't know that she's my step-father-in-law's great-aunt from a displaced time-conflator!" I gave up on X-Men decades ago.

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