Friday, August 20, 2010

Team books or solo heroes?

Karen: Here's a very basic question for you: do you prefer reading team books or books focusing on a single hero? My preference is for teams, because I enjoy the interactions of the group. Typically there are still certain characters who get spotlighted -usually those who don't appear anywhere else. There's also the undeniable, simplistic pleasure of seeing a whole bunch of costumed characters in the same book!

Karen: On the other hand, I can appreciate a good solo book. My number one example would be Amazing Spider-Man during the Stan Lee era (and the Gerry Conway years which followed). The book was one of those titles that was hard to put down; some have derided it as soap opera-ish, but I found the trials and triumphs of Peter Parker's everyday life very interesting, and very relevant. Of course, much of this was helped by the substantial supporting cast Lee had developed, including J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, Robbie Robertson, etc. In some sense, this is like a team book in that you still have interactions between on-going characters; however, the focus is squarely on one character.

Karen: So what's your preference?

16 comments:

Eric Goebelbecker said...

I prefer team books for the same reason: the interaction between the characters. I've always been an FF fan because of that.

It's funny, as I was reading your first paragraph I was thinking about Spidey. The ensemble cast with Lee ad Conway was one of the best parts of the book. Stern captured some of that later on.

J.A. Morris said...

Team books. I'm an only child,maybe that has something to do with it,I don't know.
The three titles I collected the longest were 'Uncanny X-men','Fantastic Four' and 'Amazing Spider-Man'(plus 'Spectacular' and 'Web of').
This was after the Lee-Romita era,but you still had an active supporting cast. Just about every issue you had JJJ,May,Gloria Grant, Black Cat,Lance Bannon,Deb Whitman,MJ,Harry,Liz,Flash,Sha Shan,etc. For a short time in PPTSSM,you had Pete's classmates and professors from ESU in major supporting roles. So Karen's right,solo book that felt like a team book. I won't get into Spider-man's current continuity here,but I still think it's wrong to have him in the Avengers.
In the X-men,FF & Avengers,you always had characters like Wolverine,Ben Grimm or Hawkeye clashing with leadership,plus nice scenes of camaraderie with Wolverine and Nightcrawler or Beast & Wonder Man hanging out.
Let's contrast Spider-man with Daredevil. With the exception of the time when Black Widow got co-billing,Daredevil's supporting cast was Foggy and...whoever Murdock's current girlfriend was. Someone might say "what about Elektra?" When I read the series,she was only around for a short time. In the 80s,you might get Turk or Ben Urich now and then,but his was truly a "solo" series.

MaGnUs said...

I can't say I really have a preference, but most of my favorite books of all times, like X-Men or LSH are teambooks... and while I've always been a Green Lantern fan, a huge one, I'm a fan of the concept, the corps, and not Hal on its own (even if he is my favorite individual GL). I am a big Superman fan, and I've always loved Spidey (but I'm not a spider-fan)... but I guess in the end, the most enjoyable superhero books ar eteam ones...

david_b said...

No disagreement here.. Spidey had the BEST supporting players for the late 60s/early 70s. Even my favorite solo book (Captain America and Falcon)couldn't top that.

But I did like the Avengers and FF in the early 70s for Team books. The JLA just didn't have it for good internal group interaction. The Avengers and FF had a synergy the DC books could never match, although I did fall in love with the Nick Cardy Teen Titan reprints.

Sean Strange said...

I have to go with solo all the way. I’ve always preferred characters who are lone wolves, tormented avengers, God-like overmen, etc. Some of my favorites are the Hulk, Silver Surfer, Batman, Ka-Zar, Punisher and Thor. Most of the team comics are too corny for me -- one costumed hero is silly enough, a whole group of them running around quickly turns into an absurd circus or a soap opera in tights.

MaGnUs said...

Sean; this blog is not only about superheroes, but it's what it features the most, rigth? Interestingly enough, the characters you cite as your favorites not only prove that you prefer solo characters, but also that you don't actually prefer superheroes. None of them, while operating in superhero universes, fit the most pure definition of superheroes, like say, Superman or The Flash.

On one end, you have Ka-Zar who is a jungle adventurer, a Tarzan figure, and the Punisher, who's Charles Bronson with a skull on his chest. On the other end of the scale, you have the Silver Surfer and Thor, godlike (as you put it yourself) characters who constantly have to be scaled down power-wise to interact with "normal" superheroes.

In the middle, you have Hulk, who's more a Frankenstein monster or Jekyl & Hide more properly, than anything closer to a superhero... and the only thing really separating the Batman from Lone Ranger or Zorro is the bat-costume and bat-paraphernalia.

You're obviously a comic book fan through and through, but your particular preference, even within DC and Marvel books, sets you somewhat apart from most superhero book readers.

That said, I enjoy me some good Batman stories. :)

Edo Bosnar said...

Much as I loved Spider-man, I have to go with team books as well. As a little kid, the initial draw for me was just having a whole bunch of flashy, spandex-clad heroes in a single book, but later - as you noted Karen - I began to appreciate the interaction between the characters. The Marvel teams in particular gave readers a range of dynamics to choose from: the FF was like a bickering but loving family, the X-men were like a group of college friends & acquaintances with all of the related drama and angst, the Avengers gave the impression of a "day at the office," since most of the members were polished professionals (many with their own solo titles), while the Defenders often seemed like a group of neighbors living on the same street or building who are forced to work together because they happen to be in close proximity when something bad happens...

Rip Jagger said...

Team books for sure!

Avengers was my favorite title for decades and the only series at DC I followed steadily at all was Justice League of America.

Defenders, FF, Titans, Legion, Doom Patrol, Challs, Crusaders, Invaders, Guardians, they all are a bunch of fun.

The concept started to weaken when the X-Men became the masters of all media in the 80's and later the JLA, and today the Avengers. The concept of team books has been lost in favor of maximum profit.

I can't fault them for making bucks, but it's a far less interesting experience these days.

Rip Off

ChrisPV said...

Just to sit on the fence, I think it really depends more on the strength of the supporting cast on whether or not a solo book can compete with a team. The team gives you interpersonal dynamics right in the core concept, and that puts solo books at a pretty marked disadvantage.

The best of the solo books (your Spider-Man, your Batman, your Superman when he isn't trucking around the country on foot and/or living on New Krypton for a whole year) are the ones with really strong supporting casts. Part of why Spidey in the 90's was so terrible was that the whole cast got sidelined to the monstrosity that is the Clone Saga. No Aunt May, MJ only to cry a lot and get pregnant, the Bugle pretty much left by the wayside. Hence, it's just one guy fighting each month, and that gets old.

So I guess my final answer is solo books can be just as good as team books, but only if the cast is kept up to snuff.

Doug said...

I suppose I should chime in with my thoughts, although I'm pretty sure everyone knows of my love for the team books. While Karen's point about the Spidey cast is so true, I always loved the huge casts of characters found in the Avengers, Legion, Teen Titans, etc. Shoot -- even the Secret Society of Super-Villains was a treasure to me back in the day.

Good point about Daredevil, too. I never thought of it that way. I never found the book boring (as was stated), but do think the point made has merit.

As to the JLA, I wasn't devoted to that title until the DeMatteis/Giffen/Maguire years. Now those were fun comics!

Doug

Kid A said...

Though I love Iron Man in his solo book, I still probably have to go with team books as you get "more bang for your buck" with all different heroes in one book. Granted, it can be at the cost of some characterization, but if it's done properly I don't find myself missing that.

Andrew Wahl said...

I'd have to go with team, as well. It was the Claremont/Byrne X-Men that hooked me on comics for good. But well-written, character-driven comics of all stripes connected with me. The best solo books had those excellent supporting casts (that's what really made Miller's Daredevil so good) and existed in fully developed "ecosystems" (think Spidey at the Daily Bugle).

Great question!

Andrew
ComicsBronzeAge.com

Karen said...

Spidey's probably a little unusual for a solo book in that it had such an incredibly strong and important supporting cast. Many other titles (such as Daredevil) sported a much smaller group of supporting characters, who often were not integral to the book.

My selection of Spidey as a favorite solo book obviously reinforces my stated preference for teams -his book WAS practically a team book!

Karen

Fred W. Hill said...

I don't have a particular prefrence for teams or solo stars -- in my early teens back in the '70s my 3 favorites were the FF, Avengers and Spider-Man, and admittedly part of the pull was the "soap-opera" elements. Those stories that were pure fight-fests, with little characterization, were gawd-awful boring IMO! What was essential for me was a good cast of diverse characters -- that is with diverse personalities, not just, oh, well, one guy's really super, another batty, another runs really fast and another has this power ring, that guy has wings, etc. One of my later faves was Master of Kung Fu -- not because I was interested in martial arts, but because Doug Moench developed a great supporting cast for Shang Chi, so although the focus was mostly on Shang, it almost read like a "group book", especially since Shang had no secret identity and so wasn't leading a double life, and his friends were as active in the adventures as he was.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree with everyone, but I think it depends completely who is doing it. Personally, I love team books, but.....

I know Karen & Doug are big Avengers fans, so please all do this exercise. Fix in your mind that dire period of Avengers from about 200 – 250. Basically almost everything from the dodgy Ms. Marvel / Marcus debacle until that weird Vision takes over the world story, before Stern, Buscema & Palmer returned it to glory. Almost every bad issue of Avengers in the first 25 years is in there.

Fixed in your mind? Bad taste in your mouth? Feeling the need to gargle with Avengers #100 ?

OK, now rank that run of Avengers ( arguably this group’s favourite mag ever?) in this list of solo runs:

Starlin’s Captain Marvel
Stalin’s Warlock
Thomas / Kane’s Captain Marvel
Miller’s Daredevil
Michelinie /JRJR / Layton ‘ s Iron Man
Moench/Gulacy’s Shang Chi (although arguably a team book).
Lee/Buscema ‘s Silver Surfer
Steranko’s Nick Fury
John Byrne’s Cap (Or Englehart / Buscema’s)
Thomas / Colans’ Doc Strange (or Englehart / Brunner’s ).
Gil Kane’s Iron Fist (Or Claremont / Byrne’s)
Conway / Kane’s Spidey
Wolfman / Colan / Palmer’s Dracula

Avengers 200 – 250 came bottom, right?

Richard

dbutler69 said...

My preference has always been for team book, and I couldn't state the reasons any better than Karen already has. I'll bet at least 75% of my collection is team books. I do like the occasional soloist, of course (Spidey, Batman, Silver Surfer, Wolverine) but I'll choose a team book any day!

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