Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Last Chance at the Open Forum Before the Bosses Come Back!

While Karen and Doug are on vacation in January, our readers have been entrusted with carrying on the daily conversations.  Today's Open Forum is a do-it-yourselfer.  As we've done in the past, the first commenter gets to pick today's topic of conversation.

Generally speaking, the Open Forum is for broader topics.  For example, in the past we've started conversations such as "The Role of Inkers" and "What's So Great About the Bronze Age?"  Start a conversation that is broad enough to elicit an ongoing conversation, and that even might lend itself to tangential musings.

Thanks for holding it down for us -- new content (from us at least) resumes this coming Friday with a look at Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, followed on Saturday by another entry in our series "That Zany Bob Haney"!


Doc Savage said...

How about comics everybody says are great but you just don't see why?

david_b said...

Anything after 1986..?? No wait, no one thinks they're great.


It would have to be X-Men. Sorry, I know it's Heresy around here, but never got the late 70s-80s mass appeal.

Doug said...

I have a hard time enjoying non-superhero comics. I'm pretty close-minded about them.

That being said, I have enjoyed Bone, Maus, and some of Will Eisner's stuff. But I never got into the Indie stuff of the 1980's.

I never ever could get into Archie or Walt Disney/Looney Tunes-type of comics.


Doc Savage said...

David, we are on the same page with "classic" X-Men. I gave them another chance this past weekend, still can't fathom why they are on such a pedestal. I don't want to point out the shortcomings as that would be a whole other topic.

I also never saw the merits of the Avengers-Defenders War (not saying it's bad, just not anything special to me).

Karen said...

I didn't really care for Walt Simonson's Thor, mainly because of the art. I haven't gone back and looked at those books despite the fact that everyone else goes on about how great they are. The stories might be great but I just recall the art putting me off, and even when I see it now, I feel distaste for it.

Doc Savage said...

Hi Karen, Walt Simonson's art was highly stylized. I liked it okay. I found Frank Miller's later stylized art (Dark Knight) off-putting almost as much as his stories. But Simonson I enjoyed. Wish i had that omnibus!

Inkstained Wretch said...

For me that would be the Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow run.

Adams could be a great artist but those stories leave me cold. That they are so self-consciously "serious" and "important" is bad enough -- "extremely pretentious" would be a more accurate description -- but they're not even good on their own terms. They read like a high school sophomore's take on politics and current events. the first one where the poor, inner-city black man confronts Green Lantern just makes me cringe...

david_b said...

Whaaat, Doug, no love for "Night Nurse"..?


Yeah, they never did much for me. As for X-Men, Matt, I generally like nearly all Silver Age Marvel books, so if I was to collect X-Men it would have grabbed a comic or two based on villain or what have you. Their '60s 'underdog-weirdness style' had limited appeal. A lot of my later mutant disregard involved the style of art (and printing techniques) I couldn't stand in the '80s, such as Simonson's Thor, Byrne's later FF, pre-Stern Avengers, most finished art just seemed a bit sketchy and not enough contrast. My college roommie was a huge X-Men and got me back into collecting, but it never caught on with me. I just stuck with spending extra to buy older Silver and Bronze 'hole-fillers' from the LCS.

My distinct recollection of thinking was.., 'Why spend chunk-change on something current I could take or leave, when I could spend $$ on vintage stuff I'll always treasure..?'

Glad I made the right decision.

Doug said...

To add a detail to my former comment about generally zeroing in on superheroes -- I need to see pretty straight-forward "superhero art" (Buscema brothers, Adams, Perez, some Kane, Andru, Kirby, Romita, Aparo, etc.). Walter Simonson, like Karen said, isn't generally my cup of tea (if he always drew like he did in the 70's it would be fine).

Inkstained, you've hit the nail on the head as to why Karen and I looked at the first four issues of the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA and never went back.


david_b said...

Inkstained, kudos as well for GL/GA..

I love those issues for the art, which barely, BARELY excuses the overt-pretentious preachiness (borderlining on sacrimonious..)bleeding off the page. I picked up the TPB's a few years back; suffice to say, they didn't stay around long.

As for the non-hero comics Doug, it's also why I stayed away from all the Conan, horror/western/army stuff.

Great art and stories, absolutely no doubt at all, just no interest.

Edo Bosnar said...

Can't say I have much to contribute to this topic, since most of the stuff that comes to mind is post-1990, i.e., well outside of the '60s through '80s material that is generally discussed here (and much what has been mentioned here I rather like). I will tentatively agree with Inkstained about the highly-acclaimed GL/GA series, although I'd add that I still understand why these stories had such great resonance when they first appeared (but also freely acknowledge that it had more than a little to do with Adams' spectacular art).

I guess I would say I don't really understand the high praise for anything Frank Miller did after his first run on Daredevil - stuff like Ronin, DKR, Elektra Assassin, even Batman/Year One. Not saying I think any of these are bad, just that they are a bit overrated, judging by the gushing praise they often get in so much of the comics-related media and blogosphere.

By the way Matt, with ref. to that Simonson Thor omnibus, until a few months ago, that was pretty much at the top of my wish-list, until I actually held the thing in my hands at a comic show last fall. I was really put off by the computerized recoloring - I don't care if Simonson himself said he likes it. As much as I like the idea of having the whole run in a single volume, I decided to go for the Visionaries TPBs.

dbutler16 said...

Most Modern Age comics and writers would fit the bill for me.

I like Alan Moore's stuff but don't go gaga over it as most people do.

Karen's comment about Simonson's Thor made me think that I really dislike the following very popular artists: Walt Simononson, Frank Miller, Steve Ditko (though he's a great designer), John Romita jr., Carmine Infantino, Howard Chaykin.

I've never really gotten into non superhero comics, though I'll admit that I've enjoyed some issues of Conan and Master of Kung Fu.

Doc Savage said...

Nobody likes the straw man politics of Denny O'Neil? I'm so happy to hear I'm not alone. I cringe when someone refers to those G.L./G.A. comics as good. Every "conservative" turns out to be evil. How much more interesting would those comics be if the slum lord wasn't evil, just wanted his rent money? And so on...

Anonymous said...

I can't really think of any comics offhand that I've absolutely hated after hearing good things about them; there are plenty of comics I don't consider great (Flash, Iron Man, Green Lantern), but I don't hate them, I just consider them to be average compared to the stuff I love.

As a kid, I thought Conan was dumb, but after reading R. E. Howard's original stories I ended up appreciating the comics too.

There are plenty of "fan favourite" artists/writers that I don't care for, but that's another topic entirely!

Mike W.

Garett said...

Ah dbutler hit on a couple--I don't enjoy Ditko's art, even though I can see he's a skilled artist. Maybe he's still growing on me! Also Romita Jr's art--I liked his early work on Iron Man, but his later art looks too stylized to me. Both can draw, but I don't get pulled in by their work.

Eisner--A Contract With God is superb. His other stories, I've tried but I lose interest.

Love Perez and Wolfman on their other titles, but I don't like Crisis on Infinite Earths. Too many characters, and I don't like what it did to the DC multiple Earths.

Doug said...

Garett brings up a subject that could be an interesting tangent, maybe for future discussion:

Do we dislike some stories not as stories, but agents of change toward what came after (ie Dark Knight)?

As to liking the Conan stuff, it wouldn't be my first grab off the shelf, but I do enjoy it. I've collected the first four volumes of the Savage Sword essentials just to have the art, which is splendid in most cases. But I generally like the entire stories whenever I do read them.


William said...

I must wholeheartedly agree with O'Neil and Adams' GL/GA, and Walt Simonson's Thor as being greatly overly praised comics. I tried reading both of those series and I couldn't make it past one or two issues of either one. I especially really never got the whole Beta Ray Bill thing. I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. Why would a weird looking and violent alien monster be given the power of Thor, when there was already a Thor? I just always thought the whole thing was such a stupid idea. Sorry, BRB fans.

I also agree that a lot of Frank Miller's stuff, after his first run on Daredevil, was mostly overrated. I had always hated "Dark Knight Returns" in fact. But I am softening on that opinion because the animated movie based on that comic is so freaking AWESOME! I just picked up part 2 today and I can't wait to watch the whole thing as one long movie. I don't know why it works for me as a movie, but not as a comic, but it does. Maybe it's the fact that they streamlined the art and the story so it looks and flows better. Who knows?

I also hated Miller's second short run on DD with the "Born Again" storyline. UHHHG! That story pretty much ruined DD for me (one of my favorite characters, BTW). Then when Bendis came along, he finally put the nail in the DD coffin as far as I was concerned. I couldn't read the book for years, until just recently. I started picking it up again when Mark Waid took over and it's been excellent so far. The whole "Born Again" story was just… awful! Karen Page returns as a junky porn actress who sells Matt's secret identity to the Kingpin for a hit of heroin. WHAT? Then the Kingpin uses that information to destroy Matt's life. Nice. That story was as bad as the very horrible Spider-Man "Sins of the Father" in which Gwen Stacy beds down with (uhg) Norman Osborn. Ewww. It's hard to even type that.

I would also like to add "Watchmen" to the list of overly praised comics. It was a decent, one time read, but I don't think that it was the be all and end all that everyone makes it out to be. What's even worse is that it ushered in the age of grim and gritty stories and art, which was the beginning of the end of comics as I knew and loved them.

dbutler16 said...

Garett, I also enjoyed John Romita jr's art on Iron Man, but I give inker Bob Layton 90% of the credit for that. Also, while I love Crisis on Infinite Earths by itself, I do hate what it did to the DC universe.

I've already mentioned I don't like Frank Miller's art, but since soe others have mentioned it, I do think some of his post-Daredevil writing is overrated as well. Dark Knight especially.

William mentioned Watchman, and I had thought about mentioning that one myself. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was good, but I read it for the first time just before the movie came out (which I actually prefer) and prior to that I'd seen it listed as #1 on virtually every "greatest comics of all time" or greatest graphic novels of all time" list out there, plus much praise on the message boards, which is no mean feat! While I thought it was good, I didn't find it even close to being great. Not my cup of tea, and that "comic within a comic" thing with the pirate comic the kid was reading I thought was boring, and not quite a clever as people like to say it was. Also, in agreement with William, Watchmen (and Miller's Dark Knight) helped usher in the "dark gritty" phase of comics I dislike.

Karen said...

Another vote for Watchmen as over-rated. I enjoyed it when it came out, but never thought it was "all that." It could also fit into Doug's category of agent of change, big time!

Inkstained Wretch said...

Hmm, I quite like Simonson's Thor run though I can readily see how his style at the time could be off-putting...

Surprised but gladdened that so many people agreed with me on O'Neil/Adams' GL/GA run. That series really makes 60's Star Trek look subtle...

dbutler16, I agree with you on Moore, at least regarding his post-DC. Up until then, he was brilliant. He seems to have lost his mind afterwards. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a great idea that seems to defy the general copomic fan to enjoty it.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's any of the "Dark" Batman stuff. Just don't get it. Give me the animated series or even Adam West.

I guess this is a good spot to also say thanks to Karen and Doug for giving us the keys to the car for a while. I wish I felt like I had more to contribute but I think the experiment succeeded and gave you two a well-deserved break.


Tony said...

XMen I never 'got', Watchmen I feel was way overrated, Jack Kirby's art, Swamp Thing, Kamandi, The Forever people, alot of the Marvel universe, Superman's new costume, the various "Robins", anything post Crisis, who really is The Huntress...my list is fairly large..

J.A. Morris said...

I have to defend the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA stories. They haven't aged well, but context is everything. Look at what sat next to them on the racks back in 1970s:


Garett said...

William, totally agree about DD Born Again. Thought it was overrated and unpleasant.

I loved Watchmen, Dark Knight and the GL/GA series when I read them in the '80s. They all seemed fresh and ambitious in different ways. Now they are not my go-to for reading--probably I'll look at GL/GA the most, for the art. And while the GL/GA stories are political, at least O'Neil can write. I tried the new Batman Odyssey again, by Neal Adams, and whew is it a stinker.

Doc Savage said...

As others have noted or at least alluded to, the 1-2 punch of Dark Knight and Watchmen resulted in a million poor imitations and an unwarranted determination that ALL super hero comics NEEDED to be grim/dark/gritty or else made fun of for being escapist/fun/bright. No coincidence, I soon stopped reading almost all comics, especially from Marvel and D.C. I don't see that the influence has abated yet, either, on the rare occasions I glance at a new Marvel or D.C. comic book.

I wish super hero comics could be fun again. I wouldn't want to live in the world they portray now, where the heroes are all miserable, scowling, and hateful. At least I can show my kids back issues. My son loves Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham.

Doc Savage said...

Inkstained Wretch, did you ever read "1963" by Alan Moore and various artist accomplices? THAT was fun! Just ignore the nasty fake letters pages where they unnecessarily rake Stan Lee over the coals.

WardHill Terry said...

I have no love for John Byrne's Fantastic Four. I stopped reading it four or five issues in, and I had suffered through all of the Doug Moench issues immediately preceding. Many years later, 3 or 4 years ago, I picked up a volume of Visionaries with several of the collected stories. I wanted to see if my tastes had changed and all of the praise I had read was warrented. Nope. They were really boring stories, and his drawing seemed so fomulaic. I prefer outer space hockey players! O.K., not really.

Anonymous said...

The "all new, all different X-men" with Wolverine & co was great when Claremont, Cockrum, then later Byrne & Terry Austin were at the helm of that magical run. The later dreadful X-teams in the 80s were just overkill, even though they might have been popular at the time.

As for Walt Simonson's run on Thor, I think it was one of the best runs on any comic and certainly re-invented the Thunder God. Let me be clear - Walt's writing was great; I'm not too keen on his stylized art, but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no? Many people don't like Gil Kane's highly stylized art too, but I love it. Let's just say I found it passable.

I have a similar opinion on Frank Miller's run on the Dark Knight too - great story and reinvention of the character, but the artwork is not among my favourites.

- Mike 'Conan was an awesome non-superhero comic!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

humanbelly said...

Ha! It's so funny that the best-forgotten Alt-Universe-Johnny-as-Cosmic-Goaltender issue of the FF (#162? Somewhere around there?) does indeed pop up every once in awhile as a sort of unspoken "worst idea ever" reference-! Hmm-- perhaps if he'd fought BloodAxe and the Hypno Hustler. . .

For the topic at hand, it's a little hard to keep simple matters of taste out of the equation. I loved (and feel like I "got") Simonson's Thor. . .BRBill and all. I found both DKR and WATCHMEN very disturbing at the time. . . but also compelling and gripping. So. . . something that was popular and regarded as great? That I simply couldn't fathom why?

Hmm. How about the Punisher? He shot to the top of the "hot book" lists, saturated the market, and then ultimately disappeared entirely. I never got what his appeal was at all.

I agree on pretty much all of the post DKR "Dark" Batman fodder. . . and lord there was so much of it. I inherited a ton of those collections from a departed friend. . . and I pretty much can't get through any of them. Even when the art's good, the tone is so relentlessly bleak. They actually become quite dull.

This is much later. . .but I've seen it praised on this board, I think: Bruce Jones' run on Incredible Hulk. While much of the art was fantastic (from different artists), it struck me as being a way to disguise an extremely poor comic book. And yet one of the editors at the time even responded to my plaintive emails, saying that, no, he really didn't like the book either, but it was selling better, so there was nothing to be done. . . (RRRGH!)

Back in the Silver Age? Man, those endlessly long Lee/Kirby/Coletta JiM & Thor epic storylines. Just so wordy & pretentious & . . . well, dull. Like reading Shakespeare backwards. They're absolutely revered by fandom now, but I don't know or remember ANYONE personally who bought (or even read) them at the time.

I'm sure I could fuss about a few others, but yeesh, it's kinda late.


david_b said...

HB, all..

"Punisher as being overrated..?"

How about "'Nam.."..?? Did anybody read that Marvel comic..??

I had no desire to ever go near it, but it seemed to have been promoted quite a bit. Haven't read any word of it in the Untold Stories book yet, and I'm up to about 1991 now.

humanbelly said...

You know, I don't think it was mentioned in Untold Stories. I'd forgotten all about it. I know I have probably the first 20 or 30 issues of it. . . and have never re-read them.
It wasn't a bad book at first, it was just kind of an odd thing. Sort of realistic writing coupled with an unusually cartoony style. I think it did work, but that artist left kind of early, and the replacement (sorry I don't remember any names here) kind of tried to copy that style, and it just didn't come off as well. I seem to remember that it suffered from not having a real solid through-line from month to month.

Overall? I think it may have actually been a better book than its obscurity would suggest.


Doug said...

OK, this is the right discussion. Posted this earlier in the wrong thread.

I think I had the first 2-3 issues of The Nam. Art was by Michael Golden, right? I'm pretty sure the series lasted for a few years. But I was buying so many other books back then that I didn't stick around.


Edo Bosnar said...

Never read The 'Nam, but have actually heard many good things about it; apparently much of the series was editorially guided by Larry Hama, who was a Vietnam vet. And Doug, to answer your questions, Golden did do the art, but only for about the first dozen issues. And the series had 84 issues in all, so yes, it lasted for a good few years.

Returning to this thread's topic, I'd have to say another series that became a real fan favorite for reasons beyond me is Larry Hama's other '80s project, G.I. Joe. I dropped it after about the first 5-6 issues; I found the stories largely uninteresting and the art really bland. Yet it became this runaway hit...

Rip Jagger said...

I know this blog is about the Bronze Age, but the answer to this question for me is Golden Age stories. When I first started reading them in reprints in Fantasy Masterpieces and later in those luscious 100-pagers from DC, I began to realize that some of the Golden Age stories, the stuff of legend weren't actually all that good technically some of the time. Later with the internet and much more access to these vintage tales, it's clear that back then we were getting the best of the best often. A lot of the Golden Age was awful with a few artists rising above the pack. There was enthusiasm often, even skill, but true craftsmanship was rare and even the soon-to-be-masters were learning their trade.

The Golden Age offered up some great stuff, a lot of good stuff, and a mountain of bad stuff!

Rip Off

Doug said...

Rip, totally agreed on most Golden Age material. I've been eyeing the upcoming Marvel Firsts: WWII-Era Heroes, and am most likely going to take a pass on it. Around 20 years ago I bought the slipcased 2-hardcover set of the first 10 issues of Captain America Comics. It was a tough read.


david_b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
david_b said...

Agreed on the Golden Age stuff, I was buying up some Silver Age 'Fantasy Masterpieces' just for the cool covers, but once you actually read some of the stories.. ho-hum.

What folks don't seem to remember is that the lasting GOOD (even not so good) memories we have of certain periods, were ones that have survived the ages of bad stuff.

Some stuff was so-so back in '63.., for example? Just compare it to every thing else out at that time. It was still miles above the other dreck that hardly anyone will remember. I tell people that when they put down the second Beatles movie 'Help!'. Sure it wasn't quite as good as the first film (although it's my personal favorite..), compared with all the other rock group movies no one except diehard fans remember from 1965 featuring Herman's Hermits or DC5..? It was still head-over-heels above the rest.

As for 'Nam comic, yeah, I was going to comment on next week's look at the Shooter era how it wasn't even mentioned, yet seemed highly-touted and self-important at the time.

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