Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Low Art Medium: comics

I'm not much of a comic book reader.
I enjoy them with my son, who most-often refers to himself as Spider-Man (and to me as Captain America), but I'm not one of those guys with stacks and stacks and boxes full of comics. From ages 10 to about 13, I was really into TSR's Marvel Superheroes RPG, and during that time I read quite a few Marvel titles - even subscribed to Fantastic Four and Strikeforce: Morituri, but it was a pretty brief phase. Since my comic-reading phase was brief (1984-1987), and dedicated mostly to Marvel (I have no logical explanation as to why I'd have excluded DC, or any other publishers), I missed out on Sandman and Spawn and other classics of the medium that would follow.
Jeff Grubb's half-assed Marvel RPG system had its flaws and its good points; I had a lot of fun with it as a kid. Though I long ago stopped playing the game and reading the books, I always found the histories and the characters in the widely-developed Marvel Universe to be cool stuff, and remembered them well enough to answer my kids' questions. Though my interest quickly waned, my fondness for the superhero genre never really disappeared; I was, and am, always willing to embrace quality books and films based on the best characters and settings. I'm just not as willing as others to wade through the scores of cheaply-written, cheaply-produced, churned-out, juvenile kid-fodder that dominates this medium, just to find the occasional quality series.
I think the comic is a valid story-telling medium, capable of achieving any literary goal, no matter how lofty. I'd definitely like to helm a series of my own... Just give me a good artist - I've written a few comic scripts; I know the mechanics...
But anyway - - - the point of this overlong post is to endorse the handful of comic titles that I've read that have really blown me away. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Watchmen. It's the smartest, most painstakingly crafted piece of comic fiction I've ever read.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I didn't read the sequel... the original is brilliant. Tim Burton's 2 Batman films were very good, but disappointing, because they couldn't live up to this book. Someone ought to do as meticulous a comic-to-film-translation for this as Robert Rodriguez' Sin City is said to be.
Frank Miller's Elektra miniseries. It's been many years, but I remember this being a really amazing series, with the demon that stank of curdled milk. Great, unique look and dark feel.
Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot. This was released in the mid-80s and much of the action takes place in a Wall-divided Berlin. It completely blew me away as a kid - and still holds up to my more critical eye, almost 20 years later. I never looked at Spider-Man the same after reading this book.

That's it; that's my list.

It seems that J. Michael Straczynski is doing some good, mature stuff with Amazing Spider-Man these days; I've read a few issues. Bravo for incorporating Anansi, the Spider God into Spider-Man books! I've heard raves about Lone Wolf and Cub, V is for Vendetta, Sin City, to name a few others, but never read any of them. Someday...
Phew - there you have it - my take on the comic medium.


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