Welcome to The Hot Seat, the column where we let professionals say share what's on their mind.
This week finds Scott Morse in the hot seat. In fact we've handed this column over to Scott for 3 separate columns with each including original artwork inspired by the subject he covers.
Scott's known for creator-owned work like "Volcanic Revolver" and "Soulwind." Currently in stores Scott has "Ancient Joe" from Dark Horse Comics and "Magic Pickle" from Oni Press. We encourage you to pick them both up.
Alright, so at conventions, I get these questions a lot, "What was the first comic you read, when did you know you wanted to do comics, what are your biggest influences…?" I'm sure every creator gets them and answers as best they can. I try to draw inspiration from everywhere I turn, real life, film, people I know, etc. Over the next three weeks, I'm going to lay down my biggest comic book roots under three separate headings: MAINSTREAM, INDY, and FOREIGN. In that order. I'm doing this because I think it'll be helpful to all the aspiring writer/artists out there to know where at least one writer/artist came from, comics-wise. But I'd also like to point out that if I'd ONLY drawn influence from the comics art form, I'd be screwed. Comics were hardly the only teacher I've had, but they were one of the first, and a powerful one.
This is the part where I date myself, for everyone reading who I've never had the pleasure of meeting at a convention. I was in, I think, the fourth grade when I traded some comics with my pal Billy for a beat up copy of G.I.JOE. G.I.JOE was what got us started, playing with the action figures (the little ones, not the old dress-up kind). I'm one of the bastards of that toy-marketing era, when Hasbro made it very clear to Marvel what characters and vehicles could appear in the series. As I began the treacherous chore of collecting all the back issues, I slaved away cutting lawns to earn the astronomical $40 to purchase the much-coveted G.I.JOE #2, hanging on the wall at R&K COMICS in Santa Clara, CA. Eventually, it was mine, and I pulled it out of its mylar on a hot summer afternoon in front of a fan and read it. It was amazing…not just because it featured Snake-Eyes in the snow, but it introduced Kwinn the Eskimo, a character never to be made into an action figure, destined to go down in history as one of the first comics characters I'd ever seen killed off, in issue 19, I believe. I was hooked.
I think that was the first comic character arc that, story-wise, made me realize that comics were valid as entertainment. The first comic moment that hit me as art came with that fateful trade I made with my pal Billy…for G.I.JOE #21. All Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, and the introduction of Storm Shadow the ninja. And completely silent. This blew my mind. This was it. This was what the blending of writing and art was all about. I don't know if I defined it as such in the fourth grade, but I knew something phenomenal was happening in that dog-eared stapled pamphlet. Pure storytelling. Everything you needed, in its most primal form, to convey an exciting piece of entertainment. And not a single word. The genius of Larry Hama.
Fifth grade rolled around, and G.I.JOE began to fall apart for me, with the introduction of chameleon skin and stupid snake people. The mysterious joys I'd found in Kwinn and Snake-Eyes were gone, and I knew it was time to move on. I still thumbed the back issue bins, and Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL smacked me in the face. This was around the time of DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, which I read and loved (if not fully understood), but it was DD #186 and 187 that really got me thinking again at an early age. That street thug Turk had found the costume of the goofy villain Stiltman, and DD had to stop him. Only DD's heightened senses began to go screwy. And man, that threw me for a loop. How cool was this, to see a hero in true jeopardy, not able to control his surroundings? And the art on the page made it hauntingly come to life! Sound effects going insanely big, and the cover to #187...DD cringing, holding his head, on a white field, losing it. Perfect. And I got it, I understood it all, even in the fifth grade. Miller knew how to make it work, knowing how to leave out stuff like backgrounds to achieve an effect. Knowing how to use sound effects to enhance the scenes. Knowing how to pace the story. Knowing how to make the hero vulnerable. Knowing how to hook a fifth grade kid. Did Miller know the power he possessed when he made that book, showing that the five senses could be affected visually? It's funny to think that it wasn't Elektra that hooked me on Miller's DD back issues in 1986. It was an almost solid white cover, with Daredevil cringing, pleading, "Stop it! Please…stop it…"
These were the first books to knock me upside the head, great comics that came out of the eighties mainstream, hidden in ad campaigns for toys and the birth of the ninja as 'cool'. Fanboys, if you're reading, put down your hyper-drawn, digitally colored, badly executed pull-file specials and go dig up these lost gems. Find the originals, not some collections on slick paper with nice new color seps. Find the originals and pay the few bucks for them. See what made a nine year old realize that comics were worth his future.
-- Scott Morse