The impossibly-lengthily-titled GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL #1 started the whole thing off innocently enough. I thought it was a great book through most of it. Amanda Conner's art is wonderful, as always. It's very animated looking, with characters who act and emote. She could fill in for Kevin Maguire on a Giffen/DeMatteis JLA project and I wouldn't blink. She's a natural heir to that throne. Add in Paul Mounts' crystal clear coloring, and you've got a book that's one of the best looking efforts on the stands today, following hot on the heels of the JLA WEDDING SPECIAL #1, which feature striking art from Mike McKone.
The problem comes in the last four pages, when "The Big Twist" hits so unnecessarily. I can almost take it that the JLA WEDDING SPECIAL had a cliffhanger to lead directly into the regular series. Doing it twice in a row is a little trying, though. Even worse, it becomes a great example of everything that's wrong with DC today. OK, not everything. After all, the second half of this book didn't ship six months later as an Annual. . .
For a brief moment, they had me. The wedding of two long-time DC characters was presented as something fun and joyful. DC took a risk and even did a WEDDING PLANNER SPECIAL that, while ultimately not terribly filling, was a pleasant diversion and an enjoyable fan-fiction-like read. The JLA WEDDING SPECIAL was obviously a little more serious, down to Firestorm's near demise and the villainous sense of dread and doom, but it's a team superhero comic. Of course those threats are going to be there. But it played fair and showed that threat throughout the book.
Judd Winnick's script on this comic, though, played it light-hearted throughout. It played to the artist's strengths, and gave DC readers a welcome breather from the usual dark and dismal miasma that modern comics have become.
Then those last four pages came straight out of left field and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. While I laugh at the on-line suggestions that it's a Skrull at work, I'd be relieved if the follow-up to this story begins with that, just to give the characters a chance to lead a happy life for more than two pages at a time.
We'll see what happens. Wait, no. You may see what happens next. I have no interest left in it.
Over at Marvel, meanwhile, WORLD WAR HULK is slouching to its end. What started out as a big romp has turned into a tedious crawl. There's nothing but false jeopardy in here, with a giant deus ex machina sitting in a corner waiting for the right comics shipment day to come out and play. Hint: That'll be when issue #5 ships.
I just don't care. Nothing's going to change. Oh, sure, the Hulk will change colors for a few months or something, but NYC will be restored, nobody's going to die, and life moves on. I wonder if I'd feel this way if Bendis were writing the book? Since he started the whole thing off with the Illuminati concept and one shot, it feels odd to have someone else handling the final ramifications of it.
Or maybe my problem with it is that the aliens accompanying the Hulk will be the only things to change over the course of the series. With that, the focus rests on the shoulders of a bunch of characters I know nothing about. And, let's face it, half this story hinges on a misunderstanding between the Hulk and the Illuminati. If they make up, join forces, and fight off the Nova Corps or some other third party threat next month, I'll just toss these issues into the nearest fireplace and be done with it.
I just don't care.
I felt greatly relieved and much happier reading ASTERIX THE LEGIONARY afterwards, to cleanse the palate. That book deserves a full review at some future point, but it's the funniest book in the series I've read so far.
ONE BEAUTIFULLY DRAWN HORROR COMIC
Rick "The Writing Machine" Remender popped up with another new comic book a couple weeks back. This one, SORROW, is co-written with Seth Peck, and is either a ghost town story or a possession story or a straight-up ghost story, depending on what you read into the book. I like to think of it as an ode to classic car crash rock and roll, told in comic book form. (You can't top "Bat Out Of Hell" for theatrics on the musical level.)
The story, in a nutshell: A car full of kids picks up a hitchhiker and speed through a ghost town, only to have a crash and meet the odd locals. It's obvious there's a lot more going on, but Remender and Peck work hard at establishing tension and playing with your mind before pulling off anything shocking or threatening. There are no answers in this first issue, nor should there be. This isn't a book about a quick fix of violence or shock. This is about mood and suspense, and the authors pull that off beautifully, without annoying the reader with the constant carrot dangled by a string six inches in front of the reader, never to be touched.
The art is by a relative newcomer, Francesco Francavilla, whose star should ascend very quickly. This is one of the best looking comics on the stands today. Francavilla's art is reminiscent of classic comics such as those of EC Comics, but with a bit of Gary Gianni thrown in and some Neal Adams, possibly. It's a very well constructed, yet sketchy approach that I enjoy a lot. There's some photo reference at work here, but it's not distracting and it's not traced. It's a classic artist taking reference as a guide, not as a template. It's beautiful stuff, and works well in black and white.
Francavilla is also drawing the Boom! Studios mini-series, LEFT ON MISSION. Haven't had a chance to read that one yet, though it looks just as good, even with color laid on top of it.
SORROW #1 is available at finer comic shops today through your pals at Image Comics. It's $2.99, black and white, and 32 pages.
THOSE WHO FILL YOUR LONGBOXES
Last week, I talked about the artists and writers whose comics occupy the most amount of space in the long boxes of my collection. Arbitrarily, we went with 75 comics for artists and 200 for the writers. It all spawned out of a conversation I had with iFanboy.com's Ron Richards, who posted his list at the same time.
This week, we're looking at your responses with your lists. I shouldn't be surprised that it took a day or two before the responses started rolling in. The question I asked required some thought and, in some cases, statistical number crunching. The results show a generational thing at play. In many cases, you could tell when a person's most active comics reading period was by the people they thought of first. Obviously, those with Bendis at the top were modern readers, newer to the field and big Marvel fans. DC fans of a previous generation of readers cited names like Marv Wolfman or Jim Aparo. And, as I predicted, there's a manga contingent out there, whose collections have some popular series from prolific creators (and their large studios.)
Let's take a look at some of your e-mails. I'll start with John McGee, who brought up an easily recognizable name who doesn't appear much in my collection:
Roy Thomas is one of the best writers comics has ever seen. It's unfortunate that in the last few years he's gone almost all 'golden age'. In his heyday at Marvel, his runs on The Avengers, X-Men, Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange, and many other titles I just astounding. I have a fill-in issue of Nightmask (New-Universe) he did. The quality was noticeable over the regular writer. He thrived where-ever he went, and on whatever he was working on. DC's Arak was a great fantasy high adventure romp. He was simply one of the best… period.
Thomas' absence on my list is clearly a generational difference, and something we'll see more of from your e-mails in the last week.
I have to admit that I've never heard of ARAK, though.
Chris Beckett chimed in with a slightly more modern name:
Mike Baron: Forgot about Baron, until I was writing about Infantino below and remembered he wrote the Wally West Flash. I also have a full Nexus run (from First, plus various Dark Horse series), all of the Badger incarnations up to now, and with the Flash this easily puts him over 200.
FLASH and NEXUS would probably be enough on their own. I've tried to get into NEXUS on a couple of occasions, without much success. I didn't hop on board the FLASH series until Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo, so I missed Baron's run there.
Carmine Infantino, as Chris mentioned, popped up on a couple of e-mail and message board lists, as well.
Chris was the only one to mention the following name, though we'd have to start counting pages to figure out if he'd qualify for 75 issues' worth of material:
Scott Morse: Not really sure if he makes the list, but I have everything but Smack Dab, and a few short pieces. What I have includes, Soulwind 1-5, Littlegreyman, Barefoot Serpent, Sam & Twitch, Elektra, Batman: Room Full of Strangers, Escapist, Spaghetti Western, Visitations, some Negative Burn stuff. . .
That SOULWIND collection makes for a big honking doorstopper, doesn't it?
James Frail was not the only one to come up with the following name, though he was the first:
Jim Aparo. Batman, Detective, Brave and the Bold, Batman and the Outsiders, The Outsiders, as well as various other Batman related projects....I probably own more Jim Aparo drawn issues than any other artist.
Kat Kan brings the manga:
Osamu Tezuka is a definite winner - I own all the Dark Horse Astro Boy volumes, most of the Buddha, about half of his Phoenix series, all of Adolf, and I'm still getting more. I also own just about every different Elfquest edition ever published by Wendy and Richard Pini. Kazuo Koike [LONE WOLF AND CUB] is also up there, as is Rumiko Takahashi [MAISON IKKOKU].
You can hear that generational gap in my readership start to kick in here, can't you? I like it.
She also pointed out to me that Will Eisner would make more lists, just based on the SPIRITS ARCHIVES. Silly me forgot those.
Darren Dekinder brings us back to the 80s with his writers picks:
Mike Grell ... his run on Warlord alone qualifies, but throw in some Starslayer, Jon Sable Freelance, and assorted miniseries and he has quite a volume of work in my collection. He was probably the first creator that I followed from title to title.
Marv Wolfman ...his run on Teen Titan alone almost qualifies, but I also have his work in titles like Tomb of Dracula, Night Force, COIE, Vigilante, and several mini series.
Denny O'Neil ... this may be close to just making the 200 issue criteria, but with his runs on Batman, GL/GA, and many singleton issues, he has to be included.
But it's his artist pick that earns him a special commendation:
Curt Swan ... when I was a kid, when I saw an image of Superman that wasn't drawn by him, I thought that there was a printing error. I have huge runs of Superman and Action Comics and he drew both titles month after month after month. Today, we think of Mark Bagley's run on Spider-man as pretty incredible (as we should), but Curt Swan was a machine. I now realize that his artwork wasn't as sophisticated as today, but when I reread those old issues and look at the crowd scenes he would do with individual faces on each person .... wow!! His art was plenty detailed even by the standards of some of today's artists and amazingly consistent in quality. Did I mention that he was on time with two issues a month? He even did a few issues of Adventure Comics and Superboy here and there.
Somewhere, someone at DC just twitched at the mention of Superboy. . .
I wasn't reading SUPERMAN -- or any comics, for that matter -- when Curt Swan was most active in the field, but Darren echoes many people's opinions that I've heard before about Swan being the definitive Superman artist for them.
Chris Simpson keeps his collection well catalogued. He didn't include any commentary, but the numbers are impressive. He has 315 comics written by Chris Claremont, 343 written by John Byrne, 405 drawn by Byrne, and 227 comics from Sal Buscema.
He also named David Michelinie as having written 219 comics in his longboxes. Impressively, he's the only one to come up with that name.
Other quick numbers: John Romita Jr. comes in with 283 drawn comics. Roger Stern makes the list with 243. Peter David falls in line at 247.
Kristopher Loman adds up a modern name that might even make my list, if I did a thorough counting:
Scott McDaniel: he's had lengthy runs on Nightwing, Batman, Superman, Robin and now Green Arrow. While his stuff is a little cartoony, it is very kinetic and has a great cinematic quality to it.
I had no problem remembering Chuck Dixon, but left McDaniel's NIGHTWING run behind. Bad me.
Over at the Pipeline Message Board, skyw1se brought up some solid numbers:
588 Roy Thomas...The work he did on the X-men and the Avengers when Stan left are still some of my favorite runs of any title...His early Conan stories that are being reprinted by Dark Horse are something completely different and it really speaks to his talent that a book like that survived.
424 Stan Lee...nothing much to be said here...I expect this number will go up as I continue to track down old titles...
When I made my list, I knew Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would be the first two names someone would come up with that weren't on my list. While I might own enough from each to qualify for this list, I felt bad adding them in since I didn't read most it. I once bought the ESSENTIAL volumes ravenously. When I realized I wasn't reading any of it, I stopped. Nice to own, but also not something I'm terribly interested in.
As for more recent writers:
254 Geoff Johns.. I was very nervous when David Goyer was leaving JSA to this guy I had never heard of, but Geoff quickly showed why he is the best of the current writers bar none...
253 Dan Jurgens
232 Kurt Busiek
217 Jim Starlin
I'm glad we got a good number out of Geoff Johns here. Ditto Dan Jurgens, and that's just for his writing? It makes sense to me now, but I wouldn't have thought of it originally. Panjisudoyo chimes in with --
John Cassaday is slowly reaching the 75-issue mark, I think, with 27 issues of Planetary and 20-odd issues of Astonishing X-Men added with his Captain America run and his Planetary/Batman special in my collection..If only he wasn't so slow..But hey, quality trumps quantity anytime..
I wonder just how close he is. I have his UNION JACK mini-series, plus his DESPERADOES mini-series. Add in the PLANETARY stuff and ASTONISHING X-MEN and CAPTAIN AMERICA and various one-offs, and he is getting close to 75.
It is Trip, however, who wins the award for most obscure artist to coast into this list:
Alex Saviuk - he must have penciled at least 75 Web of Spider-Man issues, right?
According to ComicBookDB.com, Saviuk falls barely shy of 75 for WEB, even adding in a couple of Annuals. However, he's done enough other work over the years -- including an early 80s run on ACTION COMICS -- that he should easily qualify for someone's collection out there.
Other names came up, of course. Notably, Stan Sakai with USAGI YOJIMBO and Sergio Aragones with GROO each chart well over 75 issues. If you want to count his margin work in MAD as comics writing, then you could probably push Aragones past 200 issues as a writer, as well. Guy Davis' name came up once or twice. With SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER and all the B.P.R.D. work of recent years, I'm inclined to trust that number. Gil Kane is in there. Nobody mentioned Ross Andru, that I can recall, but I'm sure he'd qualify for a few people out there.
Believe it or not, this isn't the end of this thread of conversation. There are a couple of spin-off discussions that come from this that we'll look at in the coming weeks. For now, thanks for all your input. I'm glad you all had a chance to think about your collection for just a little bit. It's all too easy to bag, board, box, and forget. Exercises like these are great memory ticklers. Hopefully, it led you to pull something out of a box to read again.
More than 800 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.