Once again I find myself coming to sit down at the keys, trapped between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, Siege #3 was a mess: the off-camera narratives are called into action an issue earlier than usual, those little boxes that chat to each other to explain the splash pages were looking at. We’ve seen them as far back as Avengers: Disassembled and by now, it’s a little like someone explaining the plot to you while you’re trying to watch TV. Buckets of characters are being dumped in with little care for purpose and purely for shock and awe. The Hood and his criminal pals aren’t going to really make that much of a difference when the camera is so clearly focused on what Captain America is doing. Stature, despite being so tall, is going to be little more than a head in the crowd and really, when we all look back at this, it’s not going to make a difference that the Taskmaster was there or not (well, it will be relevant, just in another book where these things matter). And while we came in under the impression that this was going to be a Siege of Asgard, a very greedy man fighting against godly powers, where heroes are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with Thor and his pantheon…. well, no spoilers but Siege #3 really changed its mind on that. Just like Secret Invasion changed its mind at the last issue about heroes fighting aliens and gave the credit to a dude some readers were confused was even in the fight. A disappointing ending is starting to sound more and more likely the longer one thinks about it.
And I think about it a lot! Too much, probably. Being a fan on the internet, it’s in my very nature to complain, rattle my bars and rail against the wind for being too cold and getting hair in my face. Is this going to change the weather? No, but in some way it makes me feel a little bit better and here’s where that other hand and the hard place come in: my complaints do nothing. Aside from one sad exception, you can’t rage against the machine and then have the machine turn around and apologize for doing its job. No one likes a whiner, but being a doer is a job commendable of a name tag on a con panel. It’s good to give constructive criticism from time to time but it’ll bog you down eventually until you find something that lifts you up, gets inspirational and gets you moving. Sometimes the squeaky wheel should apply it’s own grease if it wasn’t results.
So I picked up a copy of Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way. Let’s be a doer.
I loved my worn old copy of How to Draw the Marvel Way; as a wide-eyed teen reading X-Men books, it was practically my road map into the world of comic book art. Specified drawing lessons geared towards the medium but just enough of the basics as well. A quick tutorial on how to proportion the male figure included notes about how ‘heroic’ he had to look next to the common man. A full chart of how much action to put into a shot. Various types of inking lines used to give depth to the work. How covers and panels were designed to convey sequential story to the reader. All this, plus that Stan Lee charm sprinkled on every page, like The Man himself was just as excited as you were to be learning all this. While I still may be a mediocre scribbler, the book still stays with me as it gave me a better appreciation for the art in my favorite comics. At work, if a Mom or a Dad wants to get their kids a drawing book because he “loves comics so much”, I hand them this book with pride.
I’ll admit, Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way #1 had some pretty big shoes to fill, but the title was broad and, after attending enough convention panels, would be personal and unique for the hungry reader. It could at least show some avenues in and give some pointers from popular writers and artists, some tips and tricks on how to defeat the Entry Boss so you can get the next Level. If anything, it would give you a little insight into how this industry works. There’s no PhD in Comic Book Lettering, so how does one even start to get such a job?
Opening up the book, I found myself with 6 new rather delightful stories. The artists had been part of C.B. Cebulski’s Chesterquest new talent hunt and the writers were Bullpen regulars. At the end of the stories there was a short letter from our illustrious EIC and then some short, narrow columned Q&As with the artists in the book and a couple surprises.
While I did enjoy the book, this wasn’t exactly what I was expecting here. Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way kind of suggests a “How to” aspect, some example of accomplishing the task on the cover of the book (and no, not how to get Spider-Man and Spider-Woman to stand next to each other). And while the Breakout artists got maybe a thumb’s worth of explanation on their experiences, it kind of came down to the Chesterquest search or perseverance.
But then again, what would you call this twi-issue mini-series? Expectations aside, it’s more like a New Talent Showcase than How to Showcase Your Own Talent. Sadly, New Talent Showcase doesn’t exactly sell books; Marvel has tried in various ways and formats to try and get us to believe in the rookie, from a new volume of Amazing Fantasy comics to your pal and mine, Marvel Comics Presents. I believe Amazing Fantasy was Fred Van Lente’s first work for Marvel, created some fun revamps for old characters and never made it past issue #20. 2007’s Marvel Comics Presents never made it past issue #12.
Anthology books can create comic superstars. It’s a great big boot to put in the door (or, say ‘Axe’ since Joe Quesada is ready for the door to get broken down!) and a low risk excitement for the publisher. You get eight pages to shine, they get to try out a new character or idea on the comic buying public and that comic buying public gets a selection of fresh stories and ideas when regular comics make us (ok, me) grumpy. Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way gives you some great examples on how to tell a short in a small amount of time, an economy of panels and how much drama one can fit in under simple premises. It doesn’t tell you how to break into comics, it does in fact show you how one might want to present themselves in order to make a impact.
At the end of the book, the EIC gives us a challenge: BRING IT. In return, I’d like to give him a challenge in return: Give us some place to BRING IT to. Minis like Girl Comics and Strange Tales get a lot of good buzz, so maybe think of a regular anthology series with a new theme every month. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be every month, a bi-monthly book with a reasonable price tag would certainly find its way into the curious public’s hands and feel less like a burden on a bogged down pull list.
We all know that no one walks in off the street and is handed the keys to Amazing Spider-Man. By supporting a book of short stories, it gives the aspiring comic creator a brass ring within their reach, a way to write Spider-Man and live out a dream come true for all their hard work and efforts. Maybe we can brag that we read Hotshot Writer or saw Amazing New Artist way before everyone else because we caught their star on the rise in an issue of Marvel Comics Presents. Maybe that Hotshot or Amazing Artist could be you.
We should have a book that could potentially have our name on it, with a little elbow grease, hard work and perseverance. Then maybe, when I get too negative about a direction or storyline, I can remind myself to put up or shut up. This is Our Universe, after all.
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