Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Marvel Zombies

Comics fans are a funny bunch, they scream and howl and threaten boycotts but never stop buying their Marvel fix. The latest "outrage" to upset Marvel fans has been the resetting of Marvel continuity to remove the "Spider-Man marriage". The man in charge at Marvel, one Joe Quesada, has whipped the fans into a frenzy of polarised hate it love it ecstasy. As with everything that's happened in Marvel comics since Stan Lee hired fans as writers everything is tied to this obsession with continuity. Spider-Man never got married and some 20 years worth of story are no longer canon and as such no one knows for sure what continuity is anymore.

I've always been more of a story fan than a continuity fan. I like a good story where the character behaves true to himself. Having Spider-Man start using a gun would not be true to the character, having Spider-Man make a deal with the Devil would not be true to the character. As I understand it Spider-Man didn't make the deal, Mary Jane did out of her love for Peter Parker and his Aunt. It may have been a crappy story but it was true to character in both cases. Mary Jane's story has mostly been about what she's willing to sacrifice for Peter Parker/Spider-Man.

More importantly perhaps, the stories still exist. If you choose to reread a certain set of stories then Pete and Mary Jane are still married and in that sense always will be.

Most importantly, "Brand New Day" was a good Spider-Man story. Dan Slott wrote a good story with many classic Spider-Man moments. I haven't really read Spider-Man for some twenty years or more but I read "Brand New Day" and I enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The wife's first boyfriend

Karen's been going through her and Molly's keepsakes. Karen's included love letters from her first boyfriend. Curiousity gets the better of me in these situations so we just had to Google him. Currently the slushly what not is playing professional Basketball for the Teesside Mohawks. Steven Butler, the boy in question, has been playing professional basketball for more than ten years and as a teenager wrote the soppiest letters ever written. His teasm mates would love them.


I've just sent off my essay and reflection for my OU course so I've the opportunity to breath for a moment. Word counts are a killer, trying to "compare and contrast the portrayal of women in mid-Victorian times using two texts" in 1000 words was absolute murder. I had texts by John Ruskin, well known Pre-Raphaelite fanboy, and Henry Mayhew, less well known writer and journalist. Mayhew wrote extensively about the Victorian London poor in a vaguely responsible version of tabloid journalism.

My initial draft of the essay ran to 1500 words and contained a great deal of what I thought was interesting supplimentary material that gave greater background to the essay. Cutting much of this in the editing phase was quite disheartening but the final essay reads well. Ruskins divorce put his writing in such perfect context and Mayhew's friendships with other writers and his visits to the Court of Bankruptcy made his writing about prostitution among needlewomen all the more sympathetic.

I can't say I'm looking forward to the next module.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

in defence of Don Heck

I was reading the rather excellent website comics comics about the nature of craft and how it's tied to the influences peculiar to the time and place that an artist grew up in. The idea posited was that no modern artist can be , for example, Alex Toth, no matter how hard they try to emulate his style, because they didn't grow up subject to the same environmental influences. They can build on the techniques he used influenced by their own environmental influences. It's an interesting idea, and one with a great deal of validity but not what really got my attention. No what got my attention was this "Don Heck, long reviled as one of the worst hacks in the Marvel Bullpen, was a solid storyteller." The writer, Frank Santoro never commented on the "worst hack" label but offered up Heck as an example of a solid story teller who knew how to structure a page. Most comics fans my age(43) and younger mostly know Heck from his work on books like Wonder Woman back in the mid seventies. To be perfectly frank these books are not his best work and are not helped by the stories he was illustrating. It would probably be fair to say that by the seventies Heck was being sidelined as fill in artist and a man past his prime. A fate that befell many of his colleagues from the fifties and sixties much more quickly and was unfair to Heck as he was only in his 40's at the time. Heck was a strong, fluid artist who had not only a great grasp of storytelling but could produce a powerful cover image as well.
Avengers 36 cover

I had the good fortune to see much of Don Heck's Marvel work in reprint during the seventies thanks to Marvel UK reprint books and his Avengers was probably my first favourite book. His renditions of the Avengers gave a constant sense of the power of them. His Captain America was large and dominating, his Quicksilver all sleek lines and his Scarlet Witch could have bewitched my 9 year old self quite happily.

Heck's misfortune was to be a solid craftsman and storyteller in an age when fans were entering the business as professionals and readers were demanding whistles and bells over quality. It's suprising looking back at the seventies how many of the artists who entered comics then, Brunner, Wrightson, Kaluta, Windsor Smith and Ploog, to name but a few were better known for their illustration work or illustrational style. And if you look at what has reprinted from that time, it's interesting to note how much of it is the solid storytelling work of men like Heck, Kirby, Colan, Swan, Kubert and men of their generation. 30 Years from now will the big companies, if they still exist in the same form they do now, be reprinting people like MacFarlane in the same way?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

comics reviews

I've got a second site, called "Blues in the Dark", where I'm now reviewing items from my weekly comics purchases. There are three reviews there already so do check it out.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year

Well like many people I started the year by taking stock and reviewing various parts of my life and considering resolutions. Last year was not a bad year all in all. It had it's low points, some of which were very low, but artistically particularly it was a pretty good year.

Sensibly this year I kept my resolutions simple. Last year I drew more than I have in probably the last five, this year I intend to draw more. I'm not setting myself goals such as drawing daily as they seem to suck the pleasure out of drawing. My other resolution is a little more difficult. It's to follow a creative idea through to the end, not give up. Somewhere along the line I forgot that for most of us who have the creative desire it's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration and while it's fun it's also requires work to create something.

I have aims for the year though, ideas I want to follow through,

There's a western, "2000 miles", which is currently a story outline waiting to happen. Probably in comic form and 16 pages."A horde of winter gods" is a supernatural love story, there's an idea for a kids book that I've been batting around in my head for several years now and finally there are a couple of pictures (paintings) living in my head at the moment that need to come out. There may be a story to go with them, I'm not entirely sure.

Of course I hit a first bump within days of the new year starting. Climbing into the loft to put the Christmas Decorations away I managed to slice open the little finger on my drawing hand almost down to the first joint. So everytime I try to do something I'm more worried about banging my finger and the accompanying pain and when I forget to worry I inevitably hit it and end up with my eyes watering from the pain. It's still hard to believe something so stupid could hurt so much.