Monday, December 13, 2004

Comics With Soul

It's been a while since 'Nuther World Comics #1 was printed. Almost a year now. Work on #2 was halted around July when I went through a couple job changes. Everything seems to be settling down and I'm starting to get back into the groove of things.

During my downtime, I spent a bit of time trying to determine what my target audience is. Previously, 'NWC was targeted towards college-level readers. A little alternative. I like the freedom of doing an anything goes independent comic.

I've also been taking the time out to see what exactly my influences are. What made me the way I am? What do I want to see more of in comics?

To which I discovered that there's a lot. More than I can really mention. Of course, there are some that are more prominent than the rest. And it changes constantly as I'm subjected to different ideas and styles.

I still list the Hernandez Brothers as an influence, with Love and Rockets. Love and Rockets is one of the most well known independent comics ever, with a long history. It's been going for just over twenty years now. My most treasured item of theirs is the "Ten Years of Love and Rockets" special. In it, both Jaime and Gilbert give pointers on doing a comic, detailing their methods. It's this book that really opened me up to their work.

I also still list Mike Allred. Granted, although I haven't read anything he's done since he started on X-Force, I still think he's a very talented artist and writer. The reason why I like him so much is that when he's doing both, writing and drawing, he's awesome. His art is a poppish, clean style, not too far removed from the Hernandez Brothers. Madman Adventures was my first introduction to his work, and I highly reccomend it and Madman Comics. Still looking forward to that 105 issue run he had planned. ;-)

Other artist/writers (also known as cartoonists because they do both) I've encountered that had a similar style as the above quickly found me liking their stuff. Most notably Jay Stephens with Atomic City Tales and David Hahn with Private Beach.

Oddly enough, the reason why I got into the styles of Los Bros Hernandez and Mike Allred was because of my exposure to Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League International comics. These were the comics that in light of such comics industry changing books such as The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen (both really great tales which revolutionized comics in the mid-'80s) still held onto the concept of "fun" comics. Not entirely silly but hardly serious, the book kept a tongue-in-the-cheek approach to super-heroes. Eventually a core group of characters surfaced that made the book feel more human than anything else at the time. With art by Kevin Maguire or Adam Hughes (before he resigned himself to doing just covers), JLI lasted for sixty issues, with a sister magazine, Justice League Europe, running thirty-six issues. Both were changed the month after Giffen and DeMatteis' departure to a more commercially acceptable format. But with fan response, the team has come back to do two follow up stories that reunited most of their signature characters.

So, I really must give credit to Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire and Hughes for introducing me to the idea that comics really can be fun. Even without a punch being thrown. And they in turn need to thank ABC's Moonlighting tv series for my quick acceptance of their approach. Moonlighting was the first time that that I was exposed to tongue-in-cheek humor with snappy dialogue. It was a show that was fueled more by dialogue and characterization than anything else. Adam Hughes even did a Moonlighting-type comic, called Maze Agency, before he was brought into JLI.

Peter David had a short stint with this sort of storytelling with Marvel's X-Factor. Unfortunately, Marvel wasn't as excited about the approach as would have been liked.

Recently, I've discovered Gail Simone's Birds of Prey and it's every bit as fun as the JLI. It's nice to see at least one current title that keeps me entertained on that level. Gail gets alot of my respect for breathing life into a medium that has almost forgotten what "fun" means.

Joss Whedon, with Buffy and Firefly, has brought the snappy banter back with mixed results. Although his Astonishing X-Men is taking a while for me to get into (perhaps because they're not his creations), I find his dialogue the best in comics or television.

Another side of comics that has in some way clicked with me the most is urban crime. When I first really started reading comics (back in 1982) I read mostly Marvel. Of those the ones I liked the most were the vigilante types, Daredevil, Spider-Woman, Power Man and Iron Fist. And once I found him, Moon Knight. These comics not only had a similar feel but they had one key thing in common: They were all edited by Dennis O'Neil. Dennis O'Neil had set the comic world on fire when he was writing Green Lantern for DC Comics. In his stories, with the inclusion of a vigilante character of DC's (Green Arrow), Green Lantern was brought more down to earth with subjects such as urban crime and drugs. When I discovered, years later, that Daredevil, Spider-Woman, Moon Knight and Power Man and Iron Fist were all edited by one person and who that person was, I started paying much more attention to not only writers and artists but also to editors of comics. Generally speaking, if you like one comic, you'll often find that you'll like another book that they edit.

The urban crime influence has continued, however as mostly a spectator thing. I enjoy 100 Bullets, the current Daredevil series and Gotham Central. I like shows such as Sopranos and anything by Quentin Tarantino.

Quite a contrast to the "fun" comics that I listed above.

But these all have one thing in common: they all focus on character. The stories are character driven and their characters are as human as you and me (well, except for the few aliens that may appear in JLI -although most of them still come off more human than your average comic character).

Another influence currently is my fascination with the Silver Age of comics. Especially the 12-cent era. The simplistic way of storytelling. The way they were able to tell such entertaining (and fun) stories in just one issue. And somestimes fitting more than one story in a book. The idea of a free continuity, one that followed the same as a tv sitcom. Where you could come into it whenever you wanted and still enjoy it. The stories usually brought the characters back to where they were when the book opened. With special character specific stories often that did change a character in some way whenever a book needed to be freshened up or energized.

And it could be argued that my interest in the Silver Age comics could be a result of my fondness for Mike Allred's Madman, which is heavily influenced, itself, by that period.

So after much speculation over my influences and what I like currently in comics, I would like to say that whatever the outcome, these are the people who I have to thank. They are the ones who have driven me to where I am. I may never become a big name creator, but I would be thrilled if someone was to one day list me alongside any of the above.

1 comment:

Psychbloke said...

Jeez - Madman - that was great. My copies definitely survived the recent great comics purge.