*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
For the Love of OGN: The ’80s (Part 1)
If it seems like I keep returning to the ’80s, it’s because that decade was of monumental importance to the comic book industry on many levels. It was during this time that a tonal shift began to pervade both storylines and art as darker, more cynical themes took hold giving rise to both Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Not only were these masterful works a reflection of the Cold War’s ever-present shadow, they succeeded in bringing the creator to the forefront of readers’ minds. They also heralded innovation by the predominantly risk averse Marvel and DC as they experimented with series length through the miniseries/limited series/maxiseries—comics intentionally created with a beginning, middle, and end—or with paper stock as could be found in DC’s Prestige Format—square-bound comics with double to triple the number of pages on a higher quality of paper and a higher cover price. What grabbed my attention first, however, was the Marvel Graphic Novel in 1982, which boasted an 8 ¼. in. x 11 in. form factor, 64 pages, and original content that you—for the most part—couldn’t find anywhere else. What you got was a not overly-large comic with noticeably more content that offered a break from the constraints of continuity and a considerably different experience than what you found in the regular titles. I was in love.
The Death of Captain Marvel is the first foray into the 8 ¼ in. x 11 in. Original Graphic Novel (OGN) format that would consume my brother and my attentions (and much of our allowances) with each release and these things came out often. Now, there were other forms of the OGN, namely some of the bookshelf-thwarting Treasury editions from the ’70s, but Marvel’s exciting, new packaging and what looked to be the actual death of a superhero we had grown to love over the past few years in the pages of The Avengers made this a must-own book. This was also where I first took notice of the name Jim Starlin and had my interest in Adam Warlock renewed to a degree that would make that character one my all-time favorites. The art is, of course, glorious, mind-bending, and unlike anything else appearing in superhero comics, with the colors providing a glimpse into the rise of expanding printing technologies through the use of different paper stocks that could better reproduce color gradients than regular ink-devouring newsprint. The story...it carried a very tangible weight, unlike anything we had ever experienced in a comic book, one that has mostly kept this much-loved character beyond the Marvel no-character-ever-stays-dead norm. The Death of Captain Marvel still affects me to this day; I think it’s time I gave my battered and beaten, much-loved copy a reread. Finding this Marvel Graphic Novel won’t be easy, but at least you can read the story in the trade paperback Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection, which you simply MUST read.
Although a handful of other Marvel Graphic Novels followed The Death of Captain Marvel, the steep price tag—compared to regular comics—kept my brother and me from scooping them up; that was until the release of The Futurians. We were well aware of Cockrum from his signature The Uncanny X-Men run and his name definitely influenced our decision to pick up this new graphic novel, but it was the new group of wonderful characters gracing the cover that commanded us to pool all resources and see what it was all about. Aliens, monsters, Earth-scale threats, and a band of mismatched heroes kept this fast-paced, thrilling adventure near and dear to our hearts for many years. Sunswift, Terrayne, Blackmane, Silver Shadow (my favorite of the bunch), Silkie, Mosquito, Werehawk, and Avatar would go on to next appear in their own ill-fated series that would sadly never finish from Lodestone Comics. After I reread this Marvel Graphic Novel, I think I’ll dig up The Futurians #1–3 so I can dwell on the greatness that could have been.
I just read this last month. I know, I know, it’s been three decades since it first released, but I honestly had forgotten about this one until I realized it was illustrated by none other than one of the pantheon of comic gods: Bernie Wrightson. Luckily, this story was reprinted in The Amazing Spider-Man: The Graphic Novels collection and is definitely the standout story of the four therein. It’s a magical tale of Spidey helping an eternally-young girl from another dimension face her literal demons. The story is fun and touching despite seeming at times…inappropriate…but it is Wrightson’s art that brings it all home with some spectacular splash pages and lovely/horrifying monsters. I must confess that some of the panels where you see both of Spider-Man’s eyes are a little off, this, however, is a minor point and otherwise the overall book knocks it out of the park. Seek this story out!
If you want swords and sorcery with a heavy emphasis on the magic, P. Craig Russell should be one of the first names that come to mind. I recently mentioned Russell’s mind-bending, psychedelic work a few installments ago (see “Trippin’ on the Visuals”) and this second book in the Marvel Graphic Novel line is a must-read entry into the world of Michael Moorcock’s famous tragic anti-hero. Here is the reading order of the comic adaptations of Moorcock’s work beyond Elric: The Dreaming City (which is actually part of The Weird of the White Wolf storyline but Russell’s art on this Marvel Graphic Novel MUST be experienced on its own, in this format):
- Elric #1–6 (Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert, published in 1983 by Pacific Comics)
- Elric: The Sailor on the Seas of Fate #1–7 (Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by Michael T. Gilbert, published in 1985 by First Comics)
- Elric: The Weird of the White Wolf #1–5 (Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert, published in 1986 by First Comics)
- Elric: The Vanishing Tower #1–6 (Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by Jan Dursema, published in 1987 by First Comics)
- Elric: The Bane of the Black Sword #1–6 (Written by Roy Thomas, illustrated by Mark Pacella and then by Mary Mitchell, published in 1988 by First Comics)
- Elric: Stormbringer #1–7 (Everythinged by P. Craig Russell, published in 1997 by Dark Horse/Topps)
If you are looking for a tale of an albino master sorcerer and his vampiric, soul-stealing sword with stunning, otherworldly imagery, then Elric: The Dreaming City needs to be part of your collection.
You didn’t think Marvel had the monopoly on OGN’s did you? Nope. Many up-and-coming companies gravitated to this format, including this sole offering from Image International (not to be confused with the publishing superstars Image Comics). Many years before I learned of the existence of the Akira Kurosawa cinematic masterpiece Seven Samurai, this OGN inspired by that highly-inspirational film was something my brother and I positively could not pass up. Seven robot samurais, long thought lost to the ravages of time, band together to reclaim their honor and protect a struggling human colony under threat of destruction from an evil alien empire. Brunner’s art is fantastic, harkening to his Howard the Duck days and at times pays homage to Moebius in this done-in-one book that does exactly what it should do: leave you wanting more. How could we not fall in love with Seven Samuroid?
This is but a tasty morsel of what the ’80s had to offer in the way of 8 ¼ in. x 11 in. graphic novels, and although Marvel was king in this particular arena during this time, I’m sure you might have noticed a certain Big Two publisher I have not yet mentioned. Don’t worry, though, they too threw their hat in the ring and I’ll get to them as well many more Marvel offerings that I have read and/or desperately want to read in the next installment.
Yes, I finished reading Extremity Vol. 2: Warrior and it is not only one of my favorite series of 2017–2018—there are only the two volumes—it is one of my favorite series of all-time. It is brutal, tragic, chilling, and a thoroughly satisfying journey I will gladly take on future rereads. On the new comic book front, I only had two books in my pull this week and I picked up an additional one on a whim that took me completely by surprise.
This Week’s Reading List
I know next to nothing about Venom. There, I said it. I recognize who the character is, I know he’s empowered by the symbiote Spider-Man wore is his “black costume” days, I know he was an unnecessary element in the Spiderman 3 movie, and I can deduce he has a TON of fans as he has had many solo series (including one by Rick Remender I should read someday) and had hundreds of appearances in other books over the past couple of decades. I understand the kids love him, I just never completely got why…now I know. I also realize I need to greatly expand the books I’ve read by Donny Cates. Venom introduces you to Eddie Brock and shows us the toll the Venom symbiote has had on the character’s life. We get a sense of Brock’s history, some hints of the others who have possessed—or been possessed by—the symbiote, and we are introduced to the adversary/adversaries that are set to torment our hero, but half of the appeal of Venom is the tone that looks to make this a legit horror book. The other half is Ryan Stegman. Stegman is also a name I have heard about for some time and now, after experiencing his oh-so-beautiful art, it is safe to say I am a fan. Here I was not buying any Marvel comics and in walks Venom to raise my eyebrow and have me looking forward to not only what comes next, but to what other works I might have missed from these powerhouse creators. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!