Monday, 28 August 2017

Happy 100th Birthday Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby, who was born 100 years ago today, created or co-created so many amazing characters, including Captain America, the X-Men, Mr Miracle, the New Gods, Kamandi, OMAC, Hulk, Etrigan, and Iron Man (to name a few). But my favourites remain the Fantastic Four.

This image is from Fantastic Four #7 (1962), one of the first FF stories I ever read, and it's a perfect example of Kirby's storytelling genius. It's not just because of the intricacy of the design, or the depth of the image & the way it conveys the scale of this alien world, or the fact that it's such a brilliant concept for an advanced, alien version of a lift. It's the way the FF are descending in character! Sue is frightened, her arms are outstretched (her status as Marvel's maternal powerhouse had not yet been established), and yet she is still falling gracefully. Reed is calm, confident, & has complete faith in the science of the alien device. Johnny has thrown his whole body into the descent in a dramatic fashion and Ben is lumbering into it face first. So much is conveyed in just one image. One page tells you everything about these characters and their adventures.

This is just one example of why Jack Kirby was a true comics genius.

Christopher Reeve's Superman Punching Donald Trump in his Stupid Face

I'm in a bad mood today so I tried to find some catharsis in drawing Superman punching that foaming imbecile Donald Trump in the face. Let me know what you think.

See also Wonder Woman Kicking Trump In The Bollocks.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Ten Unpopular Comic Book Opinions

I feel like slaying a few sacred cows! I would ask you to bear in mind that this is all just the subjective opinion of one inadequate man. So please don't hate me too much.

10. Shazam is a better name for the character than Captain Marvel & they should never change it back.

As far as I'm concerned the word 'Shazam' evokes feelings of wonder and magic much more successfully than the name 'Captain Marvel', which sounds much too militaristic. And let's face it, the Big, Red Cheese will never take his rightful place as one of DC's most prominent characters as long as he shares a name with their biggest competitor, mainly because the Warner Bros. bean counters will never allow it.

9. Cable is rubbish

I have no idea why this character is so popular. He's just a big bloke with a gun and the most convoluted backstory this side of Hawkman. His creators came up with a generic 'old, mutant, soldier, guy' and then subsequent writers filled in his backstory with gobbledygook. How anyone can actually form any sort of emotional attachment to this shallow excuse for character is a mystery to me.

8. Spider-Man is much better when he's not married

I'm with every single person who has ever written for Spidey on this one. I would take the endless cycle of Spidey dating women and then messing it up any day over the endless cycle of an angst-ridden Mary Jane waiting by a window for Spidey to come home. And while I'm on the subject of Spider-Man's marriage...

7. Spider-Man: One More Day is good

Spider-Man: One More Day was a controversial 2007 story in which Spider-Man and his wife Mary Jane make a deal with the demon Mephisto and sacrifice their marriage to save the life of Aunt May. Following this story Spidey was said to have never married and is once again depicted as a single man. Basically, everybody hates it except me.

The key to appreciating this story is realising that while you may not like it as a Spidey story, it's actually a pretty fantastic Mary Jane story.

Mary Jane knows that it doesn't make any sense to sacrifice her marriage to save an old coffin dodger like May. But she also knows her husband. She knows that having to live with the guilt over May's death on top of everything else that's happened to him would destroy him. So, it's MJ who decides to accept Mephisto's offer. It's MJ who has enough faith in her and Peter's love to know that they can find each other again, no matter what Mephisto does. MJ knows that letting May die and telling Mephisto to (literally) go to hell would be the sensible decision but she also knows that it's a decision that will prove to be the final nail in her husband's coffin. And so, she sacrifices her happiness to save her husband's sanity.

That seems like a pretty beautiful story to me.

6. Most of Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale's superhero work (including Batman: The Long Halloween) isn't very good

Spider-Man: Blue and Superman For All Seasons are both really boring, and Tim Sale constantly draws Superman with a big, fat head and a tiny little face. The much lauded scene from For All Seasons where a young boy compliments Superman's costume and he replies "Thanks, my mom made it for me" is goofy at best, and creepy at worst.

As for The Long Halloween, WHY DOES EVERYBODY DESCRIBE IT AS A MYSTERY!? IT'S NOT A MYSTERY!!! A mystery implies that the reader could follow the clues and link the threads and eventually solve the case. But not even Batman solves the case, and he's in the sodding story. A bunch of stuff happens and then a couple of different people own up to it. That's it.

I will say this for Loeb and Sale though, their Challengers of the Unknown series from the early 90s is awesome! Save the money you would have spent on The Long Halloween and find Challengers on ebay instead.

5. Chuck Dixon's Batman work is actually pretty boring

Okay, so he created Bane and Spoiler, I'll give him that. But if ever there was a writer that outstayed his welcome on a set of characters, it's Chuck Dixon on the Bat-family in the '90s. I've often seen Dixon cited as a great action writer. This begs the question, why was he writing DETECTIVE Comics for so long? If you ask me, Dixon's not even that great an action writer. He writes soap opera, and he writes a lot of it. How many times in the '90s did we see a Dixon story where Batman's family want to talk about feelings but Batman won't stop pushing them away? "Please open up to us Batman!" "No! I can't, for I am the night!" - again and again and again. To be fair this type of story didn't begin with Dixon, and it persisted throughout the '90s and into the '00s under the pen of many other writers. But Dixon is the writer I mainly associate with it and as a result I'm at a loss to explain why his Batman work is so well regarded.

4. Chuck Austen's Action Comics run is actually pretty good

Chuck Austen has a bit of a reputation among superhero fans, and not in a good way. I'm told that his writing on Uncanny X-Men in the early '00s was so bad that X-fans continue to curse his name to this day. Apparently by the time he was writing Action Comics for DC in 2004/05 his reputation was so bad that sales of the book went down. As a result, DC ended up firing and blackballing Austen. As far as I'm concerned this is a shame as I quite enjoyed his run. I liked how Austen's Superman seemed a bit more of a tough guy than he's usually depicted. I also enjoyed the way Austen gave Superman the toughest possible villains to fight, including Preus, Gog, and Doomsday. Under Austen's pen, the bad guys always felt like a credible threat. Austen's decision to reignite the rivalry between Lois and Lana proved controversial, but I quite enjoyed it. It was a nice change to see these characters act human and fallible for a change. Ok, the run wasn't perfect (what Preus does to women is horrific and unnecessary) but believe me, Austen's Action Comics is much better than you've heard.

3. Tim Burton and Danny DeVito ruined the Penguin

I'm a big fan of Tim Burton's Batman Returns and seeing it in the pictures with my best pal and my grandfather is a treasured childhood memory. I'm also big fan of DeVito's fantastic performance as the Penguin. But, DeVito's Penguin is much more of a Tim Burton creation than any version of the Penguin that had appeared in the comics up to that point. In the comics Penguin had always appeared harmless and buffoonish rather than grotesque. This made it all the more effective when he suddenly revealed the monster within and shot his victims in the face with his umbrella gun. Sadly, after Batman Returns, most depictions of the Penguin have been influenced at least in some small way by DeVito's performance. The vain, dapper, buffoonish and deadly Penguin was replaced forever more by a Penguin as monstrous without as he is within. Since 1992, the year of Batman Returns' release, Penguin has gone from Batman's second deadliest foe (after the Joker) to a deformed crime boss who Batman occasionally roughs up for information. Burton and DeVito's Penguin may have worked on the silver screen, but transferring this version to the comics has served only to make a once great baddie shallow and one-note.

2. Batman the Animated Series is overrated

So many fans celebrate this series as the definitive take on Batman and I'm always seeing Mask of the Phantasm lauded as the greatest Batman movie ever. BTAS is very good, I'll give you that, but is it the definitive take on Batman? C'mon, let's be honest, none of that "I am the night" stuff they did really worked cos at the end of the day we weren't looking at a creature of the night, we were looking at a guy with a great, big chin. It's also worth pointing out that Mask of the Phantasm strips away a huge layer of mystery from the Joker by explicitly identifying him as having once been a sleazy mob goon. The Joker's mysterious and contradictory origins are a huge part of his appeal, and I can't help but think it diminishes him if we know exactly what he was up to before he took his chemical dip.

1. Deadpool is overrated

Deadpool is probably Marvels' most popular character at the moment (next to Spidey), but I've never understood the appeal. Like Cable, Deadpool was conceived as just a cool looking character, and subsequent writers have filled in a vague and frankly uninspired backstory (it's basically not far off Wolverine's). Deadpool was created as a crude Deathstroke/Spider-Man/Wolverine mash up of the kind you'd see doodled on a 12 year old's homework, and after 25+ years he remains as such. To give credit where it's due, Joe Kelly's run on the character is pretty fantastic. But even with writers like Kelly exploring the character's motivations you have to ask, has Deadpool really developed that much over the years? Even taking into account the cyclical nature of superhero comics, Deadpool is a particularly stagnant character. A violent Loony Tune with no real depth to him.

What are your unpopular comic book opinions? Leave them in the comments section below. Let me know what you think of my unpopular opinions, but please, don't be too mad at me.

Unless of course you're Chuck Dixon. Then you can be mad at me.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Christopher Reeve vs. Henry Cavill

I drew a recreation of the cover of Superman #196 (1967) by Curt Swan and George Klein, featuring Henry Cavill and Christopher Reeve. Of course, the twist is they're BOTH the real Superman.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Wonder Woman Kicking Trump in the Bollocks

I'm in a bad mood today so I tried to find some catharsis in drawing Wonder Woman kicking that charmless sack of guts Donald Trump in the bollocks. Let me know what you think.

See also Superman Punches Donald Trump In His Stupid Face.