View Full Version : Returning to comics

20-04-2004, 09:03:31
Well with the imminent release of the City Of Heroes MMORPG i've been reinspired to revisit the world of comic books, something which for many years was a real hobby and passion of mine.

When i was a kid, i think my first contact with American Superhero comic books was through two sources : reprinted spiderman and x-men stories released by Marvel UK, (this was the very first x-men stuff, originally written in the sixties); and actual current DC comics from my local newsagent. The latter were my greatest enjoyment, titles like The New Teen Titans, Batman, Green Lantern, and my favourite, The Legion of Super Heroes. For a few years i used to collect these series every month.

AT some point in my early teens a comic shop opened up near where i lived and comic collecting became much more of a hobby. I began to pick up lots of series i had never seen before, becoming a regular buyer of series like The Punisher, Thor, X-men, New mutants, Usagi Yojimbo, Justice League Europe and many, many others.

I had something of a break at some point, but got back into comic collecting right about the time of the relaunch of x-men #1. I supose this was something of a high water mark for superhero comics: Spider-man #1 had just broken 1 million copies sold and X-men #1 sold far more than that, as much as 6 million copies. Big name artists like Todd Mcfarlane, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were dominating the comic book market, and 'cool' characters were the vogue. Crossovers, gate-fold covers and a million other gimmicks were screaming out from the shelves. But through the hype,
some great comics were being made, and the early issues of X-men and X-Force rank among the best classic-style super hero comics i have ever seen. Jim Lee's art in this period is still a pleasure to behold.
Dc was having great sucess at this time with it's alternative Vertigo label, and arguably two of the biggest stars of all at this time were Sandman and Sandman writer Neil Gaiman. But in all
honesty I never really got into this stuff, preferring the more conventional super hero stories.

The biggest change came when Image launched and the big names split from Marvel to do their own thing. Unfortunately, despite 'cool' artists and 'cool' characters, comic book writing took a terrible dive. Many of the Image comics featured appalling levels of writing and dialogue, and gimmicks such as killing off big name characters (who always miraculously returned) became commonplace in all the companies' titles. The market was falling over itself to imitate a few success stories and as a consequence the snake ended up eating it's own tail. As i began to get into 'serious' literature i couldn't take it any more; I stopped collecting comics.

At uni, discovering the internet let me keep abreast of developments in the comic world, but the only comics that i read in that time were the old Giffen-era Legion of Super Heroes, Usagi

Yojimbo, and the Alan Moore series V for Vendetta and Watchmen. All of these were suitably mature enough for my tastes, and in the case of Watchmen, as great a work of art as anything i've encountered. But i never felt a desire to return to the world of Super Hero stories.

Since then i've not really had anything to do with comics for many years.

As far as i can tell, the scene suffered something of a crash two or three years after the Image split, and the market is still recovering from that. The likes of Image now publish many independent and edgy titles, and much of the imitative super hero fare has disappeared completely. Some things never change though, and DC and Marvel still turn out most of the same classic titles and characters that were around several years ago, but the impression i get is
that after a long period of dumbing down, the market has grown up somewhat and has stopped preaching to the lowest common denominator and returned to trying to please the comics fan.

Hopefully that means this will be a good time to check a few things out.

The Mad Monk
20-04-2004, 14:57:03
Is Image going down?

20-04-2004, 15:14:15
Not from what i can tell. Wildstorm or Top Cow or whatever it's called, basically Jim Lee's bit, has gone over to DC, but the rest of Image seems to be strong, they have loads of titles out, and Spawn is still a triple A title.

20-04-2004, 21:21:24
Ah, so you love comics.

I used to be into them, had a store in the late 1980s in fact.

Marvel fell apart in the late 90s, runied by Liefeld's Image, and he ironically went back and tried to rebuild Marvel, but I'm told it was never the same.

DC has put out some excellent things, but also the worst crap, depending on era and title.

As for favorites, my favs will always be what I grew up with, the first 120 issues of Fantastic Four, the first 100 Spiderman, Thor from about 101-180, and again when Simonson takes him over, X-men in the Berne-Clairmont era, a lot of that stuff.

Plenty of others also.

22-04-2004, 16:32:24
Although I collected some when I was younger, I never got much into superhero stuff and tended to stick pretty exclusively to the more mature/serious things. The last few times I went into a comics shop, I was pretty well left cold by everything I saw, I've found nothing that interests me in recent years. That being said...

Watchmen is superb, no arugments there.

KG, if you're looking for some more things in the Watchmen vein, some suggestions follow. You'll have to dig through back issue bins to find them, but they're well worth the hunt.

Give Me Liberty - written by Frank Miller, art by Dave Gibbons(same artist as did Watchmen). Apocalyptic story that doesn't take itself overly seriously, but yet manages to pull lots of emotional surprises out of characters that are surprisingly well realized. It wasn't an ongoing series, but rather a bunch of limited run mini-series. The first 4 issue series was the best. Long out of print, but has been collected into a trade paperback that should still be around.

Starstruck - Probably published in the early to mid 80's and is very difficult to find. Was originally published by Epic comics and later expanded and reprinted by Dark Horse. Written by Elaine Lee with art by Michael Kaluta, was an amazingly involving and complex story set in a sci-fi future. Hilarious, emotional and action packed, excellent stuff. Was originally written as an obscure play. I would recommend this to anyone, a background in literature would actually be helpful in fully appreciating it.

Airtight Garage - by Moebius. Original volumes are all but impossible to find, but the series has been collected and reprinted several times. Exploitative and wierd, but very fun.

The Elsewhere Prince - I forget who wrote or drew this, but it's based on the Airtight Garage universe. Took the whacked out ideas Moebius came up with and created a serious, coherent story out of them. End result was a standard, fairly predictable plot that took some very interesting twists as it tried to remain true to the rules of Moebius' hallucinatory universe.

Stray Toasters - Written and illustrated by Bill Seinkiewicz. Four issue mini-series published around 1990 or so. Completely odd and wierd fantasy story about an alcoholic and psychotic detective trying to solve a murder while the devil, on vacation for a bit, rents the apartment upstairs from him. Written in stream of consciousness and has all water colored imagery that swings back and forth between super realism and hyper dream/nightmare imagery. Ultimately shallow, but very interesting and involving.

Elektra: Assassin - Okay, so this one is, in a small way, about superheroes. Eight issue mini series published in the mid to late 80's by Epic (I think), again by Bill Seinkiewicz, though I think Frank Miller wrote it. Elektra is the same Elektra from the Daredevil comics/movie, this series takes a very involved look at her background and inner workings. Story is typical comics over-the-top crud, but with lots of psychological subtext and a very involving and unique story telling style. Bill's visuals are never less than amazing.

Moonshadow - Written by J. M. DeMatteis and illustrated by John Muth. I can't decide if this series is brilliant or crap, but whichever it was never less than beautiful. All water colored art with an intense coming-of-age story that plumbs the process of how a boy becomes a man. Unfortunately set in a sci-fi/fantasy world with lots of gratuitous comics crap and an ending that will leave you scratching your head and underwhelmed, it is nevertheless well worth a read.

Ummm, that's about it. If you like Frank Miller, check out the original series of Sin City (black and white over-the-top film noir crime story). Hellboy by Mike Mignola is interesting for all the obscure occult stuff it details, though Hellboy himself is a rather uninteresting character. It's kind of like dropping Wolverine into an H.P. Lovecraft story. If I think of any others, I'll drop them in later.

22-04-2004, 16:45:45
Oh yeah, almost forgot Japanese Manga.

An excellent read is Appleseed by Masamune Shirow. Currently stands at four volumes of about four issues each, each of which has been collected into trade paperbacks. Near future post apocalypse story that explores an attempt to create a utopian society. Takes the perspective of a pair of mercenaries that get drafted in to fill out the ranks of an elite police force that works to keep the utopia safe and spends a lot of time on amazingly detailed and choreographed fight scenes, but also contains incredibly dense discourse on what a utopian society would look like and why it probably can't be achieved. Highly recommended.

2001 Nights - by Yukinobu Hoshino. Highly realistic extrapolation on how mankind might step out into space and begin exploring the universe. Highly technical yet very character driven and emotional. Artwork is refreshingly devoid of the typical manga style, everything is very realistically drawn and imagined. Very cool series.

Domu - by Katsuhiro Otomo, the fellow that wrote Akira. This is a four issue series about a psychic battle between an old man and a young girl in a typical Japanese apartment block. Story and action tend to be very kung-fu over-the-top, but the details of the apartment block, the way it squashes people together but keeps them isolated from each other, how it actually allows this amazing contest to remain unseen and unnoticed for much of the story, is captavating. There's a lot more here than just the story, a very interesting commentary on Japanese society that takes place entirely in the subtext.

Okay, that's really it for now.

22-04-2004, 17:13:10
Oh god...don't do it. I've blown so much money on this stuff lately.

22-04-2004, 19:09:52
Thanks for the tips Guy :beer:

Actually i already am a huge Appleseed fan, got into the books around 10 years ago :o.

I love Masamune Shirow's art, have Orion too.

22-04-2004, 20:19:28
Appleseed is one of the things that initially drew me into comics in the first place, it's one of the first things I ever collected. I have everything Shirow has ever published (everything that's been translated into English, that is), though I have to say that his more recent work is sliding away from the high-minded technical stuff and into more pornographic territory, which is sad. Orion and Dominion are both excellent (though much less serious) and the first Ghost in the Shell series was very good as well. Most of the rest of his work you can probably skip and not miss much.

If you like Appleseed, you'll definitely like 2001 Nights. The action is a lot more cerebral than physical, but it's got the same deep approach to some complex ideas.

Another one I just thought of is Alien Legion from Epic. The original series of 20 issues was published in the 80's, followed a squad in a sci-fi army setting. Did a very good job of representing the horrors and randomness of war with lots of gutsy plot twists (they weren't afraid to kill off popular main characters or have the good guys loose in big ways). The first 10 issues, pencilled by Frank Scirocco, were excellent. Last 10 got a bit silly, but were still better than most of what was out at the time.

23-04-2004, 00:07:32
There was also a Alien Legion Graphic Novel, that went with the series.

23-04-2004, 01:08:20
What's this, our comics collecting biographies?:D

Well I started out with Beano and my Mum's boyfriend started collecting 2000AD from the beginning - which was far better than crappy Beano...

Collected all the Starlords (originator of Strontium Dog and Ro Busters -> ABC Warriors) when they came out until they combined with 2000AD. Also collected Battle around then too - but stopped when that joined with Action Force!

Around '87 we moved and there was a proper comics shop literally 200m from where I lived, so that is where I started collecting my weekly 2000ADs - instead of from a newsagent.

Got to know the comic shop guys really well and was getting bored with 2000AD (and running out of room!), so asked about recommendations. Nick recommended Hellblazer and Sandman - so Hellblazer was my first proper comic purchase!

As the years wore on I collected the likes of limited issue stories like Marshal Law, Elektra, Stray Toasters, Give Me Liberty, Skreemer, World Without End, Hard Boiled etc. Plus back collecting the likes of Watchmen.

Somewhere around '92 I stopped collecting when I went to New Zealand.

A couple of years ago I sold the bulk of my collection on Ebay, but still own the Hellblazers, Sandmans, Watchmen and my pride and joy - Marshal Law!

Well that's me!:)

23-04-2004, 10:03:05
'Watchmen' is available in the '3 for 2' promotion at my local Waterstones.

Glad to see the Moebius recommendataion above. (Don't let Qweeg see it!)

Greg W
22-05-2004, 08:00:22
Mmmm, I read a heap of 2000AD when I was younger. Judge Dread, Strontium Dogs, ABC Warriors. Jeese, there must have been more. Been that long that I have forgotten a lot of it.

OMG, I can't believe that I forgot Rogue Trooper, one of my Faves... :nervous:

17-07-2006, 14:53:15

Some good comics series i have read recently:

Nice concept, kids find out their parents have super powers, unfortunately they also find out they're super-villains and so they go on the run from them. Has a kind of buffy/oc-type dialogue, a nice clean art style, and a few good twist and turns in the story. I have volume 2 as well but haven't started it yet.

The Ultimates
Ultimate Marvel has a few cool books, but the Ultimates is the jewel in the crown. It has a real epic scope and a beautifully imagined world where super hero realism comes closer to being brought to life than at any point since Watchmen.

Ultimate Six
Another Ultimate line, this time the Sinister Six reimagined in the same style as the above. Sightly disappointing ending but on the whole brilliant.

Villains United
One of the pre-crisis mini series DC released last year, focusing on power struggles between two villain groups. Did a nice job of showing the human side of the bad guys, without glossing on the brutality.

Seven Soldiers
I'm at a bit of a loss to describe this, but it's really good.

17-07-2006, 17:17:12

I'm looking forward to that^

19-07-2006, 10:36:58
a high school cheerleader discovers she is unbreakable


Fergus & The Brazen Car
22-07-2006, 08:59:59
My first collecting bug...

I still remember the excitement those beautifully coloured and drawn images had on me at the tender age of four...

In Coventry where I grew up you could buy them from newsstands in the city centre or your local newsagents, but delivery and availability could be erratic. Still I cherish my memory of the 'Pop Art' Thors, the 'new' Avengers when Hawkeye and Pietro and Wanda joined, the far out and groovy covers to 'Nick Fury, Agent of Shield', Adams's art for Marvel and D.C., and Gene Colan's amazing work for Dr. Strange and Dracula.

Aaahh, D.C. giants, annuals and the dollar comics in the early Seventies, Barry Windsor-Smith on Conan, Mike Ploog on Werewolf By Night and the great black and white more adult line that Marvel brought out....

Nowadays I read Hellboy, Kurt Busiek's Astro City line, Top Ten, B.P.R.D. and Planetary.

22-07-2006, 14:03:04
I rememeber those early books Fergus.

Pop art Thors are I think 1965 or 1966.

Man, its been years since I bought a comic book.

24-07-2006, 14:32:39


28-07-2006, 13:01:32
Major Victory is my hero

I liked Who Wants to be a Superhero

31-07-2006, 07:23:35
Originally posted by Guy

Stray Toasters - Written and illustrated by Bill Seinkiewicz. Four issue mini-series published around 1990 or so. Completely odd and wierd fantasy story about an alcoholic and psychotic detective trying to solve a murder while the devil, on vacation for a bit, rents the apartment upstairs from him. Written in stream of consciousness and has all water colored imagery that swings back and forth between super realism and hyper dream/nightmare imagery. Ultimately shallow, but very interesting and involving.

...and there was I thinking that I was the only one who had read this. Interesting story...but the art work is sublime, wish I knew were I put the bloody things (along with all my V for Vendettas).

25-07-2007, 09:07:51
bump as i've been reading a few comics again lately

Invincible - really good, about a teenager whose dad is basically superman. he develops powers too and is trying to make his own way as a hero.

Powers - noir/detective thing about two cops who deal with cases involving super heroes.

The Authority - Kind of what would happen if a Justice League type team tried to take over the world to right its ills

25-07-2007, 09:11:04
Oh and something amusing happened yesterday. I was reading a thread on the Comic Book Resources forums about how a team is working on relaunching Youngblood. I made a post saying i didn't think it was such a great idea, and Erik Larsen, pretty much top dog at Image now and creator of Savage Dragon, formerly one of my favourite comics as a teenager, came in and responded to the post personally.

You can read it here: http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=182235

Erik is actually a pretty good chap, he writes a reglar column for CBR and is very open and honest with his views.

25-07-2007, 09:17:07
I totally agree with you about Youngblood.

30-07-2007, 19:50:52
Reading The Walking Dead and Marvel Civil War trades these days. The former is just good old fashioned zombie stuff...the latter is...well...a Civil War. Can't believe they killed Cpt. America...one of my favorites!

14-08-2007, 10:18:44
Read Batman: Arkham Asylum on the weekend. Very good, but felt a bit short. Typical Grant Morrisson work though, lots of layers, refrences, symbolism, etc. Surprised it sold as well as it did though, i'd have thought the weirdness and art style wouldn't have endeared it to a lot of comic fans.

I bought three Stormwatch TPB's too, the ones that Ennis worked on before Authority. Not started on those yet though.