Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Panel Discussion: Just Sharing a Few Favorites...


Redartz:  Over the years, from time to time, I've mentioned several comics that hold a high position in my status list. Today we're going to take a brief look at several of those favorites; consider each one a hearty recommendation! Each one is a potential source of  discussion' additionally  for this 'round table' everyone is encouraged to describe/ recommend / flaunt a choice book or books that you think everyone else would enjoy. 

Each mini review will also feature a page from the tale to give you a little sample, just to tantalize. So here we go, in no  particular order:

Batman / Spirit, by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke

. This teamup of two of my favorite characters would be a natural for my 'best 'list. Even more so when rendered by the wonderful Darwyn Cooke. His retro style perfectly captures the classic feel of the classic villains abounding herein. And abound they do; many of both Batman's and the Spirit's most famous foes are involved. Loeb's story is very entertaining, and winds around a fascinating crossover between Jim Gordon, Commissioner Dolan, P'Gell and Pamela Isley. Not going to spoil it for you, but it's a hoot. And, the interplay between the two main protagonists is likewise hilarious. Any fan of either Bruce Wayne or Denny Colt will love this.

Spirit Jam, by Will Eisner and just about everybody...

Will Eisner's most famous creation gets two appearances today, and he certainly deserves it. This phenomenal tale appears in Kitchen Sink Comix' "Will Eisner's The Spirit" issue 30, from 1981. Most of this series  presented reprints of Eisner's revered work, both of the Spirit and occasionally of other subjects. But this special issue brought together an unbelievable team of creators; too lengthy to go into ; but you can get an idea from the cover. Suffice it to say that the representative page here was done by Frank Miller and Terry Austin. 

As for the story, it involves an untold Spirit adventure, wrapped in a framing sequence tying in the very creation of the story itself! As in Batman/Spirit, many of the Spririt's rogues gallery are included. The story abounds in adventure, humor, and a bit of  the risque as well. It's great fun, and a big kick trying to identify the various artists' work from page to page (if you need to cheat, there's a breakdown on the letters page). 

This book can be had for a comparative pittance, but it's worth it's weight in gold (or perhaps golden age books?).




 Jonny Quest #2, by William Messner-Loebs, Wendy Pini and Joe Staton.

 The first two reviews were pretty light-hearted; this book is one of the most heartrending comics I've ever read. It gives us both the story of how Jonny's mother died, and also how Race Bannon came to join the Quest family. As  you would expect, Race keeps the requisite amount of excitement topped off, but the real focus here is the drama. Bill Messner-Loebs truly masters this ; with the most sensitive portrayal of Benton Quest you'll ever see anywhere. The level of characterization in this issue is off the charts, and it's impossible to read without a tear or two. But fear not, Loebs finishes the tale off with an optimistic air, and it's a most satisfying read. 

Artwise, it's nice to see Wendy Pini's take on the Quest group, and Joe Staton's inks are perfect for her pencils. 

Comico's "Jonny Quest" series was quite good in it's entirety, but this issue is the capper. A masterpiece of comics at their most human.





 Sensational Spider-Man Annual 1, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.

This book came out in  2007 as part of the ongoing "Back in Black" storyline in Spider-man, following immediately on the heels of the events of  "Civil War". I did enjoy "Civil War", not so much the soon-to-follow "One More Day" story. But regardless, this book, while being a part of that controversial arc, is actually a loving tribute to the classic Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) of the Silver and Bronze age. In "To Have and to Hold", Matt Fraction tells the story of an investigator trying to get hold of Peter through his then-wife Mary Jane. But MJ isn't about to betray her Pete, and proceeds to relate story after story of their past relationship. We are treated to some very nice moments with characters we've known and loved for years, and it's a gem. 

Artist Salvador Larroca does a phenomenal job with the visuals, giving each flashback sequence  a sense of the original artists. The page I've shown here channels John Romita Sr.,; he also does a very nice Ross Andru. 

This is one of those Annuals that can stand alone on it's own merits, as a testament to the classic Spider-Man of the past. And it's portrayal of Mary Jane shows why she's still my favorite match for Peter.



Sugar and Spike 25, by Sheldon Mayer.

I could have picked almost any issue of this series, but chose this one with it's charming Halloween cover as appropriate to the upcoming holiday. Anyone who has followed this blog probably knows of my fondness for Sheldon Mayer's two tempestuous tots. These stories are warmhearted, fun, amusing, cute, and an absolute pleasure to read. There were generally a couple multi-page stories in each issue, with a short or two included as well. Then there were the '"Pint-Size Pin-Ups" pages, with reader-submitted outfits for the kids. These pages were often cut out, which means of course that finding intact copies of an issue of "Sugar and Spike" can be challenging. But it's worth the effort. These are comics that children can read, but that adults can enjoy equally (if not more). It may be some testament to the book that while I've been parting with many comics in recent years, reducing the size of my collection, I still search out issues of "S & S" in hopes of someday completing the run. Partly because the only reprinted collection available had the first 10 issues, the next 90 are available only as originals. And the search continues, to which I can only add "Glx Sptzl Glaah"...

Okay, there you have five books that keep me a comics reader. Feel free to share your thoughts on them, and to spill the beans about any particular comics that will always have a special spot in your heart!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Phenomenal review Red! It's made me late for work! This will certainly give me some "food for thought" as I travel the backroads of Chicago on a cold morning! Thanks for the hard work!

Anonymous said...

Redartz, this is a BIG topic - we'll need to limit ourselves, somewhat!

1.) Super Spider-man & Captain Britain # 247


This was my first Marvel comic. Never had Spider-man been more enigmatic. Better yet, to me, Captain Britain resembled my toy knights, somehow. It was as if the comics writers understood - as if by magic - exactly what 8 year old me liked most. Plus, I loved Captain Britain's art, what with Pablo Marcos's rich inks. The Avengers & Thor - robots (I thought Iron Man was a robot, as well as the Vision) & Viking gods - other things I loved.

2.) Mighty World of Marvel # 269-271


This Hulk story's art (Mongu/Dr.Druid, Maha Yogi, etc) in UK black & white looks better than in US colour (I've got both). Why?

The already outstanding Sal Buscema & Ernie Chan art is enhanced still further, by Brian Moore's use of "tones".

3.) Star Wars Weekly # 53


This had my first Adam Warlock story. Boy - it made an impact on me! It was Warlock's encounter with the Matriarch. To me, Warlock was Marvel's most enigmatic character - and Jim Starlin and/or Alan Weiss's use of shadows, to depict emotions, character, etc, was second to none.

4.) Jim Shooter's Avengers in black & white:




To me, Jim Shooter's Avengers was the high point of traditional superhero comics - and in black & white, it looked even better than in colour. What's more, in black & white, I got the same Pablo Marcos rich tones, that I'd loved so much in the Captain Britain story, in my very first Marvel comic - for me, things had come full circle.


Killraven said...

I'm jotting these recommendations down!

I recommend the Elseworlds story "Batman & Captain America" by Byrne.
Set during WWII with each's arch enemy and sidekicks. Fun story and beautiful art.

Redartz said...

Charlie- glad you liked the post; hope you made it to work on time!

Phillip- great point about the use of b/w and gray tones. I've not seen many of those UK editions, but what I have seen does seem to highlight the line art. You just can't beat b/w for appreciating fine comic art. Oh, and it seemed that the printing/reproduction in the UK books may have been better...

Killraven- That Elseworlds story sounds terrific! Wonder if it's available in a collected edition...

Edo Bosnar said...

Damn, it seems like Tuesdays are always these incredibly hectic days so that I always miss these posts when they're 'fresh' - and the work seems to pick up in the early afternoon (my time) right when the latest goes live.
Anyway, this is a wonderful post, Red. Your two top picks are books that I've always wanted to read, as I'm a big fan of Eisner, Cooke and, of course, the Spirit. Also, I've heard many good things about the Comico Jonny Quest series - too bad it's never been collected as far as I know.
I can wholeheartedly second the Batman/Capt. America Elseworlds - it is by far the best crossover ever, probably the best Elseworlds (a line I otherwise love) and just one of the best all-around superhero stories. Not sure if it's in any collected editions, but the book itself is pretty easy to find for a reasonable price (at least it used to be) with various online back-issue vendors.

I'll probably think of quite a few 'favorite' books eventually, but two that immediately come to mind are:
Brave & the Bold #197 - featuring the story of how the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman fell in love. Probably my favorite ever Batman story - written by the incomparable Alan Brennert, with art by Joe Staton.

X-men Annual #3 - I've mentioned before it here, at the old place, and many other places all over the internet, but I just think this is the best annual ever. It's a great action-packed story with wonderful character moments, written by Chris Claremont (of course) with art by George Perez and Terry Austin. It encapsulates everything I loved about the X-men in that period.

Anonymous said...

Redartz - Yes, it's strange. Herb Trimpe, George Tuska & Jim Mooney always looked better in colour, whereas other artists favoured black & white.

Edo - My reaction to X-Men Annual # 3 was mixed. First of all, I couldn't understand why George Perez & Terry Austin had never paired up before, so I was very eager to see the results.

To me, the George Perez Wolverine was extremely good - at least as good as Byrne. Storm was also well very done. Colossus, however, & some of the others, weren't quite as good as Byrne (in my opinion, only!)

Also, panels - in some cases - seemed cramped, to some extent. To me, this was strange, as Perez never had this problem in the Avengers, the panels of which had just as many characters to fit in.

Perhaps my reaction may have been tempered, a bit, because I'd already read Storm's encounters with imperious Dr.Doom, and imperious Dracula, first. Arkon - being another imperious character - interested in Storm - seemed slightly similar.

Largely, this is nitpicking, as it was still a very good comic!

I've looked up that Batman/Cap story. It doesn't seem that cheap, anymore!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

This may sound weird but so be it...

DC's Secret Origins #1 - I've kept it for 48 years. Beat up. Read over and over. Probably read more than any comic I own. Original origins of Batman, Superman, The Flash, and a golden age Hawkman story to boot!

Sure, there were other comics / runs of comics that were great. But something about the simplicity of Secret Origins #1.

And truth be told, the other comics I've read the most repeatedly were DC 100-page Giants. IIRC, one has the cover "Who murdered Santa Claus."

There's no explaining it. Maybe I'm just a sucker for nostalgia though at the time I bought these, they were reprinting stories only roughly 30 - 35 years old by the early 1970s and it's been 45+ years since I bought them, making the stories 75 - 80 years old now.

McSCOTTY said...

I missed that Spirit , Batman book so will need to seek that out as I love Darwyn Cookes art ( so sad he passed so young) . Special comics ( as opposed to my very favourites ) are:

Mighty World of Marvel issue 1. The first real UK Marvel weekly just so exciting to see this at the time in 1972 and it spawned so many great reprints.

Brave and the Bold 100. Lovely art by Jim Aparo on a great fun story. But for me the Neal Adams Deadman back up just blew me away

Calvin and Hobbes ( any book) not sure if it counts but a wonderful strip that could make you laugh and cry at the same time .

The Mighty Crusaders issue 4. The first US comic I bought back in 1966. Totally responsible for my love of US superheroes.

Amazing Spiderman issue 122. I had followed Peter and Gwen's relationship mostly every week in the UK Spiderman comics weekly and enjoyed it. Can't ell you how shocked I was when to hey killed Gwen off. I be was genuinely upset at to be time .

Green Lantern Green Arrow issue 85. Apart from great art by Neal Adams this was to be first comic I read that mentioned drug taking and showed it so graphically

Charlie Horse 47 said...

McScotty - Wow.

We must have been partially separated at birth or something. You have some of the exact same thoughts I do notably B&B 100, ASM 122 which I bought off the spinner and still have. Just re-read B&B 100 a few months ago. You are right that the Deadman backup steals the show.

And don't get me started on ASM 122. I think you had to be following ASM as I was at the time since issue 100, to be truly and sincerely crushed by Gwen's death. I don't know that anyone reading it after the fact in a compilation or via reminder references in subsequent issues of ASM can get it.

Redartz said...

McScotty- yes, it was a shame that Darwyn Cooke passed so young. I had the good fortune meet him at a convention once, hence his signature on the cover shown above.
And B&B 100 is a great book! Aparo and Adams in one book, irresistible. Oh, and you certainly can name Calvin and Hobbes! As you noted, it could tear your heartstrings while leaving you laughing.

Charlie- Those old DC giants were loads of fun; both the 100 pagers and the earlier Silver Age giants. You sure got a lot of bang for your buck (or fraction thereof).

Anonymous said...

I know we’ve discussed this before, but yes, I’m sure that experiencing Gwen’s death “in real time” must have been an absolutely devastating gut-punch. She’d been dead for six issues already when I bought my first issue of ASM off the spinner rack at Smith’s Food King and the residual shockwave of the event STILL carried a powerful emotional charge. At the time, the wound was still pretty raw — Peter was trying to deal with her loss as best he could, but most days was almost overwhelmed with sorrow. Having known the character mostly from the TV cartoons, the gravity of his situation in the actual comic was startling to my 12-year-old eyes. Even the letters pages were filled with anger and sadness and confusion and recriminations, as if the fans themselves had lost an actual loved one in their own lives.

MARVEL TALES was reprinting ASM stories from 1968 around then, and I was soon snapping those up on a monthly basis too. It was oddly bittersweet for me to “meet” the beautiful and vivacious Gwen that way, with the knowledge of what awaited her just a few years down the road. So, though I didn’t witness ASM 122 as it happened, I still “felt” it, in a way.


Anonymous said...

Oh — and when I finally did get a chance to read “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” years later (in MARVEL TALES) I’m sorry to say I found it kind of anti-climactic. Quite possibly, it’s simply that the story had become SO famous by 1978 — or infamous, I guess — that my expectations for it were so high that they could NEVER have been met. But still, I just wasn’t all that impressed.

Objectively, the story and art are perfectly fine, but not exceptional. I guess I was expecting them to milk the suspense and drama leading up to her fall off the bridge a lot more, but it’s all actually fairly bog-standard, almost mundane. Much of it feels like a repeat of things that had happened before : Norman going off the deep end once again, remembering that Peter and Spidey are the same person and in Norman’s eyes the root of all of his troubles. Norman ranting about taking his revenge for whatever slight he feels Spidey has done him, yada yada yada.

And Gwen — wow. She and Peter are neither at a high point in their relationship nor a low point. She’s not sobbing because Peter is being oddly distant or mad at him because he’s seemingly a coward or she caught him roughing up her dad or she’s tired of his always ditching her or cancelling a date at the last minute or whatever. Neither is she in one of her glowing “I’m so glad It was all some big mis-understanding, Peter’s really and truly wonderful, I can’t wait to have Make-up Sex with him” periods. She’s tepid, Room Temperature Gwen. Kinda just there. Maybe I was half-expecting her to discover Peter’s secret at a climactic moment or something similarly dramatic to raise the stakes. I certainly didn’t expect her to be literally unconscious throughout most of it. I literally can’t remember her last scene with Peter before Norman kidnaps her and then throws to her death. It’s as if Conway, Kane and Romita are so bored by her that they couldn’t even be bothered to imbed her more directly in the Goblin side of the story, or ANYTHING to make her a more active participant. She’s really there just to be killed.

It could be argued that all of that actually increases the shock value. There’s no irony or foreshadowing of any kind. No “My last night on the force/ tour of duty” type stuff. No “Thank Heaven we’re finally back together, nothing will ever separate us again” . Nothing remotely like that. It’s a pretty basic Spidey Vs. Goblin story, we’ve been to this rodeo plenty of times before.

And then Gwen’s dead. Boom. She’s dead, just like that.

I can only imagine how utterly horrible and shocking and game-changing it was to read that story when it was fresh off the World Color printing presses. But after years of build up, I was just kinda like, “Um …that’s it?”


Redartz said...

Charlie and B.T.- regarding Gwen: like B.t., I only read of her death after the fact. 10 issues after, to be precise. I'd read many of her appearances years before as a kid first experiencing comics, but had dropped away from Marvel in 1970. So while surprising and saddening, it didn't have the effect on me that it did on Charlie.
Indeed, speaking of 1970- the last Marvel book I bought was Amazing Spider-Man 90, with the death of Gwen's father. That book apparently shook me up so much that I fled to Archie for 4 years! And considering what you said, B.t., about Gwen's role in her final story: Captain Stacy was pivotal in his final appearance. The guy punch of him saving a child, and revealing to Peter (as he lay dying) that he knew Peter's secret? A tragic tale for the ages...

Anonymous said...

Hey Redartz— a few weeks ago you mentioned that ‘Artists You Didn’t Like at First But Grew to Like or Even Love Later On’ would be a good topic for discussion here, and I agree completely. If you don’t have all your topics for the next few weeks already planned out …well, just a reminder.


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