Monday, November 14, 2005

More Batman Comics You Should Own

Boy, that Absolute Overlord is a prick, isn't he? I should have never let him use my login ...

I know you're terribly interested in what comics you should be looking for in the back issue bins, and my latest column tells you why Batman #515-552 are worth checking out. Doug Moench, Kelley Jones, John Beatty - is this the weirdest creative team on a mainstrem superhero book EVER???? Excellent stuff (the comics, not the column). Even if Cronin, many months ago, said the team was pretentious, they still know how to make good comics!


Blogger Bill Reed said...

Ahh, yes. I read this yesterday.

I really want to buy up all of these back issues; I've only got three of 'em (one of them glows in the dark!). Kelley Jones is one of my favorite Batman artists of all time (he doesn't beat out Breyfogle, but he may be on par with Parobeck) and the stories seemed pretty wacky.

Yeah. Uh... I forgot if this reply had a point. But, glad to see the Moench/Jones stuff getting some wuv.

Oh, oh, right! The dude with the puppet in the top hat. You hear top hat and think "Zsasz," but that's not his style. No, but it could be the return of... The Obeah Man!

But I'd need to look at the actual issues.

11/14/2005 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Hey, I like the Absolute Overlord!

As for this run, I hated Jones' art with a passion. I don't know why Liefeld gets crucified and this guy gets pass, his anatomy was even worse. How long can a rib cage and abdominal section be? And people had muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles. His work was just grotesque, in my opinion.

I always loved Moench, but once Jones took over his stories weren't enough to keep me on board.

11/14/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I actually use the word "grotesque" in the essay, T. That's kind of the point. The brilliance of Jones' art is that it's SO grotesque, into the realm of the surreal. I understand your objections, but it's certainly absolutely distinctive. The difference between his art and Liefeld's, I think, is one of slickness and tone. Liefeld, to me, seems like he is trying to be slick, and he doesn't seem to have much passion for the work. Jones, in my excellent opinion, has a passion for his work and a style that attempts to show the inner soul of the characters in the outer shell.

The Absolute Overlord thanks you for the love

11/14/2005 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Huzzah! I love Kelley Jones and I loved this run. Crazy, wonderful horror art married to twisted paranoia - a winning combination. The Overlord gets a total pass on anything else he wants to do just for this column. Run Superman around in adult diapers, I don't care!

11/14/2005 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Yeah, I think that Jones' distortions are a deliberate attempt at a distinctive style, whereas Liefeld just can't draw properly.

I've got some Kelley Jones Aliens comics somewhere. His Aliens looked nothing like anyone else's, to the point that I found it surprising that Fox actually cleared the art, but it makes for some gorgeously spooky stuff.

11/14/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I liked this run well enough. If you recall, I wasn't calling the RUN pretentious, just the act of, from their first issue, labelling each issue as DM-KJ-JB, so future generations could marvel at one of the (obviously it WOULD be, in their minds) great creative team runs in comic book history!

11/14/2005 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

Hmm... I read some of the Moench/Jones Batman comics when they came out, and really didn't like them. I loved Jones' art when he was just doing the covers, but when he took over interior art, his work seemed to get sloppier and less interesting. And Moench was a little *too* didactic and obvious for me -- the masks thing felt like we were being beaten over the head with a theme. "Hey! It's a theme! Look, I'm developing a theme here!" And a lot of the weird stuff, like the conjoined twins, just seemed over the top and silly instead of spooky.

11/14/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

If Moench had a problem, it was that he was TOO comfortable on the book.

Knowing he was comfortable, he just wrote whatever appealed to HIM.

He always was a "whatever subject he was into that month gets written into the comic," but he rarely had the freedom to delve into it as much as he did on Batman, where he would do so for, like, three issue arcs at a time.

Also, I think he lost track of the appeal of Harvey Bullock during his run.

11/14/2005 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Of course he wrote what appealed to him - that's part of the charm of his run. I agree that he was comfortable, but that's fine with me. Yes, he was didactic, but I don't have a problem with learning interesting things about the writer and some subjects, even if they aren't exactly true - they still tell us about the writer.

T. has a big problem with writers coming onto titles, putting their stamp on them, and leaving the successors to clean up the mess. Moench put his own stamp on the series WITHOUT leaving a mess - he actually left a lot of possibilities for other writers, which DC screwed up with the earthquake.

Lots of writers write what appeals to them without caring too much what they're writing. Morrison's X-Men is the most glaring example of it - ostensibly it's about mutants, but it's really about the cute little ideas Morrison wants to explore. I don't have a problem with that.

And it's unfortunate that he didn't keep up his good work on Bullock throughout his run. Early on Bullock was a nicely done character, but Moench ignored him later on. Not that big a deal, since the book wasn't about Harvey, but I wonder what Moench had in store for him. Remember, this run is "unfinished."

11/14/2005 08:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I loved Jones' art when he was just doing the covers, but when he took over interior art, his work seemed to get sloppier and less interesting.

I agree about the covers; they were stylish and exciting. But inside the book, Jones often couldn't maintain a character's look from panel to panel: I remember pages where Alfred's face went from thin and drawn to wide and pudgy and back again - with no evident dramatic purpose on Jones's part. This just doesn't jibe with Jones's defenders' arguments that he was using an "expressionistic" style on the book. It almost seems as if Jones realized the weakness in his art and tried to turn it into a strength - or at least to conceal it by making everything exaggerated and distorted. Jones seems to be steering around his problems drawing human faces in his recent work: I flipped through something of his - 13th Son? - at the comics store not long ago, and every character had a skull-face or some kind of "demon" face.

Compare Jones with the artist who seems like his greatest influence: Bernie Wrightson (in his prime). Wrightson did wonderfully expressive art, but you knew who everyone was.

And Moench was a little *too* didactic and obvious for me -- the masks thing felt like we were being beaten over the head with a theme. "Hey! It's a theme! Look, I'm developing a theme here!"

Moench has (almost) always been guilty of didacticism and literary pretensions. It worked well on Master of Kung Fu (a book I loved), where the first-person narration was by a lead character with a philosophical temperament. The Moench-Gulacy Shang-Chi revival of a few years back was disappointing precisely because it was the comics equivalent of a cliched action movie, all bluster and no meaning.

In some cases this tendency of Moench's has led to storytelling that's downright grotesque (and not in that groovy Kelley Jones way 8^) ). I don't know why some people liked the purple and often very forced prose he used in the Nocturna stories in the Batman books (back when Gene Colan was the artist). I especially couldn't stand his work on "personal" projects like Six from Sirius, where his "artistic" tendencies got free-est rein.

(I sometimes think of comic book writers as dividing into those whose work benefits from the constraints imposed by characters created by others, often with long histories, and those who do their best work on their more personal creations. I'd number folks like Mike Baron and William Messner-Loebs among the former, and Moench among the latter. I'd actually tilt ever-so-slightly toward putting Alan Moore in the second group, since I'm generally fonder of Swamp Thing, "For the Man Who Has Everything," and other DC work of his - not to mention Miracleman - than I am of, say, Tom Strong or even the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)

11/14/2005 08:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Anders said...

Thanks for responding. I've never read any of Moench's "personal" projects, and I'm not sure I'd want to. If you want to see him go way into the deep end in trying to be meaningful, check out his Spectre series in the late 80s. He was obviously trying to be Neil Gaiman-esque, but didn't quite have the chops. BTW, I think you got switched around -- I'm guessing "the first group" is people who do better on their own projects and "the second group" is people who do better on existing characters.

11/15/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger layne said...

This was the first series that I ever got the LCS to hold for me; too bad the dump folded before the run finished.

Fans of anti-governmental paranoia should check out The Big Books of Conspiracies and The Unexplained for more Moenchy goodness!
(Or just look for some old smut; I believe Moench used to write for the stroke mags back in the '70s)

11/15/2005 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Based on this article, I went out and found the Croc, Scarecrow and Faceless arcs, and the Ogre and the Ape one-shot, and I enjoyed them all thoroughly.
I loved the way Jones drew Gotham, all winding streets and decaying brick, very reminiscent of Mignola's Lankhmar, actually. And I loved the energy in the art; characters literally bounding around the page like they never do anymore now that everyone's trying to draw like Jim Lee again.

11/15/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Very cool, Mr. Kelvingreen - I'm glad I could steer you to them. My power increases! Soon I shall be unstoppable!!!!

Moench writing smut - that's the kind of trivia you don't get anywhere else in the blogosphere!

11/15/2005 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Sims said...

The only Batman comics you really need to own are Batman #424 and 425, wherein Jason Todd kills a guy and Batman throws a car battery at some dude.

I feel this way because they were the first Batman comics I ever read, and put me on the path to this lowly state at which you see me now.


11/16/2005 09:56:00 PM  
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