Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Fragmented Friday

Usually I have a real column when I put something up here on Friday. But this week I don't. I have a lot of little bits and pieces. Mostly because it's been an enormously busy week, both with work things and family things, neither of which have been any fun at all, or even terribly interesting, but they HAVE sucked up a lot of my time. So there wasn't a lot left over for reading much of anything, let alone making the trip to the comics shop.

That means that this week, it's mostly this and that. No one big thing, just a bunch of little ones.


First of all, I wanted to thank Adi Tantimede for setting me straight about JLA: Age of Wonder last week, and apologize for giving the impression that it was a Craig Russell solo production. I was going to reply to that effect in the comments section of last week's post, but I thought, hell, if I put it there no one will see it. So Mr. Tantimede gets top billing in today's collection of odds and ends instead. Since I was not sufficiently clear about this last week: He and Galen Showman really did a great job on JLA: Age of Wonder and it's terrific and you all should read it. Okay? I have felt absurdly guilty about this for the last few days and wanted to clear my conscience. I really did like the book a lot and only left their names out because I couldn't remember them off the top of my head and was in a hurry to get the piece done. But a review, especially a good review, should mention people by name. In this case, the names are Adi Tantimede, Galen Showman, Craig Russell, and JLA: Age of Wonder. Fun DC Elseworlds. Check it out.


Some comics did arrive in the mail. Several more packages of Shang-Chi goodness -- I've been getting lucky in the bargain bin again, at this rate I'll have the whole run here pretty soon -- and I have been enjoying that a lot, reading three or four issues a night right before bed. Something that struck me this week was the remarkable run of artists on that book, and they all seemed to really be at the top of their game. We've all heard about Paul Gulacy and Gene Day, and their work is indeed excellent, but who knew Jim Craig had these kind of chops? I remember him as being the guy who did the just-okay job on the original What If? #1, but his work on Master of Kung Fu was breathtaking. I don't know if he was a martial artist himself or just a big fan of Bruce Lee movies, but Craig obviously was putting everything he had into the job. Those figures have a visceral, sweaty power that the more mannered Gulacy and Day never got close to. When Shang and Shen Kuei throw down with Kogar, I have no idea if it's 'authentic' or not, but man, that looks like it HURTS.

Likewise Mike Zeck is another one of those guys I used to think was just a journeyman artist who could turn in a nice, solid book, but he had a brilliant run in MOKF; it looks like he's doing some kind of Gulacy imitation, and it comes off better than Gulacy, believe it or not. I think it's because Zeck has a better grasp of anatomy, while still retaining the cartoonist's knack of exaggeration and making impossible postures plausible, which is THE attribute you want in the person illustrating the adventures of Shang-Chi.

It wasn't JUST Gulacy and Day on this strip.

Like the other Greg, I am also very excited about the new Essential Moon Knight. It's going to be all about the Doug Moench books here in the Hatcher household for a while, I think. The original two-parter in Marvel Spotlight was one of my favorite Marvel stories of the 70's; I think because it was such a pleasant surprise. I remember it vividly because I was terribly, terribly sick that weekend, and as a consolation Mom had given me a buck to spend on comics at the drugstore while she stocked up on Nyquil and lozenges and so on. I bought three comics, which you could actually do with a dollar back then... God I'm old. Anyway, two of the three were Marvel Spotlight #28 and #29, probably because I saw that they were both parts of the story, which was an important consideration when I was a kid and there was no such thing as a comics shop.

I never can see this cover without smelling Vicks VaporRub. Yeah, I'm weird.

Man, I must have read that story eight or ten times that weekend. It just blew me away. Remember, I was a big Bat guy -- still am, really -- but this Moon Knight thing was Batman turned up to eleven, somehow. I loved the extra secret identity idea, how Marc Spector had the option of stepping from one fully-constructed life to another. And Frenchy was way cooler than Alfred. Frenchy got to fly that badass helicopter. Poor Alfred just stood around with a feather duster, back in the 70's.

(The third book, by the way, was the revival of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, with issue #90. This was a clever little done-in-one by Denny O'Neil, with a fun art job from Mike Grell; the thing everyone remembers about this issue is the Vulcan GL's cameo, and possibly Hal's sideburns. But here's my filthy secret: I dug the O'Neil-Grell GL every bit as much as O'Neil-Adams.)

So between the Shang-Chi and the Moon Knight, it's definitely going to be Doug Moench Appreciation Week here. I might even dig out his Doc Savage stuff he did for Marvel and reread those too. What the hell's he working on these days, anyway? Last thing I saw of his was that "Batman does forensic science" book, which was, by the way, a lot of fun.

All right, if we can't have Gotham Central any more, how about CSI: Gotham?


The other thing that was cool about Moon Knight was that he was one of those obscure superheroes, like Manhunter or Dr. Fate or the Creeper or somebody like that, where just knowing he existed at all made you feel like you knew something special nobody else did. So when he finally got his own book, I felt weirdly vindicated. Because, jeez, it took YEARS. I had been hoping and waiting ever since that great two-parter in Spotlight for Marc to get his own book, and it just took for-EV-er. There were little teases, guest shots here and there, but they were really unsatisfying. The thing that made Moon Knight cool was the whole milieu. You needed Frenchy and Marlene and the multiple identities of Grant and Lockley to make it all work. I was pleased when he got his own strip in The Hulk magazine, and delighted when it led to his own book. Not so delightful was when Moon Knight, along with Ka-Zar, became one of the first books to try the newfangled direct-sales-only-to-comics-shops experiment back in the early 80's. There was no such thing as a comic-book shop in my little suburb back then, and I didn't drive. I had to drop the book. So for me this new Essential is a chance for me to finally get caught up after a twenty-five-year wait. I'm WAY jazzed, both to reread the old stuff I remember and see the new-- well, new to me-- work that will follow.


That's really all I've got. There should be more time and more money next week, so I finally will get to go clean out my reserve box at the comics shop and see what's new. See you then.

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Blogger Brett said...

But here's my filthy secret: I dug the O'Neil-Grell GL every bit as much as O'Neil-Adams.

Me too. I still liked the Adams stuff, but the Grell art just hit the spot for me. I have a piece of original art from this series somewhere, the only comic art I own.

2/18/2006 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Iagorune said...

I loved the Grell illustrated issues of GL/GA when they came out. Those were some really well done stories, although I do have to say more for the Green Arrow / Black Canary stuff then anything done with Hal.

But thinking back on them 30 years later all I can really remember about the writing is that I really got a huge kick out of the two parter where the most shocking part of the story was that to go undercover, Ollie had to shave his beard. And I also remember just exactly how much I liked Airwave and hated Itty.

But that 70’s Grell art was just way too much fun on GL/GA and I actually remember that stuff way more fondly then I do Grell’s later Green Arrow run in the 80’s/90’s. I picked up some of his Legion issues recently on E-Bay and I still completely “groove” to his amazingly cool lack of clothing that we pretended were uniforms back then.

- rick

2/19/2006 10:42:00 AM  

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