Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comics rule - favorite creators

I've written before about the frustrations of being a comics fan. What I wrote about before was that one of the most frustrating things is that comics fans are few and far between. For instance, I'm really pumped about what's happening in Green Lantern right now, but there aren't many people with whom I can talk about it.

Another thing that's frustrating is that a lot of people simply don't get what the hobby is all about. First off, you have people who simply don't read in general, and they can't understand the concept of anybody reading anything for any reason at all. Those are the kinds of people who get fixated on how much the comics are worth, and no matter how much I tell them that most comics won't be worth much of anything, they keep asking those kinds of questions.

Other people don't seem to realize that one of the things that interests fans is not so much which characters are in a comic but who's doing it. For instance, I get people asking me inane questions about what superhero could beat up whom. While there are some obvious no-contest scenarios (Superman versus almost anybody), I usually tell them "It depends on who's writing it." Honestly, I'd rather discuss that than who can beat up whom. I lost interest in that sort of thing when I was a teenager, and now that I'm in my thirties, I care even less.

I would say that more than half of my comics purchases are based on who's doing the series. I suppose that the writer is the most important to me and then the artist, but a really crappy artist can ruin a good story and a really great artist can make me more interested in a mediocre story than I would have been otherwise. From there, I make my purchases on what looks interesting, and then there are a few characters whom I tend to follow almost no matter who's doing the book (Spider-Man and Batman are the only ones that spring to mind though).

So, who are some of my current and/or all-time favorites? I'll start with the writers:

Geoff Johns - He's currently writing Green Lantern and he's also working on a lot of Superman stuff. I had gone nearly 20 years without picking up a regular series with either one of those characters, but I've been pretty hooked lately - mainly due to the stuff that Johns is doing. The Superman stuff is good mainly because even though it's difficult to give somebody as powerful as Superman a real challenge, the comics have been pulling that off quite well lately. Currently, there's a "New Krypton" where thousands of displaced Kryptonians are orbiting a planet that's on the opposite side of the sun as our own, and many of them do not possess Superman's altruism. Superman has had to leave Metropolis behind in order to make sure that these Kryptonians don't pose a threat to his adopted homeworld, and that means working with General Zod. (That's right - Zod, as in, "Kneel before Zod".)

Green Lantern I won't even attempt to explain, but let's just say that Johns managed to tie up years of continuity and create a very compelling story with an interesting character. Basically, whenever comics stories attempt to "fix" previous storylines by telling a "what you thought happened didn't actually happen" story, it's usually only interesting to long-time fans. Well, as I've stated before, I never picked up a monthly Green Lantern comic until Johns started writing it, and I've been hooked ever since.

I just realized that I could probably devote a series of blogs just to this, so let me write about just one more, and I'll pick a writer/artist this time: Alan Davis.

I first discovered his work on an X-Men Annual back when I was in middle school. From there, he started drawing Excalibur (which was an X-Men spinoff, not a King Arthur one). It's difficult to explain exactly what's so great about his work without copying and pasting entire pages, but let's just say that it was a combination of his clean linework, his expressive characters, and his solid storytelling skills that caused me to go back and reread his work again and again. (By storytelling, I'm referring to the fact that it was always clear what was going on from one panel to the next - something that not all comic artists can do.) Another thing that I also loved was the fact that his characters all had very distinctive features - especially his females. A lot of lesser artists know how to draw an attractive female, but when they have to draw another one, all they really do is give her different hair. Not so with Alan Davis - they all had distinctive noses, cheekbones, chins, etcetera.

Years later, he came back to Excalibur, only this time he was writing it as well. I won't attempt to explain the entire storyline, but let's just say that it was complex without being confusing, and it managed to have a healthy mix of action and humor. The really nice thing is that I recently re-read it, and it's just as good as I remembered it to be. That's not something that we can say often now is it?

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