06 December 2005

Sucking in the '70s

It's a great time to be a thirtysomething comics nerd with a little disposable income. Marvel Comics has been putting out their "Essential" series for several years now, and DC recently launched the "Showcase" series. What both lines do is cram 20-30 back issues of various characters into one massive volume. The stories are all printed in B&W on pretty cheap paper, but as mentioned, you get 20 to 30 back issues of comic titles that ceased publication during the Ford administration, all for around $17.

Marvel has released several volumes of their A-list properties (Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers) but they've also released books featuring characters that can charitably be described as "also-rans." And for some perverse reason, I often find these books to be the most intriguing and gratifying. These are the comics I remember from my early childhood; titles whose basic premises, and sometimes their names alone, were guaranteed to pique the interest of any red-blooded 6-year-old: Ghost Rider, Killraven, Werewolf by Night, the Defenders.

If you ask the 2005 me if the books hold up, the answer is an emphatic CHRIST, no -- beside the fact that these books are all fairly dated, these titles rarely attracted Marvel's top creative talents -- you'll find plenty of vile Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta hackwork scattered throughout various Essential titles -- and when name professionals or even solid craftsmen were involved with the art, a palpable sense of phoning it in pervades many of the stories. (Mike Ploog's work on Werewolf was pretty distinctive.)

Yet there's just some kind of indescribable crazy funnybook mojo at work in those very same pages and I just can't get enough. I freely admit that the nostalgia factor serves to tint these books in a pleasant rose-colored glow, but these books weren't self-consciously edgy and dark like so much of the shit that's published these days. There's a purity there that just can't be faked. I'm hoping that Marvel sees fit to release Essentials editions devoted to Jungle Action, Deathlok and Warlock on the near future. Master of King Fu would be super ultra mega kick-ass, but I beleive that the rights to Fu Manchu et al would preclude that.

On a related note, DC's Showcase line just published a Jonah Hex collection that's real purty, and the level of professionalism involved is at a higher level than in, say, The Essential Power Man. There's even some Doug Wildey art.

I know what I'm axing Santa for this year.


Shane said...

I'm just glad Marvel finally got around to putting out an "Omegan the Unknown" trade in time for the new Lethem series.

Anonymous said...

Just wait until we get to 'Essential New Universe' *RETCH*

Anonymous said...

No, Vince Colletta was actually a very good inker, haven't you heard?

Fat Boy said...

I am in complete agreement with the previous poster. Vince Colletta was a very fine artist who drew great comics early on and inked over some of the best pencilers in the field with smashing results. Sal Buscema? Eh, not so much.