Recently I was reading a stack of comic books that had piled up over the months. That didn’t happen much in my youth in the 1960s because there weren’t that many new comics and because money, even though comics only cost 12¢, was still hard to come by.
It’s light years easier to find a place to buy comic now than it was then. Now there are specialized, direct-market comic shops, the internet, mail order, conventions, and of course the mass market. I believe my pointy little head would’ve exploded back then if had had that many choices.
Getting back to that stack of recent comics: while reading them, I wondered if taking them on one after another was the right way to read them. I retained enough of the stories, but soon found that each bit of continuity became a bit blurred as the stack was reduced. I also found that reading one after another seemed to lessen my emotional investment in the characters. With comic books being around $4.00 each, you don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted your time reading them. I know I don’t.
So I stopped.
I took the rest of the stack and organized them so that I was reading particular issues in a row. Yeah, they might have been two issues in a row or up to five in a row, but it made more sense that way. I would also stop at that point and set the next small stack aside for the next time. I’ve gotta say, it worked for me. I got a lot more enjoyment out of reading the comics, even the ones that were just middle of the road.
One thing that popped out to me while doing this was that I had the time to really stop and think about the character whose adventures I was reading. Case in point: the Marvel Comics character Hawkeye.
Every since Hawkeye’s first appearance as a somewhat confused bad guy for Iron Man in 1964’s Tales Of Suspense #57, Hawkeye has taken a long and crooked journey to get where he is today. As we all do at times when reading a fictional character, I wondered how in “real life”, Hawkeye would adjust to all the changes that he’s been through in his life. Here are just some highlights:
- He started out a reluctant bad guy.
- He turned into a reluctant hero.
- He joined the Avengers.
- He had a real problem with authority; namely, Captain America.
- He joined the West Coast Avengers as a somewhat reluctant leader.
- He’s been a part of almost every version of the Avengers in the last three decades and learned to deal with just about everybody with a super power.
- He’s from a small town in Iowa.
- His parents died.
- He and his brother, Barney, were raised in an orphanage.
- His mentor turned out to be a bad guy and a super villain with a bad guy/hero future. (The Swordsman)
- He gave up the bow and arrow for a while and became Goliath. That was quite a change to go through.
- He always seemed to date female superheroes. Those relationships were rocky at best. His wife Mockingbird died and then kinda came back after being a guest of the Skrulls. (See where things start to blur?)
You get the point?
The thing I found about Hawkeye is that, unlike most superheroes, Hawkeye isn’t about being the best marksman with a bow and arrow on the planet. It always been about him as a character. That is what has brought me and other readers back to him. That is so evident in the current Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja. The new series is the best representation of Hawkeye since the Stan Lee/Don Heck days. The series is likable and in this modern time of ultra dark, depressing and brooding comics, that’s a huge deal! This, along with Mark Waid’s Daredevil run, are the true bright spots in mainstream superhero books right now.
Although I’ve been reading comic books since 1961, I’ve learned something new. I’ve learned how to really read comic books all over again. I take my time with them like I did in my youth and I think about the characters. If the character isn’t likable or relatable, then I drop the book and find another way to spend my $4.00.
I really hope that this column helps you renew the way you read comic books. There is some light at the end of this current, dark comic book tunnel.
American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-64
Cover Price $39.95
Digital Edition $11.95
Written By John Wells
Editor: Keith Dallas
American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960-64 is a beautiful, hardcover, full color presentation of what the world of comic books was like from 1960 to 1964. I was a comic book reading kid when all of this took place and, I must say, this is like looking through my own personal history. I remember so much of what went on during this time period, but even I was enlightened by the vast amount of wonderful information that this book unfolds.
It’s a massive, year by year account of the most pivotal events of comics as well as the most obscure. You will not only learn from this book, no matter what your age is, you’ll enjoy it for many years to come. The art that’s packed into this book are done with beauty and care, and over all of the 224 pages of incredible information. I highly recommend this book for yourself or as the ultimate gift to someone that loves comic books.
e Disaster Diaries: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Apocalypse
Penguin Press Hardcover
Cover Price $26.95
Written by Sam Sheridan
I’ve bought and read all of author Sam Sheridan’s previous books. A Fighter’s Heart and A Fighter’s Mind, both are about his adventures fighting MMA, and are an in-depth look at what goes on in a fighter’s mind. Both books are superbly written by this modern day Renaissance man. Sheridan has worked as a U.S. merchant marine. He’s a Harvard grad, worked construction at the South Pole station, worked as a cowboy in Montana, a wildland firefighter in Washington State and New Mexico, a professional sailor and an amateur boxer. There’s not much this guy hasn’t done. The Disaster Diaries isn’t one of your Doomsday Preppers reality show kinda things; far from it. It covers almost everything you need to know about surviving earthquakes, tidal waves, pandemics and zombie and alien attacks, all framed with riveting fictional vignettes that will have you begging for a novel on these topics.
Sheridan covers everything you need to know such as:
- Really hotwire a car
- Learn to use weapons
- Survive in hostile weather
- Make an igloo
- Fight with knives
- Become a medic
You name it, this book covers it. I’ve read this book twice since I bought it a month ago. Sheridan has researched everything and takes you through his experiences. This is such a smart book! This one is high on the Busted Knuckles Manly Recommendations List!
Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour
Cover Price $39.99
Digital Edition $11.99
Written by Jim Amash & Eric Nolen-Weathington
As a kid, I would sometimes be lucky enough to run across an old Golden Age comic book. To me, they were a door to a world of lost horizons, the place where it all started. One of those comics I found was a beat up copy of Seven Seas Comics. That’s where I discovered the art of Matt Baker.
Even at a young age, I knew Matt Baker was a true artist. He was leaps and bounds better than many other artists from that era. There was nothing sloppy about Baker’s work. He had a wonderful sense of storytelling. And Baker drew some of the prettiest women you had ever seen in a four color comic book.
Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour captures all the grace, action and adventure of a true comic book art icon. You can see how Baker was an influence on such artists as Adam Hughes and Dave Stevens. Even if you never own an original Matt Baker comic book, this book will fill you with all the information and visuals that you’ll need to become a Matt Baker fan for life.
Donnybrook: A Novel
Farrar, Straus And Giroux
Cover Price $15.00
Written by Frank Bill
If ever there was a novel written for Busted Knuckles readers, Donnybrook is it. The Donnybrook is a three-day bare-knuckle tournament held on a thousand acre plot out in the sticks of southern Indiana. Twenty fighters. One wire-fence ring. Fight until only one man is left standing while a rowdy festival of onlookers—drunk and high on whatever’s on offer—bet on the fighters.
Don’t think this is some dumbed down, make-fun-of-hicks-from-the-sticks book where everybody just fights and grunts. No sir. Frank Bill’s first novel rates right up there with Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell and Chuck Palahniuk. It’s smart and filled with wonderfully written dialogue that left me saying, “I wish I had written that.” Donnybrook is a smart like Fight Club was smart.
For fans of the FX channel’s Justified and the writing of Elmore Leonard, you will enjoy Donnybrook a lot. Frank Bill has a great way of describing the world of Donnybrook that makes you want to see it, but not touch it because you just might lose a finger or two.
Reading Donnybrook with leave you with a couple of black eyes and a bruised brain, but you will thank Frank Bill for every punch thrown.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Captain Marvel #3
Published August 2012
Cover Art by Ed McGuinness
Artist and friend Ed McGuinness has made the Busted Knuckles Cover a couple of times. Ed has a way of manly design that always comes through no matter what character he’s drawing. In this case, he takes Captain Marvel to the skies in a tribute to WWII bomber action. Powerful simplicity always catches the reader’s eye and makes for a beautiful cover. I hope you enjoy.
Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week
Weather Forecaster, Univision
Long time Busted Knuckl
es readers know all too well of my admiration for beautiful women of Puerto Rico. Without a doubt, the most stunning to me is Univision weather forecaster and actress Jackie Guerrido. She’s smart and funny, and Jackie has more curves than the Snake River. Even though I don’t understand a word she says, when Jackie gives the weather, to me it’s always a beautiful day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Busted Knuckles. I’ve enjoyed tossing it your way. Thing here at The Flying Fist Ranch have been good this Winter, but my old bones are looking forward to Spring and warmer weather.
Next month, April 6th, in my hometown of Huntington, WV. I will be a guest at the 2nd Tri-Con Comic Book Convention, where I will sign books and tell lots of lies. It was a fantastic show last year with a great turnout. James Maddox and Eric Watkins really know how to run a show. It was top flight all the way. I really hope you can make it and see my hometown as well as join us for the convention. The guest list is impressive and the location is fantastic.
See you there.
The Flying Fist Ranch