Most of you that are regular readers of Busted Knuckles know of my great admiration for Marvel Comics Essential collections and DC Comics Showcase collections. If you’re into mainstream super hero comics now or at anytime in your life, then these are a must for you.
Recently I picked up Marvel Comics Essential Classic X-Men Book 2. The reason I mention this is because this collects X-Men #25 through #53. They also throw in Avengers #53. These issues are my all time favorite run of the X-Men, bar none.
A few reasons. This time period of the late 1960s was when at I was at my most die-hard Marvel Comics stage. When not heaving firecrackers at my grouchy neighbor or smearing my car models with glue and setting them on fire, I was out hunting down Marvel Comics.
From about 1965 to 1970 I can get real scary with reciting dialogue from Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, remembering fight panels from Daredevil, and even remembering names of who had letters printed in the letters pages. This was my Grade School/Jr High period when summers were filled with RC Cola, Moon Pies and messing around with my friends committing evil acts of youth. No cares, no worries, no wife, no taxes, no gut and lots of thick hair on my head. It’s no wonder all of us continue to look at comic books through the eyes of a 12 year old.
Back to my reasons. These issues of The X-Men were done by some of my very favorite Marvel artists; the great Don Heck, Arnold Drake, Werner Roth, Ross Andru, and George Tuska. Yes, I didn’t forget that Barry Windsor Smith and Jim Steranko also did a few of these issues, but back then I thought they were young upstarts that had that hippie rock poster look that I didn’t want as a kid. Back then that was like saying you wanted an aluminum baseball bat instead of a wooden one.
The guys I mentioned were highly talented craftsman. Men that knew how to tell a story and could herd your eyeballs around like Gil Favor used to herd cattle on the TV show Rawhide. (Lord, I am so old?)
It’s strange that some 10 years later these fine artists were almost laughed out of the business by the new younger crew of comic book readers and publishers. It became “in” to say these guys were “out”. Made me mad then and still does today. Over at DC I remember artists like Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, and Curt Swan were getting labeled that way as well. I never came to blows with any of the other kids on the playground about this (They weren’t THAT stupid) but I did have to stare a few down when they spoke their “hip” words of disrespect towards my artistic heroes.
“I’m Juggernaut, Bitch!”
I’m sorry to say I still hear remarks like this today about certain artists and writers that were very popular 10-15 years ago. Now they are looked at as “old school” and not hired. Instead we get “Hot, Hip, Young, Sexy” (you pick the overused hype) artists and writers that can hardly, if every meet a deadline and wouldn’t know a page-turner or character layer if you gave em’ implants, a black light and pole to rub on.
Artists and writers that not only met deadlines, but most of the time they were ahead of schedule. Those guys have been handed AARP card and told that comics have taken a more cutting edge feel. What they really mean is that they are looking to hire guys that cut it so close that they make the comics on the edge of being returnable.
Today I feel sorry for the artists and inkers that are given two weeks to finish a 22 page story because the writer that is “so hip it hurts” is late. Trust me, that guy won’t get yelled at. Nope. It’ll be the other guys on the team that get the “I thought you could come through for me” speech.
Getting back to the X-Men Essential book I was talking about? If you own this book just take a look at it. A real look. You’ll see that the art is truly amazing. You can appreciate the camera angles, the fact that if this story didn’t have word balloons you could still “get” the story. Cover up some of balloons on these glossy stories today and all you’ll see is a bunch of people sitting at a table looking at each other or flying in the air babbling on and on. Comics aren’t novels. They aren’t movies. They’re Words AND Pictures.
There is an art and a craft to writing and drawing comic books. Just because you write novels, movies, TV, video games, columns, news articles doesn’t mean you know how to write comic books. Just because you can draw for advertising, use photoshop, paint real life, abstract, or houses doesn’t mean you can draw comic books. I can hear a lot of bubbles bursting like farts in a bathtub right about now.
The men that did these stories in this book knew what they were doing. They were seamless with their work. They knew that to make the story work everything had to blend together. The art had to match the story. One couldn’t stand out from the other. Comic books, the good ones, are the perfect example of equality. It can’t be anything but a 50/50 relationship between story and art. The same goes with lettering and coloring. If you notice either then there is a problem.
The Super Adaptoid
Granted, the Essentials are in black and white, but what I said about lettering and coloring is still true.
For pure action and adventure these stories still stand up today. They don’t talk down to you like some of the today’s “all ages” comics do. I read one the other day from a major publisher and even though I’m not a kid anymore I know that if I read that and was 12 years old I’d know they were writing this thinking I was a moron and they had to spoon feed this to me. This X-Men Essential book is a true “all ages” book. Doesn’t matter if you 12 or 112 you’d enjoy it.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this run of the X-Men was the array of obscure villains they had. Guys like El Tigre, The Puppet Master, The Ogre (one of my favorites), The Super Adaptoid, The Warlock, Cobalt Man, Tyrannus, Mekano, and the biggest head buster of all, my all time favorite bad guy?The Juggernaut! The big boy even graces the cover of this book.
There are even more obscure bad guys in this, in fact, too many to mention. Trust me, there are some great ones.
These are stories of the X-Men when they were still lean mean. These aren’t the continuity obese X-Men of today. This isn’t some old guy whining about “When things were good and I walked 50 miles to school in a blizzard”. This is me. I know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re not used to hearing someone in comics tell you the truth. While others are trying to talk you into fancy imported beers and tell you that this one’s good to drink with chicken, this one for steak? I’m here to tell you that if it’s a free beer it’s a good beer. Pass the pizza and the Chili Cheese Fritos. How hard is that?
I hope that all of you give the Marvel Essentials and the DC Showcase collections a chance. It’ll be the best $17.00 you’ll ever spend on comic books. They’re big, thick and don’t leave bruises like your knuckles would when you’re working someone over for calling Don Heck a hack? If you happen to pick up Marvel Essentials Classic X-Men Book 2, do me a favor, tell em’ Beau sent ya.
Manly Cover Of The Week
This cover has all the Indiana Jones like elements that a manly cover needs, exotic location, a Thompson Machine gun, square-jawed hero and a shapely babe in need of help. It doesn’t hurt that the bad guys are bearing down on them in a plane. There’s your ticking clock for a story.
Covers today lack the simplicity of action. They’re either skinny girl pin-ups in spandex or a mish-mash of faces and floating characters. It’s kinda like going to a church dinner. You’ve got a big ol’ ham, but they church ladies this it would be so much better if they slathered it with raspberry sauce and added a side order of something too strange to truly understand. Sometimes ya just gotta let ham be ham on it’s own. The same with covers. Sometimes the simple story is the best story.
Know this, any time you’re at a convention and see a copy of Wings or Rangers, know that there is a manly cover to be had.
Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week
– singer / songwriter
Laura Cheadle is one of those singers that you have to see live in a club. There are some bands that can fill stadiums and big ol’ concert halls, but there ain’t nothing like a club date or a coffee house to really appreciate a talent that knows what they’re doing. Laura Cheadle is one of those.
When Laura sings there is never a lack of soul and originality. She comes from a musical family, her dad has done videos forVH1 and MTV as well as created the “Appreciation Choir” for the Persian Gulf War Troops in the 90s. Her older twin brothers are also in the band. Laura’s voice and music is a nice blend of soul/blues and just enough pop to keep you on your toes. She’s got quite a following in the Philadelphia and New Jersey area. If ya get the chance to hear her play you’ll be glad ya did. Laura’s got a nice website to check out more on her and her music. It’s at http://www.lauracheadle.com.
Oh, and as you can tell by her photos, she is the Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week.
Tell em’ Beau sent ya.
Marvel Comics Can’t Pay The Electric Bill
I just got finished reading a run on of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Captain America. I truly enjoy the story and the wonderful art. What I don’t enjoy is looking at it in the dark. It’s like Marvel can’t afford to pay the electric bill. Somebody please turn on the lights! I understand they are going for the dark as night movie look, but there are other ways of doing it. This comes off murky and as I have said before you lose a lot of the beautiful line work of the art.
The paper they use doesn’t do the art and colors any favors either. This is a top-notch book, why mess it up? It’s like taking an all-American girl next door and smearing cheap make up all over her face. That’s never a good thing. I just hope Marvel lightens up real soon. There are some things I like doing in the dark. Reading comics ain’t one of em’.
CSI: Dying In The Gutters-“Die Rich Johnston Die!”
If you don’t know, then you should know. Somebody is out to kill noted comic book gossip columnist, Rich Johnston of Lying In The Gutters. Thing is the killer may just be one of your favorite comic book creators. Could it be Tim Bradstreet, Ed Brubaker, Peter David, Chuck Dixon, Phil Jimenez, Robert Kirkman, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Jim Mahfood, George Perez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, J. Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmith, Ashley Wood, Joe Quesada, Stan Lee, Marc Silvestri or? BEAU SMITH?
That’s right, even I’ve been counted in among the suspects for putting Rich in the dirt. (Like they would ever take ME alive!) IDW Publishing will be releasing the first issue of CSI: Dying In The Gutters August 2006.
IDW has released a very cool preview book through Diamond Dateline that most retailers should have in their hands now. Dying In The Gutters takes place in Las Vegas at a huge comic book convention and the CSI team has to come in and deal with the comic book creators I have mentioned above. This series is written by my friend Steven Grant. Steven is one of the most well-known comic book writers in the business and never lacks a straight forward, honest opinion on any topic as he proves every week in his popular column Permanent Damage. Stephen Mooney has been given the honor of drawing not only the whole comic book, but my manly face as well. (I know; he should pay ME for that manly honor.)
I thought I’d show y’all a couple of pieces of art from it. Of course they include me.
Here is the Diamond order number for this crossover of TV and Comic books. Make sure you give this to your local comic shop retailer when you order it: JUN063181.
And when ya do? tell em’ Beau sent ya.
Speaking of shows, this one’s over for the week. Time for you to go back to your cubicle and drone for the man. If you’re a housewife or somebody’s girlfriend come back when your door knob of a husband or boyfriend leaves the house. Then we’ll really talk.
I hope to see most of ya next week. I’m working on something special that y’all might enjoy. In the meantime while you’re here you should check out the reviews, news and other columns here at SBC.
There’s something for everybody.
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!