…Back at the Compound.
People sometimes ask me about all the superhero references in my work. It’s a simple answer really. I love comic books. I love superheroes. Always have. Always will.
It goes way back to a childhood that I remember rather distantly now. My memory just isn’t any good now that I’m getting older. What few brain cells left up there don’t seem to function well as a group these days. But I do recall summer days, on vacation, being allowed a few pennies to buy those amazing looking four color masterpeices that so fascinated me. I never hesitated. Went right for the Marvel stuff. Avengers, Iron Man, X-Men, Defenders. A Hulk or Spider-Man or two thrown in. Never gave DC a second glance in those days. I just knew it wasn’t half as interesting as what was going on at Marvel.
It’s the mid-seventies stuff I remember most fondly. The early days of guys like Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The discovery of Frank Miller. I remember reading John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18 featuring Miller’s earliest stuff for Marvel. Even at that young age his work already was full of that dramatic style you can’t take your eyes off of. David Micheline, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton’s Iron Man was fantastic. Claremont and Dave Cockrum, may he rest in peace, were bringing things to a new level in X-Men. Steve Gerber on Defenders was, too. Sal Buscema was there, of course, just drawing the shit out of everything.
Grand days, they were.
A book I always think back on with nostalgia is Avengers #184. Also written by Micheline, it was pencilled by John Byrne and inked my the mysterious D. Hands. Even had a superb George Perez/Terry Austin cover than just shone forth like it was polished.
Must’ve read that one a hundred times. It was a taste of everything I loved about comics; crisp, detailed art, epic action, simmering melodrama and a kick ass ending. An eclectic group of Avengers including Hawkeye, Beast, Ms. Marvel and the Vision go up against The Absorbing Man in a slugfest for the ages. Iron Man has some great moments in the book. The Vision has one brillaint moment that made me instantly fall in love with the character. In the backround, there’s some fascinating scenes of racial tension as The Falcon, being added to the team by the US government to make it more diverse, is troubled. He and Cap show up late on the scene for a truly excellent ending to the tale.
These days, I still read a lot of books but I just follow authors and artists I enjoy. Anything written by Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar will get a look from me. Neil Gaiman when he dabbles. Anything drawn by Alex Ross, Frank Quietly, Bryan Hitch or Tony Harris will get my attention. Juan Jose Ryp is astonishing. I still have a real soft spot for Steve Rude thanks to the incredible work he and Mike Baron did on Nexus. Continue to do, actually. Steve understands the beauty in the superheroic.
You can see a taste of the sort of thing that make the genre great in the new Watchmen trailers. Epic, apocalyptic peril faced by a group of on-the-edge more-than-mortals who are the only thing that stand between humanity and annihilation. Superhero films are finally taking that leap forwards into the realm of the intelligent, mature depiction of their subject matter that comics readers have been enjoying since the Renaissance of the mid-eighties, when DC took back the mantle of greatness it had lost to Marvel, when books like Dark Knight Returns, Swamp Thing and Sandman hit the stands. Alan Moore had a lot to do with that, of course.
In film, stuff like Sin City and Raimi’s Spider-Man films started it off. The Dark Knight put the cap on it. Superhero stories can finally be grown up, filled with adult themes and ideas. Well crafted by some of the finest talents in the industry. Some of whom actually understand that the key to making a superhero film well is to follow the source material as closely as possible. Or, in the case of a character film and not a direct adaptation, follow the idea as closely as possible. There are reasons that some of these characters are icons.
Watchmen will hopefully now be the next logical step forward and it will be huge. It will blow the door open to all sorts of future experiments and the envelope can be pressed even further, hopefully. Everything Mark Millar touches seems to be optioned for film, including Kick-Ass. If someone had the balls to do it right, I’d love to see adaptations of The Authority or Ellis’ Black Summer, both of which owe a lot to Watchmen. Then there’s what Marvel is building, an interconnected film universe with continuity not unlike that which made seventies Marvel comics so intriguing. Imagine if DC, flush with the success of Dark Knight could pull off faithful adaptations of, say, Morrison’s JLA or even Kingdom Come. The world of film will be ablaze with brightly colored demi-gods battling in the skies above the earth and in the dark alleys below and people everywhere will be eating it all up with child-like delight.
I guess now the world is in love with superheroes, too.
Welcome aboard, folks.
What took you so long?