Thursday, April 18, 2019

The King Of Monsters Cometh!

I'm getting very very excited about this latest monster flick. While most folks seem to be dazzled by the last days of the Avengers,I'm looking past them somewhat to see a real world beater take the stage. Be still my heart! I love the Avengers, but I worship Godzilla!

The gang's all here. It's time to dig all those classic monster epics out and watch them all yet again to feed my hungry Kaiju-loving brain. Long live the King!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Flames Of Notre Dame!

This was somewhat crummy news and watching the spire crash in was a little unsettling. I was alas, reminded of the twin towers in NYC. Of course the comparison is a weak one, but seeing an iconic structure fall down shakes the timbers of my faith in society a wee bit. We are toying everyday it seems with the moral and ethical pillars which have for the most part maintained us, and to see actual pillars in jeopardy reminds me of that. 

I only a few months ago actually got hold of and watched Charles Laughton's magnificent performance as Victor Hugo's tragic hero, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was quite magnificent and all the folks in Paris need to do is tap that Hollywood magic and the old look will rise again and possibly on a crackerjack budget.

And I took the opportunity to watch again the master Lon Chaney in one of his most famous roles. I find I prefer Laughton's more sympathetic presentation, though the spectacle of the Chaney version is eye-popping still. And that concludes my thoughts on Notre Dame for the nonce -- be safe.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Marvel Way!

After Jack "King" Kirby left to make his characters sing under his own pen, Stan Lee found a steady replacement in "Big" John Buscema, an imposing artist on the page and in real life. Buscema became the central artist in the Marvel Universe, so much so that when it came time to teach the world the "Marvel Way" it was the stylings of John Buscema which represented.

And here is one of "Big" John's drafts for the cover, pretty close to the final save for the title of the book which was apparently changed. It was a good change. Despite that, Buscema was apparently one of those guys for whom drawing was like breathing, it came naturally.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

John Buscema's Silver Surfer!

I found this tome for relative small money at my local shop, and the price was to good to pass up. Getting to see Big John's work in such a way only increases my life-long adoration for his work. While he had general disdain for his superhero work and there's no doubt that at some level Conan was a work of love, it's his Silver Surfer books which stand out to me when I think of him. He did so many great Avengers issues in several tenures on the book, but issues one through seventeen of this singular book always seemed to bring out the best. Maybe it's because Stan Lee always treasured these so highly and took great pains to husband the Surfer gently into the broader Marvel Universe after the departure of his creator Jack Kirby. Some have said this is some of Stan's best writing and I won't disagree, the melodrama is vibrant and Buscema was the ideal artist to bring it forth. No artist, living or dead, has ever drawn the Surfer's suffering with more potency.

Here are the issues in this over-sized tome of awesomeness.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #1 - John Buscema!

John Buscema has been my favorite comic book artist from the very beginning of my time reading comics. He was ascending in fame and responsibility at Marvel as Jack Kirby, the "King of Comics" withdrew to the warmer climes of a "Fourth World". Buscema would become Marvel's mainstay artist, the guy they tapped to draw all the first issues and major series. He was a supremely gifted illustrator of superheroes and yet by all accounts he hated them, found them foolish looking. He was a man who'd found his inspiration in Hal Foster's Prince Valiant and he thought that legendary comic strip was the peak of comics. He got his chance when he belatedly was given the reins of the Conan the Barbarian comic, at a time when it had proven itself sufficiently successful to warrant an artist of his caliber (and page rate). He stayed with Conan pretty from that day forth and later got a chance to draw Tarzan of the Apes. But he drew other things as well, such as legendary run on the Silver Surfer and had many stints in several different decades of The Avengers

He drew them all at one time or another and eventually became the guy who showed us all how to draw the Marvel way. The first thing I think of when I think of Buscema is gravity, no artist I've even seen had such a feel for the way the human form is rooted to the Earth and no artist ever drew that relationship with more force. His heroes lift themselves from the ground with effort and they punch with explosive power. His machines, different from Kirby's, are sinuous and serpentine in their essence. Like Kirby in earlier years, later work by Buscema seems to fade a bit as he's only supplying breakdowns. That's not going to get it for fans like me -- I want the hard stuff, the ass-kicking pure "Big" John Buscema, my absolute favorite comic book artist ever. 

Putting together this list has been enormous fun. It's been interesting to attempt to rank my favorite comic talents (not really all the much possible beyond a handful) because it's made me reflect on what I like in each artist. You might notice some significant names not on the list and that's because some talents are better known as inkers and their impact on me has been as inkers. That list is coming soon to a Dojo near you. Thanks for your attention and patience amigos.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #2 - Jack Kirby!

Jack Kirby is still what he was in his time, the absolute "King" of comics. And I assume most who follow this blog will have assumed he was my number one favorite artist as much attention as I pay to him and his creations, especially his Fourth World stuff for DC. (767 posts so far.) But the King was an artist I came to love over a relatively short time, his abstractions in the pages of Fantastic Four proving exciting but at moments unclear. The vitality of his work seeped into me over time as I saw more and read more of it here and there and as it turns out today nearly everywhere.

Kirby is an artist who fought his whole life to create, a product of the tenements of NYC, a rough and tumble man who was unafraid of life and who despite his incredible skills possessed a true modesty. The work came so easily to him, that he couldn't understand why others thought it unusual or impressive. Slowly he became aware and sought to find the success alone that had only been his before in partnership, first with Joe Simon and later with Stan Lee. In pulling away from his past with such vigor he might have seemed less than appreciative of the talents of others, but those closest to him tell stories that let you know this was not the case. Kirby wanted to spread the glamour which was associated with him, especially after his monumental success at Marvel in the Silver Age, to others and was charitable in that regard. I adore the work of Jack "King" Kirby and have been buying collections and celebrations of it for decades now, but even more than the artist, I respect this man who I never met, but who I feel I know reasonably well. He was a doubtlessly great artist and he was an exceedingly good man, a good man who was kind enough to take time for us all.

Next's number one.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Favorite Comic Artist Countdown #3 - Will Eisner!

Will Eisner might be the smartest man who ever entered the field of comic books. I became aware of Will Eisner and his creation The Spirit in the book by Jules Fieffer -- The Great Comic Book Heroes. Unfortunately the Spirit story in that tome is an early one and doesn't to my eye represent the true glory of the heyday of Eisner's post-war Spirit tales.

I only chanced upon those when Warren began to reprint them in magazine size and glorious black and white. The awesomeness of Eisner was evident for all to see and his influence on Mike Ploog among others was clear. Eisner is an artist who found new ways to make a career in comics, locating new avenues for publication. The Spirit of course was part of a package delivered weekly in newspapers and later Eisner was stalwart packager of material for the military. After he left that, in a time when he might've retired he became a big part of the Indy market with sensitive and funny tales of just plain folks in the tenements of the big city and beyond. He illustrated fairy tales and epic novels and was one of many who tried to make sense of the war in Vietnam. His Spirit stories are so vital and strong in their pure form that they never age, only become part of a long tradition of tales from decades past well worth the effort. His ability to nail personality was the key and making the Spirit the object of violence at least as often as the delivery boy for it made him all the more real. I think Eisner wished he didn't wear a mask, but the little domino which was ludicrous to hide his identity from his friends but somehow did, elevated the character beyond the singular and made him an archetype. Like the Continental Op, he was at once a man and much more, a symbol of heroism, bravery and steadfastness.

Then Eisner seemed to disappear from comics, but he really hadn't, he'd merely found another lucrative market in producing material for the military and there he fashioned the delectable Connie Rodd to inspire troops up to keep up-to-date on what they needed to maintain their equipment in first rate working order. And then he entered the graphic novel market with thoughtful resonant slices of life like A Contract with God and the science fictional A Life Force. He went on to create many more pieces of art as his Spirit found new generations and his star only glimmered more brightly than ever. Eisner is near the top of my list because he was a man who found the magic blend of business and art, the nexus which forms the classic comic book and he excelled at it like few others.

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