Boom! Studios, the publisher that has been turning out great comics based on various Disney-owned TV shows, cartoons, and movies since 2009, recently confirmed that their production of Disney comics will end in October with their Darkwing Duck/DuckTales crossover. This isn’t really a surprise, and the assumption seems to be that the characters will be folded into Marvel Comics, which Disney purchased about six months after the Boom! deal began. So the questions I ask in today’s Everything But Imaginary are simple: What is Marvel going to do with Disney Comics? And what should Marvel do with Disney Comics?
In this week’s classic EBI, we’re rolling back to February 23, 2005, when I took a look at the legacy of the Golden Age, both in characters and creators.
Everything But Imaginary #103: Old Dogs, New Tricks
This weekend, I was sitting around reading the latest issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide (which, incidentally, is still the best publication out there about comics), and I was gratified to see an ad from Heroic Publications announcing an upcoming Alter Ego trade paperback. Most of you have never heard of Alter Ego, of course. A few of you may recognize it as being a fanzine published by comic writer and editor supreme Roy Thomas about the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Three of you, based on our Everything But Imaginary Insta-Poll Technology, seem to think it’s some sort of Greek sandwich.
But it was also a four-issue miniseries written by Thomas and drawn by Ron Harris in the mid-80s, and it’s one of my favorite little-known gems of the comic book world. In this series, published by the now-defunct First Comics, a teenager named Rob Lindsay wound up with a box of Golden Age comics in mint condition, including some he’d never heard of, and with some really bizarre stories (like characters from one publisher showing up in another publisher’s book, which was rare in the 80s and unheard of in the 40s, although these days it happens with such frequency that they’re thinking of adding an inter-company crossover bell, not unlike an ice cream truck).
One of the comics was Alter Ego, a weird tale about a super-powered hero battling an evil tryant, the Crimson Claw. A mask fell out of the comic and, thinking it was a giveaway, Rob put it on, only to be transported to another dimension where World War II was still in high gear and all of the Golden Age characters he’d read about in his grandfather’s old comics were still alive and kicking. And he himself had been transformed to Alter Ego, their leader, and the only hope of saving his world and theirs from nuclear devastation.
I really don’t know how well-received the comic was when it was first published – I discovered it a few years later at a flea market, where I got all four issues for a quarter apiece. It looked interesting, and heck, it was only a buck for the whole miniseries. I’ve read those issues dozens of times over the years. It was one of the best single dollars I’ve ever spent. I even got Thomas to autograph the first issue for me at a convention a few years ago.
One of my favorite things about the title, though, was that Thomas didn’t whip up a bunch of “new” Golden Age heroes to plug into his tale – he secured the rights to several real characters who, not being published by Marvel or DC, had faded into obscurity: Captain Combat, the Holy Terror, Skyboy, Yankee Doodle and Camille the Jungle Queen. He even dug up Lev Gleason Publishing’s Daredevil, although with Marvel using the name these days, he called him Double-Dare in the comic.
At any rate, it was a great comic, and with a trade paperback scheduled for release this month, I’d recommend anyone who digs the Golden Age of comics try to find a copy. You know. Both of you. Which brings me around to where I was going in this column – so much of the time we, as comic fans, are looking for the next big thing. The next great writer, the next great artist, the next smash hit character. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure a great many of us hope to someday be the next great writer or the next great artist. But there’s still so much life in those classic creations that people are totally missing out on! Thomas was one of the kings of mining Golden Age material for new stuff – during the same period he published Alter Ego he also was doing great stuff at DC with the All-Star Squadron and Secret Origins, which were both steeped in the Golden Age.
These days, you don’t see a lot done with Golden Age properties, except for characters who were created in the Golden Age and have remained consistently popular, like Superman and Captain America. Marvel made an effort recently with New Invaders, but it fell flat pretty quickly. Really, the only one in comics really doing much with it at all at the moment is Geoff Johns in JSA. He’s using the original incarnations of perpetually popular characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, but he’s also brought back new or updated versions of classic, lesser known heroes like Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sand and (bless him for this one) the Red Tornado.
There are smatterings of respect to the Golden Age across the rest of the DCU. The Justice League keeps the original Crimson Avenger’s uniform on display in the Watchtower, a symbol of the first superhero in their universe. Lady Blackhawk has recently joined the Birds of Prey, and the Blackhawk name is kept alive by a new elite fighter squad. The Guardian will be part of Grant Morrison’s new Seven Soldiers of Victory. There’s even a new Manhunter, at least the fourth such incarnation of the character since the original one in the Golden Age.
Perhaps even more disturbing to me than the lack of screentime Golden Age properties seem to get these days, though, is the lack of respect Golden Age creators get. We’re talking about the guys who not only invented the medium and genres we all love, but most of them got royally screwed by the publishers in the process. So while Jim Lee has gotten richer off his work with Superman and Batman, the guys who created and defined those characters have struggled. I’m not downing Lee, mind you. I’m just sad that Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who got the rawest deal of just about anybody in the Golden Age) didn’t get the recognition they deserved while they were with us.
I try to hit a major con every year or two, and I’ve noticed something that really disturbs me. People are willing to stand in line for up to two hours for an autograph by Michael Turner or Mark Silvestri. And that’s fine – they’re both great artists and I enjoy their work. But then I’ll wander on over to the Artist’s Alley section and I’ll see guys like Mart Nodell sitting there alone, with no one coming close to shake his hand and ask for his signature.
Even sadder, I’ll bet at least 75 percent of the people who just read that paragraph don’t even know who Mart Nodell is.
He was the co-creator (with the aforementioned royally screwed Bill Finger) of a fella by the name of Green Lantern. The first one, of course, Alan Scott, but without him there would have been no Hal Jordan, no Guy Gardner, no John Stewart, no Green Lantern Corps, and Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver wouldn’t currently be doing some of the best work of their careers.
If you ever see him at a con, go talk to him. He’s an interesting guy – I’ve met him twice now and I was amazed each time. He’s happy to sign anything you bring him. He even takes copies of Zero Hour #0, which prominently featured ol’ Hal and happened to have a blank white cover, and does a sketch of a Lantern in green ink. Man, how cool is that?
You see it happening to more recent creators that are getting past their prime too. You may hate what Chris Claremont is doing with X-Men these days, but the man at least deserves respect for having taken what was, at the time, a stagnant, b-list Marvel title and making it one of the flagship books of the entire industry. John Byrne’s Doom Patrol may not be your cup of tea, but he did a run on Fantastic Four that was unparalleled in its quality until Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo took over. Don’t get the new stuff if you don’t like it, but give credit where credit is due as well.
Every art form needs to be constantly looking forward, looking ahead, trying to remain interesting, exciting and revolutionary. You’ve got to be ready to make that journey in the future. But every journey needs fuel, and there’s still an awful lot of fuel to be found in the past, if only you know where to look for it.
FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 16, 2005
Damn you, Geoff Johns.
I didn’t want to like Green Lantern: Rebirth. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate it. I felt like the whole series was DC’s way of capitulating to a vocal minority of fans who have spent the past ten years whining about Hal Jordan like babies who had their bottles taken away from them. To be honest, I still feel that way. But the fact is, no matter why this comic was scheduled in the first place, Johns is telling a fantastic story that’s redeeming Hal and tying up decades of continuity into one tight, concise tale that appears well on the road to reestablishing the one thing I have really missed since the revamp: the Green Lantern Corps. Issue 4 of this series was the best yet, showing some great action scenes, a fantastic moment with Green Arrow that I want as a poster, and the best artwork of Ethan Van Sciver’s career. I’m loving this book.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.