Posts Tagged ‘Plastic Man

30
May
12

Everything But Imaginary #450: Five Superhero Movies Hollywood Needs to Make

So this whole Avengers movie… made a buttload of money, right? The thing is, it did it with superheroes that the general public, until a few years ago, had never heard of, or at most vaguely remembered in a nostalgic kind of way. So let’s look at some other superheroes from outside of the A-list and see how Hollywood could make their movies into hits.

Everything But Imaginary #450: Five Superhero Movies Hollywood Needs to Make

13
Jul
11

Classic EBI #98: From the Archives

The DC relaunch continues to keep people talking, myself included. In this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I look at one aspect of DC that isn’t — and shouldn’t — change… the Vertigo line.

Everything But Imaginary #406: What Purpose Vertigo?

And rolling back the clock, we’re going to January 19, 2005. I was thinking format this week, specifically hardcover, long-term format…

Everything But Imaginary #98: From the Archives

When Will Eisner passed away a few weeks ago, I got the urge to go back and re-read some of his classic Spirit comics, and the best way to do that is from the very beginning, with DC’s Spirit Archives Volume 1.

Although it has a different trade dress, the Spirit series is part of what I think deserves to be known as the best series of archival American comic books on the planet. And more and more these days, I’m thinking those archives are an invaluable thing.

I was stunned at how many people, how many current comic fans, knew little or nothing about Will Eisner. I felt the same way last year when Julius Schwartz died. The contributions men like this made to the comic book artform are immeasurable, but because comics aren’t quite considered “high” art, their names can be lost. Just about every high school student has to slag through at least one book by a Bronte sister, but how many of them recognize the works of Otto Binder, Joe Simon or Bill Everett? For that matter, how many of you reading this column, under the age of 25, can even tell me which characters these men created or revolutionized?

That’s what makes the DC Archives such a great project. Although I’d heard about the archives for years, I didn’t own any until a few years ago when DC re-offered the first Batman Archives at a severely reduced price ($20, as opposed to the usual $50). I figured this was worth picking up, and immediately realized how fantastic these archival series are. Quality reproductions of the classic DC comics, complete, in the order they were originally printed. That last bit is especially important — complete, in the order they were originally printed. These stories are no longer simply comic books, they are part of our heritage, and to abridge them in any way would be robbing ourselves.

Now DC is not the first company to put out an archival edition like this. I believe the Marvel Masterworks line preceeded it. But I believe the DC line is better, for several reasons. Marvel’s line has been halted and re-started again various times, whereas the DC line continues to expand. Marvel has changed its trade dress, while the DC books are all uniform (except for a few titles that aren’t technically DC Comics, but which DC is reprinting – we’ll get to those next). And most importantly, DC just has much, much more to offer. They’ve got all the characters you’d expect to see in archives, of course — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League and so on, but DC doesn’t stop there. They constantly turn out archives for lesser-known characters like Blackhawk or Starman, different lines for Golden and Silver Age versions of the characters, and even include archival series for properties that they did not originally publish, but have earned a place in comic book history such as the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, ElfQuest and, of course, The Spirit.

The books are expensive, I know that. Fifty dollars for 200 pages of comic book is a hard price to justify. But it’s worth having the material in a higher-priced format for an archival project like this. It’s like buying a leather-bound edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, knowing full well you’ll never own an original.

Plus, I’ll be honest with you guys, I have never paid full-price for a DC Archive. Unless it’s a really rare volume, you’d be sort of foolish to do so. Thanks to auction sites like eBay and various other online booksellers, you can frequently find them much, much cheaper. I think the most I’ve ever paid for a DC Archive is $32, and I own about a dozen of them, although there are dozens more that I wish to get.

Other companies, to their credit, are making an effort. Gladstone Comics spent many years on several series reprinting the work of the brilliant Carl Barks, including a Carl Barks Library series for his Uncle Scrooge comics, one for his stories from the Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories title, and even a line that just reprinted his one-page gags. The line was paperback, though, and the volumes were slim and pricey, and are now extremely difficult to find with Gladstone out of business.

Archie Comics has several archival series as well, most noteably the Archie Americana series. These trade paperbacks select the best comics from each decade and reprint them. Archie has also started doing trade paperbacks of their old superhero titles, such as the Shield, the Fly and the Mighty Crusaders.

The problem with this line, though, is that these are “best of” comics, stories carefully chrerry-picked from hundreds of comics produced. It makes for good reading, but it doesn’t make for a good archive if you leave stuff out.

Marvel’s Essential line doesn’t leave anything out, and it comes at a much more affordable price — about $15 for a phone book-sized volume of comics. It’s great for a reading copy, but again, it loses something. In this case, the artwork is reproduced in black-and-white, helping to keep the price down. That’s fine for the purpose of the book, but even though I’m no artist myself, I can tell that color artwork and black and white artwork is constructed differently. When you’re drawing something that will be colored, you use different techniques than something that stops at the inking stage, and as a result, color comics never look as good in black and white reprints as comics that were originally drawn in black and white.

Except for the DC Archives and the sporadic Marvel Masterworks, I really think that the best project currently in the works to really archive a comic is Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts. In 25 volumes, this series is intended to reprint every Peanuts comic strip ever drawn, presented in their original order. That’s remarkable. Now naturally, most of us have read several Peanuts books, probably even own several. But not like this. Previous books were always selections of strips from a certain time period, Charles Schulz’s favorites, or perhaps grouped by a theme (Christmas strips, back-to-school strips, etc.). This is the first time every strip will be reprinted in order. Some of the strips, in fact, have never been reprinted before at all.

Now archives are not a way to snare new readers. No one who hasn’t read comics before is going to think to themselves, “$50 for a Plastic Man comic book? Sign me up!” And archives won’t even really help to educate the younger readers on the great comics of the past. Hopefully books like the Essential line will help with that. And personally, I long for the days when a new comic would give a few pages in the back for a reprint of a classic story. (Marvel tried this a few years ago with their “100-Page Monster” comics, but that’s another experiment that has gone defunct.)

But for people who already love classic comic book and want to study and preserve the gems of the past, these archives are priceless.

Well, technically they have a $50 tag, so they aren’t priceless. But you get the picture. So let me ask you… what series do you want to see as an archive?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 12, 2005

Fables #33 very nearly took this spot, but only a mystery that was too easy to solve held it back, making way for a comic even better. JSA #69. The work Geoff Johns is doing with this comic is phenomenal. Several Justice Society members have been hurled into the past, charged with convincing their own mentors to become heroes again, knowing that the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This is a crazy, classic superhero formula. And it still works, because it’s smart, well-written, and most of all, fun. JSA was my choice for best superhero comic of 2004. Books like this one are the reason why.

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.

 

23
Jun
10

EBI Classic #52: Spandex and Seltzer

In this week’s new column, Everything But Imaginary #356: Where Jonah Hex Went Wrong, I take a look at the latest comic book movie to hit theaters, and one of the biggest flops the industry has ever seen… and just why it was so bad. And here at the ‘Realms it’s time for another classic EBI column. From March 3, 2004…

Spandex and Seltzer

Although this column is about comic books in general (in particular, how to improve them), it’s undeniable that superheroes are the dominant genre in American comics. So let’s think for a moment about those traits that make a good superhero: he should fight evil. Simple enough. He should have a distinctive look — I don’t necessarily mean a “uniform” or a “costume,” but this character should have a consistent appearance and manner of dress while he’s on the job. Oh, yeah, one more thing. He should be funny. Really, really funny.

Okay, stop scratching your heads, I’m going to explain that one. Sure, there are a lot of spandex types that aren’t even remotely funny. The Vision, for instance, is a typically cold, stoic character, and as good as Supreme Power typically is, it’s not a title that will conjure up a lot of laughs.

But superheroes, as much as I love ‘em, are sort of a silly concept to begin with — people who put on tights and capes and run around beating up muggers… this is not the product of a well-balanced mind. So melding superheroes with pure comedy is something that has been tried again and again over the years, frequently with very good results.

You can find examples of comedy superheroes as far back as the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel series (reprinted as Shazam! in the DC Comics Archive collection). While early adventures of this character attempted to be a bit more serious, in line with contemporaries like Superman, within a few years the writers realized how silly a concept they really had — a small boy who could say a magic word and become a grown-up superhero — and began to have fun with it. They introduced characters like Mr. Tawny, the talking tiger, and goofy villains like Mr. Mind, an alien worm that could crawl in someone’s ear and control their brain. (Kudos to Geoff Johns for resurrecting the concept in the recent JSA/Hawkman crossover, by the way.) You had looney villains like Dr. Sivana, whose every scheme seemed to include capturing Billy Batson and preventing him from saying his magic word until the gag fell away or something, then Captain Marvel would wipe the floor with him. Basically, you had some lighthearted, fun comics that are still a joy to read today.

A contemporary of the big red cheese, of course, was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, a stretchy hero with a sense of humor when he fought crime. He paved the way for wisecrackers like Spider-Man, and currently he’s being used in his own series by Kyle Baker, who is doing the best Plastic Man since Cole himself. (Although there was a late-80s miniseries by Phil Foglio and Hilary Barta that never gets enough credit.)

Superheroes then faded, then came back, then got corny, then got “relevant,” then got gritty, and at this point it seemed like people would rip the hair from their skulls at how depressing superhero comics were. Sure, there were a few exceptions like the silver age Legion of Super-Heroes. That was a pretty cutting edge title at the time, with characters actually dying and turning bad or getting kicked off the team, stuff that you didn’t see in other superhero titles, but at the same time there was still room for fun, goofy characters like Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and the Legion of Super-Pets.

Then came the 80s and two of the best humor superhero concepts ever. First was Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League. Coupled with artists like Bart Sears and the great Kevin Maguire, these teams lasted for five years on two titles that took our classic DC icons and made them funny as all get-out. They turned second-stringers like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold into Abbott and Costello for the spandex set. They made Guy Gardner a pansy with a blow to the head. They turned the Martian Manhunter into an Oreo fiend. Their ideas got goofier and goofier and worked more and more, and thank goodness they came back last year with the Formerly Known as the Justice League miniseries, because we really needed it.

The other good superhero comedy of the 80s was John Byrne’s take on the formerly “savage” She-Hulk. Originally just a carbon copy of the Hulk with a supermodel figure, Byrne saw the inherent goofiness in a seven-foot green attorney/superhero and went one better. In Byrne’s title, the She-Hulk actually knew she was in a comic book, and would frequently break the fourth wall, talking to the writer, to the reader, and using gags like “Meanwhile” captions to help her travel much faster. It was incredibly funny stuff, and after Byrne’s run on the title ended, other writers tried to copy his style but it was never quite the same. If you can find back issues of either of his two runs on the title, they’re worth picking up, though.

So what have we got these days if you want superhero humor? Aside from the aforementioned Plastic Man, not much. Sure, some books like Spider-Man still crack a lot of jokes, or maybe Mark Waid will give us a particularly funny issue of Fantastic Four, but that’s not the same as a regular humor fix. Doug Miers did a great series a while back called The Generic Comic Book, which starred a Generic Man fighting generic villains and cracking up the reader in the process, but that only lasted 13 issues (although there is the promise of a Generic Mini-Series later this year).

Occasionally you’ll get a comedy miniseries like the anxiously awaited I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League or the fantastic Gus Beezer specials Gail Simone did before she went exclusive to DC. Bongo comics still does occasional issues of Radioactive Man, taking Bart Simpson’s favorite comic book and using it to poke lighthearted fun at all eras and styles of superhero comics, but the ostensibly quarterly series seems to take longer to come out with each issue.

I want more. I want to be able to laugh more at our buddies in tights. I’d like to see the Defenders return as a comedy series (because let’s face it, with a name that generic humor is an obvious ingredient). I’d like to see a sort of “buddy movie” miniseries with famous buds Wonder Man and the Beast (kind of like Roger Stern did a few years ago in his Avengers Two miniseries, but funnier).

Blast it all, I want to see the Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew meets Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham crossover classic.

So what makes you laugh about guys in spandex? What Are some good superhero comedy titles that I missed? What’s being published right now that I should know about? You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine. And if your general practitioner is Doctor Doom, you want to stay away as long as possible.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 25, 2004

Speaking of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion #30 easily took my award for best comic last week. The conclusion of the “Foundations” storyline sees the Legion along with a time-tossed Superboy and a brainwashed teenage version of Clark Kent take on Darkseid, who has kidnapped and perverted heroes from the past in his own bid to rule the universe. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have crafted an epic to rival “The Great Darkness Saga” as one of the best Legion stories ever told, and Christ Batista’s pencils have never been better. I’m sorry to see this writing team leaving the book, and whoever is coming in after their five years of stewarding these characters has a very tough act to follow.

I still miss Matter-Eater Lad, though.

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 and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at Blake@comixtreme.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

27
Nov
09

What I’m Reading: Justice League of America #39

Even before their “official” team takes over the book, James Robinson and Mark Bagley are having some fun with the remnants of the previous team in this Blackest Night crossover. The rag-tag team, including Vixen, Gypsy, Dr. Light,Zatanna, Red Tornado, and Plastic Man, stand in the broken husk of the Hall of Justice, where the Black Lantern corpses of many of their enemies have recently arisen. It’s not just the enemies they’ll need to deal with — Gypsy and Vixen find themselves facing their late teammate Vibe, Zatanna confronts the soulless corpse of her own father, and Dr. Light seeks out the villain whose name she has been trying to redeem for years.

As always, Robinson‘s grasp of character is impeccable. He puts these heroes through real Hell, and they’ve started from a pretty nasty place to begin with. The duel between Zatanna and Zatara is epic, exciting stuff. Zee already had to watch her own father’s soul destroyed in the Reign in Hell series — fighting his body, battling him spell for spell… it’s wonderful. We also get some really good stuff here with Dr. Light. In fact, Robinson in general has become quite the champion of that character, both here and in Superman.

Bagley isn’t just one of the top artists in the business because he’s consistent. He’s also good. The women especially look good here, and the slowly-melting Plastic Man looks like he’s in major agony. Bad for Plas, of course, but it’s impressive in the terms of the artwork.

This story tales place after Robinson‘s Cry For Justice miniseries which — as of this writing — still has two issues to go. But between that title and this one, I’m more than satisfied that the book is going to be in very good hands.

Rating: 8/10

24
Aug
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 83: Plastic Man

This week the guys turn their attention to the world’s first pliable sleuth, Plastic Man! The guys ask why he’s never cracked the upper tier of the DC Icons, share their favorite stories, reminisce about a miniseries that almost no one remembers, and wonder if Ethan Van Sciver‘s proposed relaunch will ever get off the ground. After a quick side-discussion on Flash: Rebirth, the guys get to their picks of the week. Chase goes with the webcomic The Devil and the Monk, while Blake asks everyone to rush out and get the superhero novel Playing For Keeps! E-mail us with your comments, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@Comixtreme.com!

Episode 83: Plastic Man
Inside This Episode:




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