Friday, July 14, 2006

I'll be superamalgamated!

It's a bright, sunny Comic Art Friday, so let's kick things off by celebrating five current comics series that make entertaining summer reading:
  1. Green Arrow. I know a lot of fans aren't enamored of former Real World housemate Judd Winick's writing style, but I like his flair for characterization. Winick does a splendid job with Green Arrow, my all-time favorite DC Comics hero, and is developing a compelling story arc for the Emerald Archer's alter ego, Mayor Oliver Queen, in the current "One Year Later" themed books. Scott McDaniel's crude, blocky artwork doesn't exactly thrill me, but I'm finding it less irritating as the issues pass.

  2. 52. I was prepared to hate this weekly "event" series — with the gaggle of writers and artists contributing, I was certain that the product would be muddled and inconsistent — but it's become one of the highlights of my weekly comic shop run. It's the first book I read when I get home each Wednesday.

  3. Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Artist Barry Kitson's whimsical style is growing on me. The recent addition of Supergirl to the mix gives the storyline a fresh spin, because you know I loves me some Supergirl. (And at least this book comes out on schedule each month — something that can't be said for the current Supergirl series. Grrr...)

  4. Hero Squared. Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are at their witty, sardonic, madcap best in this clever series from Boom! Studios. It's the tale of a twentysomething slacker who discovers that his mirror image in a parallel universe is a mighty superhero, while his girlfriend's opposite number is the hero's archvillain. It's always a fun read. Warning to those not familiar with the Giffen/DeMatteis oeuvre: This book contains at least five times as much dialogue as you'll find in any other comic series currently in print. I love that aspect of it, but if you prefer pretty pictures to endless word balloons, Hero Squared is not the series for you.

  5. Beyond. A new Marvel Comics miniseries, written by one of my favorite comics scribes, Dwayne McDuffie, and illustrated by a talented artist, Scott Kolins. After reading just the first issue, I'm already anxious to see the direction McDuffie and Kolins will take this odd riff on Marvel's Secret Wars concept from back in the '80s.
Speaking of odd riffs on old concepts...

About a decade ago, Marvel and DC collaborated on a collection of one-shot books until the umbrella of Amalgam Comics. The idea of Amalgam was that in a parallel universe, all of the superheroes would be characters whose powers and costumes represented a combination — an amalgam, if you will — of established personalities from the DC and Marvel universes.

Some of the Amalgam creations were pretty cool, and made perfect sense from a creative perspective: Super-Soldier, who combined the attributes of Marvel's Captain America and DC's Superman; Dark Claw, a blend of DC's Batman and Marvel's Wolverine; and Doctor Strangefate, the avatar for Marvel and DC's respective mystical heroes, Doctor Strange and Doctor Fate. Others stretched the "amalgam" notion beyond the point of lunacy, like Iron Lantern (Green Lantern meets Iron Man) and Lobo the Duck (DC's ultraviolent space assassin Lobo melded with Marvel's seriocomic Howard the Duck).

The best of the Amalgam heroes, in my never-humble opinion, was Amazon. This character brought together the best qualities of two of the greatest heroines in comics history, Wonder Woman and Storm. Knowing that artist Michael Dooney is a fan of both of these superwomen, I knew that he'd be the perfect choice to revisit Amazon for my heroines gallery.

The word "superamalgamated" was, of course, a catchphrase made famous by Dr. William Harper Littlejohn, aka "Johnny," one of the "Famous Five" associates of the legendary pulp hero Doc Savage.

I've been a Doc Savage fanatic ever since I first discovered Doc and his team by way of the paperback reprint series published by Bantam Books back in the 1970s. I consider Doc one of the premier heroic archetypes in the history of published fiction, and present as evidence the fact that so many characters that have come along after Doc have been modeled to some degree after him. Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, for example, borrowed many of Doc's traits — including his name (Doc's given name is Clark, as is Superman's), his nickname (Doc was known as the Man of Bronze, Supes as the Man of Steel), and his arctic Fortress of Solitude (Siegel didn't even bother to rename it) — when they devised their landmark superhero.

Comics publishers have attempted on numerous occasions to translate Doc Savage to the four-color medium, with middling success. For my money as a hardcore Doc aficionado, the best of the comics were the miniseries published in the early 1990s by Millennium. The writers and artists (among the latter, a pre-superstar Adam Hughes) who worked on the Millennium books took great pains to deliver a treatment worthy of, and reasonably faithful to, the spirit and style of the original pulp novels.

The first Millennium miniseries, Doc Savage, Man of Bronze: The Monarch of Armageddon, written by popular novelist Mark Ellis, was illustrated by an artist who's become a personal favorite of mine: Darryl Banks. This series was, if I'm not mistaken, Darryl's earliest published work in comics. Some time ago, Darryl graciously allowed me to purchase his stockpile of original pages from the first issue of DSMoB:TMoA, representing about two-thirds of the complete book.

This stunningly designed splash page is the book's opening image:

Next, a spectacular page showing Doc's Empire State Building headquarters, juxtaposed alongside the Man of Bronze and his Famous Five:

Finally, one of my favorite pages in the book is this sequence of images at the Hidalgo Trading Company, the mysterious warehouse where Doc stores his fabulous array of vehicles, including a submarine, an autogiro (a combination airplane and helicopter), a seaplane, and a dirigible:

If you're not superamalgamated by now, shame on you. Because that's your Comic Art Friday.


3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

I still like the not done Amalgam character "J. Jonah Hex, Frontier Publisher" suggested by Bob Heer. Which led to a Usenet thread that included such other suggestions as 'Mazing Mandarin and Stan Lee And His Monster.

3:38 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

J. Jonah Hex, Frontier Publisher...

I love that!

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Jason T. offered these pearls of wisdom...

Why aren't people a fan of Winick? I think he's been pretty masterful with The Outsiders and I'm excited about his upcoming run on the new Shazam.

I've been all about 52 as well. The writing has been excellent even when the artwork hasn't been.

It's also been very cool to start to see the lines forming between where certain characters are in the 52 storyline and where they are "now" in the One Year later stories.

Checkmate has also been particularly good in its short run.

4:41 PM  

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