Friday, February 15, 2008

Readers' Forum Friday

Bill K. of a “small town in Missouri”, (his description!), writes with the following inquiry:

“Greg, I know you obviously have a love for superhero comic books, and that you’ve mentioned a number of times in Kyle’s episodes how some of the guys are comic book fans. I wanted to ask what comic books and comic book artists were your favorite and most influential when you were growing up?”.

Wow, got a few hours? LOL. Seriously, this could take a while to answer. It may end up being the entire column this week, and that still wouldn’t cover everything. I’ll try to be brief.

As a kid, it was pretty much DC comics that held my attention. Marvel would come a bit later. My first real favorites were the Justice League, and the various solo books of the members, (Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, etc). There were a couple of years in the 70s when the penciller of the JLA, Dick Dillin, was being inked by Dick Giordano, and those books are gorgeous, my first real “swoon” moment with comic books. (OK, that’s arguable… perhaps it was Curt Swan who first really grabbed my attention). In any case, I would soon discover, thanks to DC’s penchant for reprinting 1960s comics in the 1970s, (and also, thanks to a used comic book store nearby my house when I was about 13 years old), the Teen Titans books of the 60s, with the amazing Nick Cardy’s lush illustrations. And then, of course, Nick Cardy was also doing tons of covers for almost every DC book back then, (including my beloved JLA, pictured at left). Something about his art had the most indefinable charisma to it. It still floors me.

This all lead up to what ended up becoming, possibly, my favorite comic book of all time… the Legion of Super-Heroes. That incredible teen-aged team, (23 members strong!), from the 30th century. At that point they were being drawn by Mike Grell, in what for me was the perfect marriage of artist and subject matter.

Grell, also famous for some of his skimpy Legion costume designs, including what has probably become the most famously homo-erotic super-hero costume of all time, Cosmic Boy’s “barely there” 1970s, um… I don’t know quite how to describe it. Perhaps it’s better to just show you:

I later discovered that Mike Grell had been preceded as artist of the Legion by the spectacular Dave Cockrum, (thanks to that used comic book store, I got to collect almost all of his back issues!). Now, this man was a visionary. Not only did he revamp and revive the Legion when they were really on life support, but the many costumes he created have become the template on which the Legion still bases their looks today. His art was dynamic, involving, incredible. Here’s just one sample:

I recently purchased the DC Archive Editions Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 10, which features all of Dave Cockrum’s Legion work in one high-quality volume. Here’s what it looks like:

It’s positively awesome to watch this artist come into his own during the course of all the issues contained in this volume. I highly recommend it, (and the volume after it, too, which contains Mike Grell’s first year or so on the book, which may be my favorite of all his work).

OK, being that I’ve now used up almost all of the space for this week’s Readers’ Forum, I’d better wrap up. I didn’t even get to mention Neal Adams, George Perez, and several others. And then… when I began reading Marvel Comics, a whole new set of favorites, including the late, great, John Buscema, who lived out here on Long Island, too. I was so fortunate to meet and speak with him several times when I was first trying to break into the comic book industry, myself. What a friendly, kind-hearted great man, and great artist, too.

Well, I hope that answered your question, Bill! And I promise, next week, I’ll answer lots of other readers’ questions!

And before I go, one more parting glimpse of the magnificent Dave Cockrum's work. Dave passed away in late 2006. I never got the chance to meet him and thank him for the great work he did, and for inspiring me with his visionary talent. I hope he's up there, somewhere, watching now.

UPDATE: Writer/publisher Clifford Meth wrote to let me know he is in charge of selling off Dave Cockrum's personal comic book collection. (Clifford was largely responsible for helping Dave to get a financial settlement from Marvel towards the end of his life, when he was in a serious health & financial crisis. And also organized a fund-raiser involving a bunch of other big names in comics, to help Dave at that time). Proceeds are going to Dave's widow, Paty. Please click here to get more details, and to see the large trove of classic titles available.

B&B seein’ ya’!


Trevor said...

The Legion is one of D.C.'s most creative series, I'm not surprised you are a fan. It is too bad that the book got hatcheted in the late 1980s in D.C.'s attempt to write Superboy out of existence in Crisis.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Nick Cardy never drew the Legion & Teen Titans together.

griffin said...

It wasn't just the Legion that got "hatcheted" in the late 80's as a result of the Crisis. A lot of other DC titles had some major continuity problems in the aftermath. I know that Crisis was an attempt to sort things out, but it actually made things more confusing for a while there. Luckily, things did eventually sort out.