Monday, July 23, 2007

Give Me Crack! Give Me Speed!

Thank you, Image Comics!

I think that this news is the best thing since sliced bread.

Now, a lot of people will be excited at the idea of anthology book with such a large number of talented creators. What I am grooving on is taking Golden Age characters and writing them in a Golden Age style.

A new issue of Crack Comics? Crack Comics that gave us Captain Triumph, the Clock, and the gaytacular Black Condor? I've been waiting for this since before I was born!

There's been plenty of love at DC for Golden Age characters. The front ranks of the DCU's heroes are filled with Golden Agers (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Ted Grant, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Aqua-- oh, wait; I forgot...), and the Golden Age DC group, the Justice Society, now enjoys unprecedented respect. At times, we've even been given some glimpses into past "untold" adventures of such characters from early in their careers, giving them a depth the characters didn't originally possess.

But telling a story with Golden Age characters in it or a story set in the Golden Age isn't the same as telling a story in the Golden Age style. And that is what I've been missing, and what I hoping will delight me about the Next Issue Project. The flat color, the deep shading, the weird perspective! The exposition, the compression, the Starmanly drama! I'm hoping it'll be a shot of espresso after decades of weak tea. I'm hoping "this is going to be OOMPHY."

Though I'm eagerly awaiting the "Clock" story, I'm also jazzed about seeing new stories for characters I've never even heard of. "Sub Saunders"? "Capt. Kidd"? I love them already. I'm already thinking of having custom clix made of them for my Aquaman Heroclix games (or at least tokens), and I haven't even seen them.

To me, the great tragedy of art (be it musical, literary, or visual) is that the evolution of a new style always seems to displace an old one. A natural human reaction, perhaps, but not, I think, always a necessary one. The fugue, the sonnet, the allegorical painting-- such modes of expression are just as valid as they ever were, still as potentially enjoyable, still as deserving of new composition. So, too, Golden Age comic book storytelling.

If you do not buy this comic,
J. Edgar Hoover will note it in your permanent record.

The Next Issue Project is also well timed. More and more, I get the feeling that many younger comic books readers think of Silver Age comics as "how comics started out"; they imagine that the wan and bloodless Superman secret identity farces of the Eisenhower era are the beginning of superhero comics. This is puzzling (and a shame), since reprints of Golden Age stories are now more accessible than ever before (well, assuming one has a very healthy wallet, at least!).

I have shocked younger friends by sharing with them the pungency and potency of the adventures of Golden Age heroes. I've seen them come away with a new and deeper respect for an artform they already loved, when they discover that Grant Morrison didn't invent violating the Fourth Wall and that Neil Adams wasn't the first person to draw figures extruding outside of their panel boxes. I love watching them discover that if Golden Age artists weren't masters of detailed anatomy, they were masters of grand composition; that if Golden Age writers weren't masters of subtle characterization, they were masters of powerful plotting; and that if Golden Age editors didn't demand big stories, they demanded stories created in a big way.

Will the Next Issue Project bring that kind of realization to a broader audience? Perhaps not directly. But it is my hope that when readers see how many stellar modern creators respect the Golden Age style enough to try their hand at it, they just may become interested in finding out why that is so.


Nick said...

I have never heard of 'The Clock'.

But i believe it may be my purpose in life to by anything titled 'Crack Comics'.

Christine Smith said...

I'm not sure contemporary writers /can/ write in the Golden Age style. You need a certain lack of selfconsciousness and abandon to write in that style. Instead, what I would do.... and I say this entirely without irony.... is introduce several six year old children to the characters, go over a few stories they appeared in, and have THEM come up with the plots of the spot. Golden Age comics need a wide-eyed gee-whiz factor, absolutely no metatextual awareness, and tons of fun. I'm not convinced anyone in our culture today past a first grade education can really do justice to that spirit.

The Shadow said...

What, no Pot Comics?

Anonymous said...

The Clock was the inspiration for The Spirit, The Man Called Midnight, The Question, etc.

His calling card reads "The Clock has STRUCK!"

Anonymous said...

Dear Scipio
I think you will be sorely disappointed. To me it sounds as if the stories will have a golden-age "look" only. Note the following passages from the article:

"There are various times throughout the course of history of comics where you have people coming along, grabbing these old characters and making of them something more than what they were. I mean, Mr. Monster had a much larger life beyond his Golden Age appearance years later under Michael Gilbert's eye. I think what we'll have here is a bunch of guys who will do the same with a bunch of other characters."

"Meanwhile I'm doing the lead story starring Samson and I'm ditching all of the old stuff because it's awful! [laughs] Samson was, unfortunately, one of those strips that just wasn't executed very well but the pieces are in place - there's a way to take what's there are make it cool without completely obliterating it."

(He's ditching all the old stuff?! What will he be left with?)

" the same time I think it would be a waste of time to have a modern creator draw exactly like the guys of old. Asking Bill Sienkiewicz draw like Dick Sprang would be a waste of time. Why would you do that when you've got someone who can bring something different or cool to the page? The idea is to modernize these characters to an extent-without trashing or redesigning them."

"I could see bringing Samson into "Savage Dragon" just because drawing and writing his story and adding to his rogues gallery has been so much fun."

(If his version of Samson can fit into a Savage Dragon comic, how "Golden age style" can it be?)

"This isn't something where we're really sitting there riffing on golden age books although we really are doing this with as much respect as we can muster up for this material-this is a series of books by new creators doing new stories with old characters."

webrunner said...

There are those who have the skill to write authentically bad- ever watch Lost Skeleton of Cadavra?

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