…in case you’re into that sort of thing.
I’ve been writing this one for a while but finally finished it last night. Enjoy…or don’t. Whatever.
I did not grow up reading comic books. But like anything else, if you are a big enough research nerd, it won’t take you long to become a self-proclaimed expert, or at least know enough to not completely embarrass yourself when in the company of the truly knowledgeable…at least about the subject in question. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities to embarrass yourself with your abhorrent behavior….if you’re anything at all like me. How I became a comic book nerd was kind of a roundabout journey.
When I was little I loved books. I always knew that there was this deeply important and incredibly powerful thing inside all books. Knowledge. Whether I was sneaking my Mom’s copies of “Lace” or “The Cider House Rules” off her bookshelf or leafing through the children’s books at my Grandmother’s house I felt as though what I were really doing was searching for that ONE really and truly astonishing something, that fact or artifact that no one else knew about or that the knowledge of had long since been forgotten. In my time flipping through books, pouring over pages, looking for things, information, stories, I also grew to love the pictures.
I think I may have been an artist long before I was a writer. I took my drawing pads and pens with me EVERYWHERE! I held onto books that were “too young for me” for far too long because I could not let go of the artwork contained in them. There was one book by Ruth Heller called “A Cache of Jewels” that I pored over long after I had memorized the information within.
The illustrations were so precise, so jewel-bright, so beautifully realistic, but also completely whimsical. I remember trying to recreate this cover image on many occasions with my unsure, eight-year-old, artist’s hands. It was, of course, never quite right, but I never stopped trying.
Like most 8 and 9 year old girls who loved to draw and loved to draw characters, another huge inspiration was Walt Disney or at least the Disney movies that were being released at that time. I would spend countless hours drawing and redrawing Ariel and Belle until I got them to look EXACTLY like the images I saw on the screen. You see kids, the internet did not exist back then, at least not for civilians, and we had to make our own fun. When I wasn’t drawing a character study of Belle from a wobbly and striated paused VHS on the TV screen I was probably playing outside with a stick or something. They were dark times.
Comics and the incredible art contained within, started to become more relevant once I started working in a bookstore. And when I wasn’t working in a bookstore I was literally across town, hanging out in a different bookstore. This shop was much cooler than the one where I worked and had the owner been able to hire someone I totally would have worked there instead. Something Wicked was the name of the shop and it focused mostly on Science Fiction and Mysteries. The owner, Jon, and I became friends and still are to this day. Because his shop was Science Fiction-y he would occasionally go to Cons. Jon knew of my fondness for pinup art, Olivia art, and drawings of beautiful if scantily clad females and from one Con he brought me back a book of Joseph Michael Linsner’s “Cry for Dawn”.
This is not the book. I could not find a picture of the book on the internet and while I totally still have the actual book it is more than likely buried in a box somewhere in my office that I still haven’t unpacked from moving back in October because I am a terrible person.
It was lovely! It was page after page of this wonderful, powerful, and uniquely sexy character and I was hopelessly in love!
From there I got into Jim Lee for obvious reasons….reason #1, however, is that he’s a total BADASS!
And then there were the other artists like Robert McGinnis who did book covers (and so much more) for cheesy pulp novels in the 50s, 60s and 70s….
…that led me to find other comic artists like Jim Silke who were constantly straddling that line between storyteller and pornographer.
And yes, Jim Silke is a HUGE fan of Bettie Page!
And his work, strangely enough led to my falling in love with Al Williamson and his rich, elaborate, story-boarded scenes from “Flash Gordon”.
Then there were the connections made randomly, organically, like my love of Ralph Steadman spurring my affection for Frank Miller (at least his artwork because the dude is an ACTUAL hot fucking mess in real life). I don’t think one can critically speak of Frank Miller without mentioning Steadman. It would be remiss.
All in all it was my love of pictures, of art, of strong, beautiful women that led me to comics. They are at the heart of who I am in that regard. And it was Jack Kirby’s faces, that I found so fascinatingly simple and jarringly emotive, that found me, falling in love with Marvel comics. For a long while, when asked to pick a side, which one occasionally is asked when frequently in the company of comic book nerds, I would proudly declare myself a “Marvel Girl”. And since we are looking at pretty pictures here’s some of my favorite Jack Kirby characters and some other random Marvel highlights.
Above is all Kirby (or inked over Kirby’s sketches). His Odin blows my Goddamn mind!
Other Marvel stuff and in case you couldn’t tell I am moderately obsessed with Hellcat right now! I also want Thor to cup my ass just like that….Dazzler is one lucky gal! Also, also….WENDIGO!
Marvel is a universe crafted at the hands of two brilliant men with unfathomable minds and luminous artistry and it is responsible for launching some of the most brilliant artistic careers of the Silver Age of comics; Buscema, Steranko, Romita (or as I like to call them the Three Juan-itos…because all three of them are named John) to name just a few. Marvel was and is awesome in every sense of the word…but they were always missing one thing….The Bat.
Bob Kane’s Batman first appeared in Detective comics (later DC) #27
The Batman, the Caped Crusader, Bats, the World’s Greatest Detective, the Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne; whatever you called him, Batman was and remains an incurable badass (except maybe when George Clooney played him, but that wasn’t really Clooney’s fault. I mostly blame Joel Schumacher for putting nipples on the Batsuit. Way to go, Joel! That’s what Batman had been missing all those years…nipples). Batman was a symbol that any man (who was a billionaire with infinite resources) who was tired of corruption, of looking the other way, of the status quo, could rise up and become someone else….something else (and is that sounds familiar to you it’s supposed and I am totally getting there) in order to protect the things and people he holds dear. And this became the template off of which so many other DC characters were built.
I would be a liar if I said that it was not the more recent additions to popular culture that has fueled my enthusiasm for DC’s universe and characters but certainly they were not the only things….I do have a five year old boy after all and little boys love Batman. They just do. They cannot help it. I think it’s in their blood, woven into their biology by 70 years worth of human evolution.
I wanted to touch briefly on the Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” movies as “the thing that made Batman cool again” after a decade or so of cinematic embarrassments. “Batman Begins”, being the first installment in the Dark Knight Trilogy, was a re-creation of the character for a modern age; gritty, complex, stoic, strong, even romantic at times. Christian Bale brought to Batman a depth that he had previously lacked outside the comic books and he brought it to a national audience and national acclaim. You cannot talk about the Dark Knight Trilogy without at least mentioning the haunting and even disturbing portrayal of Batman’s longtime nemesis, The Joker by a doomed Heath Ledger. The impact of that performance and what it has done to and for the evolution of that character is astounding in its depth. I feel like it raised the bar for the portrayal of villains in general.
I know that everyone is climbing the goddamn walls right now and shouting that the DC conversation HAS TO begin with Superman and to you I would say, this is my blog and I do what I want! So there! You wanna talk about Superman get your own blog….although we are going to talk about Superman in so much that he is kind of an outlier as far as the major heroes go in the DC universe.
Superman is an alien (albeit an alien whose life basically mirrors the biblical story of Moses). And while he has an interesting life story and abilities he is not a man…he is a super man. I personally feel that the evolution of Superman as a character and the trajectory of his life story are much more lackluster than a lot of the other characters in the DC universe (and I will admit that I have not seen “Man of Steel” so sue me, okay). But it is continually argued (and not incorrectly, even in my opinion) that Superman is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, comic book superheroes in history. He is certainly the most iconic. But, in my humble (lol) opinion he’s also one of the most boring. Superman is unerring in his goodness. What makes modern takes on characters like Batman and Green Arrow so compelling is that they constantly struggle between doing the RIGHT THING and doing what feels right at the time (although no one ever said that vigilante justice was an easy business to be in). Superman never falters…because he’s fucking SUPERMAN! Although, in the very first Superman stories told by his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster it is said that Superman was “…rough and aggressive. The character often attacks and terrorizes wife beaters, profiteers, lynch mobs, and gangsters in a rough manner and with a looser moral code than audiences today might be used to”. I say we need a little more of the Old School Superman. You can definitely picture Old School Superman hanging out with Oliver Queen, drinking vodka stolen from the Bratva and giving each other homemade tattoos (you totally thought I was gonna say blowjobs, didn’t you, you sick fuck….and now you’re picturing it….it’s kind of hot, huh).
Speaking of Oliver Queen, I’m just gonna leave this here……
I could watch that ALL DAY!
If it weren’t for Stephen Amell’s abs I would probably not be as enthusiastic about the DC Universe as I am today. I think I was home sick one day and I started watching “Arrow” on the CW shortly after it came out with its first season. I may have been there, initially, because of Stephen Amell’s body…and eyes…and ass (yes, I am aware that too is a body part but I think it bears repeating)…his soft gravelly voice….his ferocity…his workout routine, but I stayed for interesting character development, largely believable motivations and kick ass fights with bows and arrows because, DUH! “Arrow” definitely sent me down the “looking things up rabbit hole” and got me excited about the larger DC Universe in general.
Along came Barry Allen and with him came a particle accelerator, which promptly exploded, making all kinds of crazy things happen! Like turning a normal dude into the “fastest man alive”! The CW’s “The Flash” was (finally) released on Netflix in October of 2015 and it was ripe for the binge watching. And it was binge watched, rapidly and with extreme prejudice….I actually don’t even know what that means, it just sounded cool. But our hasty binge watching has left us twiddling our thumbs waiting for the Netflix release of season two, which, of course, is already playing on TV’s CW Network
There are so many cool and interesting characters and stories in DC Comics, Aquaman not withstanding (although, as was recently pointed out to me by my fiance’s 6 year old nephew, he can talk to sharks and that’s pretty damn cool), that it’s kind of like this former “Marvel Girl” gets to get into comics all over again…with a whole new (to me) UNIVERSE! And I cannot wait to start digging deeper into the lives and people contained within!
My son and I read about Batman, the Justice League, Superman, Wonder Woman et al. nearly every night. We watch Batman and Justice League cartoons together (because cartoons are art too, goddamnit, and even though we don’t own a TV and I once used to own a bookstore I am not prepared to be one of “those” people who look down their nose at everything that has been touched by pop culture, those people who are like, “I don’t know what “Dr. Who” is because we don’t have a television, we just sit around listening to symphonies, reading books, sipping port and judging people.”) so my interest and knowledge are constantly being bolstered. Even if “Batman v. Superman” sucks, and sadly, I have heard nothing up to this point that would have me believe that it doesn’t, I am still going to love it because it’s mine. Comic book characters feel like friends. They’re these people we all know or at least all us nerds and frankly I cannot think of a better “we” to be a part of. The characters don’t always do the right things but it kind of makes us love them even a little more. We feel as though the choices they make have an impact and not just on their lives but our lives because their effects will be felt…across their Universe.
I am super tired from staying up too late last night to finish season 2 of “Daredevil” which just came out last week. I have no shame regarding this matter nor do I think it is owed. “Daredevil” kicks fucking ass and I will totally be writing a blog about how much it does that very soon but right now I need to get to bed. XOXO
And here’s a ton more pretty pictures to look at featuring the artists and characters of the DC Universe, highlighting the work of Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, George Perez, Frank Miller and many others!