Saturday, January 25, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Marvel Treasury Edition The Astonishing Spider-Man #18

This one was my gateway into the Marvel universe way back in the late 1970s and I must say I was scared. I still couldn't read but I was smart enough to follow the story though the drawings and they generated strong emotions in me. Nowadays I'd probably list this as horror fiction and like the best horror it made me feel simultaneously repulsed and attracted to this strange world. I already knew Spider-man from the animation tv series with the catchy intro song (Spider-man, Spider-man, does whatever a spider can ...) and all the related merchandise but seeing him on print felt different: I found him scary! The guest-heroes on this book (the original X-Men, the Werewolf, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist) seemed like monsters and the villains... well, if the heroes were scary, then the villains were the stuff of nightmares. To this day I can still remember the unmasking of The Orb, villain on the Ghost Rider adventure, and the strange fate of Drom, the Backwards Man, villain on the Iron Fist segment. There are so many images from this comic that I still find haunting like the covers by Bob Budiansky and Ernie Chan or the initial splash page of the X-Men crossover, pencilled by Gil Kane and featuring Peter Parker having a nightmare with Morbius the Living Vampire. Imagination unbound!

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Famous First Edition Action Comics DC Treasury Edition #C-26H

Famous First Edition Action Comics DC Treasury Edition #C-26H The father of them all. Also the very first comic I was offered by my parents. No words can express its impact. The crude, primitive drawings evoking a sense of rush and urgency by Shuster and the remaining artists, the mythical origin story of Superman, the huge format of this edition... Everything comes together perfectly on this one.

The comic is one of those old treasury sized editions typical of the '70s, more or less double the size of a regular comic book, which means that on my tiny four or five year old hands it must have felt huge, like a heavyweight - the size, the scope and on top of that, the content - an anthology of old comic strips including Superman's debut!Jerry Siegel's imagination and Joe Shuster's art looked amazing to me -- they still do as a matter of fact! There's an honesty, a charm in their work, an almost warts and all approach, that I find quite uncommon nowadays in mainstream american comics, ugly as some of them can be. As Jules Feiffer put it in his book The Great Comic Book Heroes, "Shuster represented the best of old-style comic-book drawing. His work was direct, unprettied - crude and vigorous; as easy to read as a diagram. No creamy lines, no glossy illustrative effects, no touch of that bloodless prefabrication that passes for professionalism these days. Slickness, thank God, was beyond his means. He could not draw well, but he drew single-mindedly - no one could ghost that style. It was the man. (...) But, oh, those early drawings! Superman running up the sides of dams, leaping over anything that stood in his way (No one drew skyscrappers like Shuster. Impressionistic shafts. Superman poised over them, his leaping leg tucked under his ass, his landing leg taunty pointed earthward), cleaning and jerking two-ton get-away cars and pounding them into the sides of cliffs - and all this done lightly, unportentiously, still with that early (...) exhuberance."

Now, this Superman who shows up for the first time ever in the first tale of Action Comics #1 is significantly different from the one most people are used to all over the world nowadays. Sure, you have all the basic ingredients there - the clark kent/superman dual identity, the lois lane romantic interest, the alien origin, the superhuman abilities, the mild mannered reporter - but this isn't your friendly neighborhood Superman. He's more like a social-reformist bully, whose motto could very well be "might makes right". His costume is darker and his features rougher; he's concerned with real world threats and injustices like murderers, corrupt politicians, belligerent armies, spousal abusers and exploitive employers, not imaginary problems like alien invaders, giant robots or bald scientists (as he'd soon be); astounding as they appear, his abilities are far more within the grasp of the believable, not yet the physics defying powers he'd come to be known for - he's a superMAN, not the childish SUPERman with his superboys, supercousins, superpets and superfriends.

Time and the marketing machine would tame him down and power him up for a wider, more commercial appeal, ending up with what we have today. Yet, to me, this guy, as he originally appeared, would always remain the real deal. Ironically enough, Chris Ware's superman character in Jimmy Corrigan is far closer to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation than what passes for him in DC's own regular publications these days! Forget modern comics, forget the new film; you want to meet the real Superman, pick up this instead. 

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - DC Limited Collector's Edition #C-21 SHAZAM!

Shazam DC Treasury Edition #C-21 Another of the earliest comics I ever had, from way back before I could read the words on them. Originally published in 1973, this huge format anthology reprints several stories featuring the original Captain Marvel and elements of his family like Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel with beautiful artwork by C.C. Beck, Marc Swayze and MacRaboy. What better fantasy could a child ask than to be turned into an adult superhero with a single magic word?

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

MY FAVORITE COMICS - Super Friends (1976) DC Treasury Edition #C-41

Super Friends DC Treasury Edition #C-41 I got the brazilian edition of this 1976 comic as a little kid, along with a few other comics before I could even read. Nevertheless, the large size of the book, the colorful art, the iconic cover and characters were so amazing, especially on the segments drawn by Alex Toth, that they would forever hold a special place in my heart. Many years later, I would find out that Alex Toth was the same artist behind the design of many Hanna-Barbera tv cartoon series I loved so much as a small child.

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