Comics 101 Is in Session
Chris writes: Reader beware, fair warning, this is a very long and very rambling email, so Caveat Emptor.
Tipton: Accordingly, I'll be breaking in to comment along the way, just to make things easier.
I have a question, it may be a very strange question, but bear with me.
I am a Transformers fan, been one all my life ever since 1986.
And one of the most iconic images of Transformers fandom is the cover
of Marve lUS issue 5. Mark Bright's Transformers are all dead, with
Shockwave cover. ( http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Image:MarvelUS-05.jpg) Or
it's proper title 'The New Order'.
I've never been somebody who followed Mark Brights art, (No I haven't
read Armor Wars) but I came in contact with it again in IDW's
spotlight Nightbeat and either MR Bright had a bad day or the inker
was just not compatible with him or both but the art in spotlight
Nightbeat was underwhelming to say the least, this was in late 2005.
Recently, (very recently) I read that issue again, in the hardcover IDW Collection. A great collection but disappointing in minor ways. (The coloring errors have not been corrected for example and the reading order is a bit problematic. ) And decided to head over to Brights personal website, ( which seems to be defunct now or
maybe he is just too busy to update it ) and found that his art
was a lot better then in SL Nightbeat. I assumed he had a bad day.
( Is there a point to all this ? Yes i am getting to it. )
Anyway I started to read his recollections of working for Marvel and
then DC and ran my eyes over the line 'smaller afro' and did a
Afro, 1970's ? Which more or less hinted at me that MD Bright is a
His work for Milestone Media and their Static Shock comic, pretty
much confirmed for me that Mark Bright is indeed black. So what, big deal, right ?
The problem is that this is just circumstantial, there is nothing
about his ethnicity on Wikipedia, nor picture, nor on his own
webpage. A Google search later ?
Nothing, MD Bright is a Ditko like recluse, no picture. Now to be honest his skin color doesn't mean anything to me, my opinion of him or his work wont change, just because of his skin color. But its been a nagging little question that's been nagging at the back of my head for a month now and I figured I'd ask you if you know.
If you cant answer or don't want to answer that's fine too, I just
thought id hazard a try and ask you if you know. I can hardly ask Mr bright he'd most likely not answer me at all, or just figure its some sort of insult. And I am not even sure if his email address is still functional.
Long story short, it is a strange question, but if you could answer
it I'd appreciate it.
Tipton: Although I have nothing concrete to back it up, I was always under the impression that Mark Bright was black. Could be wrong, though.
Apparently Iron Man is a thread in this email because, here comes an
Iron Man bit. Untill one of your columns, I never realized that Iron
Man going from an ugly clunky gray to an equally ugly clunky gold
(with a ridiculous reason to have it gold to boot ) to the version
we all reconigse, was in fact the work of Steve Ditko.
( Personally I never liked the work of either Ditko or Kirby in the
60's much and I am sure I have offended you and several comic gods by
now. And thought that until Romita started to work at Marvel, most of
Marvel's 60's output looked clunky. Or maybe i can blame Coletta for
that, Don Heck's black and white art looks wonderfully vibrant)
Tipton: There's no question that Romita's art is slicker, but Ditko and Kirby have a dynamism and brilliance of design that can't be denied.
I'm not the greatest Iron Man fan, but I know the basics and recently watched Iron Man 2 on DVD.
...Didn't like it. I felt Justin Hammer was too young. The story was messy and hard to follow. I still have no idea what Tony was trying to do at the end of the movie with that particle accelerator type thing, or what it
I know this is nit picking, but Dranko (that's Vanko) was hit by a Bentley and he got up! The end fight was a bit too quick, which is most likely what would happen in real life, but it doesn't make for a compelling movie climax. The over the top metallic sounds when stark and Rhodes hit each other. Black Widow sounded a bit too American, without so much as a hint of Russian.
Tipton: So you thought the sound of metal armor striking metal armor sounded too metallic?
Also, Black Widow was supposed to be a spy, you know. If she was walking around Stark's office sounding like Natasha from ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, that might be a little conspicuous.
There were good bits.
Warmachine in the uhh steel.
Starks father, the actor looks so much like Downey jr.
Impressive special effects.
But on the whole I didn't like Iron Man 2 much.
More blasphemy! I read Watchmen and V for Vendetta and I didn't
care much for either.
I know what Moore was trying to achieve, to deconstruct super heroes
and show how they would or would not work in the real world. But to
be honest I've read Watchmen several times and I just don't get much
from it. Other then that its a super hero story with all the
trappings of a super hero story. It's more mature and more violent
then what came before it, but in the end still a super hero story
with a super hero conclusion. I never bought the ending that
Ozymandias, great plan to end all conflict was to introduce an
external threat. It would just not work humans are not like that they
wouldn't drop all weapons and stop fighting each other, because of
an external threat.
There would be finger pointing, the blame game and even if humanity
would go up and arms against an external threat, it would not last
long. Sooner or later the first stone will be cast again, making the
whole peace attempt ring hollow.
Tipton: I think you're doing the book a disservice, as that's not really all it's about. In fact, to my mind, the mechanics of the climax are really kind of beside the point.
I feel Moore tackled that particular subject a lot better in
And now the rights have finally been cleared up and Marvel just
outright bought him period, hopefully those stories will finally get
the widespread reprint their deserve.
Here is hoping anyway.
I found Moore's run on Swamp Thing more compelling as well
But there is always the movie, maybe the movie version can win me over.
Speaking of Marvelman, the characters in Watchmen also don't do
much for me. I just don't buy Dr Manhattan, if he is so powerful
why is he still on earth until after Watchmen. Why does he even be
bothered to let himself be commanded by the president. Why is he
still here or why hasn't he gone Kid Miracleman on us, which would
be the most logical thing you expect from somebody so far from
Tipton: Well, he doesn't let himself be commanded. He leaves the planet. You can't criticize a character for doing something that they actually do in the book.
The least said about Nite Owl and Silk Spectre the better.
Tipton: Agree to disagree.
The only character I feel that I was totally sold on in a believable
way, was Rorsach.
Maybe because it was his narration that anchored the story.
Or maybe I just don't see what is so special about Watchmen, because
its impact has been blunted after years of Image comics and comics
becoming darker more mature and more violent.
Tipton: The violence isn't the point. It's the mechanics of how the story is told, Moore's groundbreaking use of parallel narrative, the exploration of archetypes in a more realistic, mortal fashion. There's a lot more going on there, that you seem to be missing because you think that the violence is all that's important.
After things like Faust Love Of The Damned, Moore's own Miracleman,
with issue 15 being the one everybody talks about, and with good
reason. The Dark Knight Returns. Millers run on Daredevil. Preacher,
Max comics Punisher, Swamp Thing. The grim and gritty 90's, with
an emphasis on violence and guns and uniforms with pouches and
women with skimpy out fits, and bigger boobs and more and more
violent and nihilistic comics. Watchmen perhaps lost its teeth and
its edge, 25 years ago there was nothing like it.
Tipton: Naturally, all works of art have to be viewed in the context of their time, but there's still plenty in WATCHMEN that is vital and relevant to this day.
And you kind of wander from your argument a bit here. The excesses of the '90s from other publishers don't make WATCHMEN any less brilliant.
Well nothing like it ? There is one story line from around the same
era, whose virtues I will continue to extoll.
It's a story from the house of ideas, about a man with no fear.
Its by Miller and Mazzucchelli
I think you know what story I mean.
A story that's still as raw, as gut wrenching, as hard hitting
each time I have read it
and I have read it a lot.
About the destruction of a good man, his fall from grace and how he
clawed his way back out of the pit again.
A story that was incredibly mature back in 87. And a story that
still holds weight, with its all too real roots of poverty, despair,
nervous break down, corruption, adult movies and heroine.
Of the dirt and the grime and the street and the blood, and its all
so alive, and oh so real. The super heroics don't even come in to
it until issue 6.
Matt is out of costume for the majority of the story arc and when
he dons it again, he is still human. The Avengers on the other hand
are god like, distant forces of nature.
This is the book I think of when I hear about the praise for Watchmen.
Born again is maybe less intellectual, less cerebral, but oh so very human.
The amount of damage a single lunatic can do with a machine gun,
equipped with a rocket launcher is staggering.
People like to go on and and on and on about how great Watchmen is
and how intellectual it is, yet they forget what makes us human.
Born Again doesn't
And Born Again is one of those stories that deserves to rise out of
that long long shadow.
Miller, no matter what he has done since or has done before, he will
always be THE Daredevil writer to me .
Whatever Miller has done since, Born Again is one of his very best.
I think Born Again does a much better job of deconstructing a
super hero and bringing him down to a human level. Matt is the most
human character of all in that story, even more human then Peter,
who is one of Marvels most human characters.
Tipton: BORN AGAIN is great, maybe my favorite DAREDEVIL story. And one of the best books of that decade, to be sure. Is it on WATCHMEN's level? That's up to the reader. For me, not quite.
And there is another story by Miller and Mazzucchelli isn't there
? No less hard hitting, with an equally wide berth scope and
influence as The Dark Knight Returns.
But I digress, I sound like a raving Miller fan now, which I am not.
I just wanted to emphasize how good a story Born Again is.
Tipton: YEAR ONE is also great, although I think I like BORN AGAIN a little better.
I was going to ask what you think of Xmen First Class, but I saw
you already did an article.
Personally I am not interested in the Spider reboot, not just
because Maquire is Peter Parker but also because I cant sit through
yet another origin story.
Spiderman 1 is by no means a unknown movie and its barley 10 years old.
Its far too early to reboot the series again and foist yet
another origin story on us, but they cant just restart the whole
series with out the origin.
Then again maybe they will, hopefully.
Tipton: Agreed, I'd be much more excited about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN if we didn't have to rehash the origin again so soon.
Doom Patrol, Cliff.
Go on then show all his deaths , it wil be worthwhile if only to see
how many times he died
I am sure there is an article worth in there
Just dont bother with Jeans deaths, that's just a joke waiting to
happen. Same goes for Optimus Prime, its a hobby for them.
Us Transformers fans usually joke how long it will take for a Prime
to die and how long it will take before he comes back to live. ( 90
seconds is the current record, Optimus Prime in TFA. )
Dying and coming back to live is a Prime requirement almost all of the
Primes have done it. It is considered unusual when Optimus Prime
The Silver Age.
Ive also read one of your first articles, going all the way back
And now i want to know whats up with the cover of All Star 40 and
what that story is about.
But it also occurred to me that the men who kick started the whole
silver age, on the whole get very little credit.
Julius Schwartz, being maybe the sole exception. Most of us know
Infantino as the editor in chief and president, before Jeanette
Khan but he is rarely credited for his innovations in art or kick
starting the whole silver age art style. It's always Jack Kirby
this, Steve Ditko that or Neal Adams this, not that they dont
deserve it but there were other artists
John Broom and Gardner Fox ( who wrote well over 4000 comics )
get even less credit.
Tipton: True, Silver Age writers like Fox and Broome tend to go overlooked.
You think that there could ,maybe be an article, to give these great
innovators some of the spotlight and credit they deserve ?
( At least they got some credit, unlike poor Bill Finger who really
got the sticky end of the stick. Each time I read the Batman created
by Bob Kane credit, Im compelled to add "& Bill Finger". )
As far as multiple earths in DCU go, I belong in the horrible
convoluted and needlessly complex camp. Even worse DCU is still
horribly convoluted and needlessly complex. Half the time I don't even
reconigse who these people are and at several attempts in trying
to puncture this barrier I always had to retreat in failure
because, its just impenetrable. Your required to read x amount of
comics each month, just to make any sense of it all. The only one
I was able to keep up with for a while was Morrison's run on Batman,
and that's because even with all the references the comics were
still readable on their own.
I didn't even bother with Final Crisis, I gave up on Infinite Crisis
( Which is a rant for another day, all I wil say is that Golden Age
Superman, He Who Came First, deserved better then that ! )
Tipton: INFINITE CRISIS I liked better than FINAL or IDENTITY.
The least said about the ridiculous reboot of the Dc titles the
Marvel pulled that stunt and look how well it worked for them,
they reverted to the old numbering with in 5 years.
When will the people in power get it through their thick skulls that
its not a new issue 1 that attracts readers, but a good story,
welll written with a good artist ?
Or is that maybe too out there ?
Not only that but these comics are icons, they have been around
since the late 1930's
who are the current incumbent curators to say, we wil reboot these titles ?
Hopefully before Batman, Action comics, Detective comics and
Superman hit 1000 the old numbering system will be restored.
Anyway there is still so much I want to discuss and touch upon.
Identity Crisis, Ads in comics misplaced ads in comics, annoying ads
in comics. Grendel Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon and what a monumentous
achievement it is. The TMNT, their sale, new comics. Robotech,
Comico, Academy comics, Doctor Who and more.
But this is already a very very long email so I wil leave it at that.
If you stuck with me and read all the way to the end , I'll thank
you for your time and patience.
Tipton: As always, man, thanks for reading!
Picture of the Week
Digging Cap's new threads.
See you next week.