Kept having to make sure I wasn’t spelling it “marital.”

§ December 11th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 9 Comments

Okay, my eyes are a’burnin’ something fierce, being irritated from the ash in the air and all, so let me go back to those questions you folks left me way back in ye olden times and knock a couple of those out in short order today:

Gareth Wilson kicks this one my way:

“Are martial arts interesting enough to be the basis of a modern superhero?”

The short answer is “sure, if the comic is any good.” With the right creative team, a clever enough take, and a wee bit of luck, pretty much anything is fair game superhero-wise.

The big problem is translating the excitement of a martial arts battle that one could see in live action into static images on a page, and have it compete on anywhere close to an equal basis for a kung-fu fan’s attention. It helped that the huge faddishness of martial arts during the 1970s stoked desire of pretty much anything along those lines in any medium, so that did feed into comics readership. And it didn’t hurt that comics like Master of Kung-Fu and Iron Fist were generally pretty good.

Not to say martial artist-type characters weren’t around prior to that…DC had Karate Kid, for example, and there was Karnak of the Inhumans over at Marvel. However these guys weren’t the primary focus of their respective books/appearances, but rather team players whose powers would be used as the plot warranted. They were just part of the mix.

Nowadays we’ve got…I guess just Iron Fist as the martial arts title from the Big Two (and there was a Bruce Lee comic from an indie company, though it’s been a while since one has come out). Iron Fist does fien, and Bruce Lee seemed to be gathering a reasonable following while it was running. Oh, and there was that Master of Kung-Fu one-shot that came out a week or two ago…that sold okay. So, I don’t think there’s any particular objection to martial arts heroes in the comics marketplace…they have as much of a chance at being of interest to a comic reader as anything else. As I said, depends on execution and a little (or, well, maybe a lot of) luck.

Now whether it’s interesting enough to carry a live-action superhero in, say, a TV show on a video streaming service. …No. No, it’s not.

• • •

Mike Loughlin wonders

“Are there any superstar comic book creators left, I.e. anyone whose comics sell on the basis of their involvement alone?”

Well, there are certainly creators who’ll get people to pick up books, sure, but you’re saying “superstar,” like BIG BIG NAME people. Like, say, Frank Miller or John Byrne at their 1980s heights, is how I’m interpreting this. Folks who’ll grab everyone‘s attention on whatever project they’re working on, regardless of what it is, and whose movements are forefront in the fan press, and so on.

You don’t really see too much of that sort of thing anymore, mostly because most comic book sales are down in the dumps and that’s hardly the place from which superstars spring. Well, I mean, you’ve got Raina Telgemeier, who is a genuine Comics Superstar, who’s probably put out single volumes of things that have larger print runs than all of Marvel’s monthlies put together, but that’s probably not what you mean.

In the regular ol’ comic book market, as opposed to Telgemeier’s dominance of the bookstore market, I don’t know if there is one single Big Name Personality that would have fit the old Miller/Byrne mode. I mean, I guess Miller still does, in that anything he’s attached to tends to attract eyeballs and discussion and so on, if maybe not sales (though Dark Knight III did well). Todd McFarlane is kind of out of the public’s eye right now, though I bet if one day he said “f**k it, I’m gonna draw Spider-Man again” he’d rocket right back up to superstar status.

Honestly, though, I can’t think of a Big Time Creator still doing work who crosses enough lines of interest like that. Maybe Brian Michael Bendis a few years bacK? Honestly, I’m not sure who, if anyone, quite fills that criteria any more. If you have any suggestions, drop ’em in the Usual Place, if you’d like.

9 Responses to “Kept having to make sure I wasn’t spelling it “marital.””

  • WizarDru says:

    You don’t think someone like a Brian Micheal Bendis or Mark Waid might qualify? Or perhaps even Alex Ross?

    I mean, even back in the day, not everyone was down with Claremont/Byrne/Austen X-men or Wolfman/Perez Titans…they were massive, but not ubiquitous. I remember thinking Daredevil and Miller were well-known, but I didn’t really get into him until after he was already a Big Deal ™.

  • Thom H. says:

    I bet if Grant Morrison decided to return to superheroes in a big way (like, a big name character with a big name artist) that would make some kind of splash. Maybe? But he seems disinterested in that kind of work these days.

    Also, just want to express my support for your area of the country right now. I’m sure dealing with the effects of the big fire, from irritated eyes to (possibly?) reduced sales at the shop, is no fun at all. And fingers crossed the fire stays away from your home and store.

  • King of the Moon says:

    The Daredevil Netflix series is really the dominating martial arts series of the medium.

    and Iron Fist was not.

  • I would say Christopher Priest. Particularly since he is on Justice League now (and, God help me, made me buy Deathstroke each month), but he remains such an unknown when it comes to quality. Which he has.

    I doubt anyone will find him as superstar status, but being on JL has to change that, for good or for bad. Who remembers XERO? I couldn’t understand a bit of it, but I was impressed with the concept. And he did some great stuff with JL Task Force.

  • Papa Lazarou says:

    This Tom King fellow seems to be an awfully big deal lately.

  • John J says:

    I suppose everyone has a favorite writer or artist whose books impressed you when you were younger that you still have to pick up any new projects.
    For me it’s Neal Adams. I’m always happy to hear about a new project even if his writing might be an acquired taste. His return to Deadman has inspired me to reread the original run with the character, some of the first comics I got into when I got back into comics after high school.
    I’ve got to believe people would be interested in new interior art by Steranko. Too bad he doesn’t seem to be interested.

  • James G. says:

    Bendis has so much material out there, I would say no, other than his first DC comics, which will probably be very popular. There isn’t much special about a new Bendis comic for just being a new Bendis comic. Or at least a new Marvel Bendis comic.

    Joss Whedon was like that for a bit. I’m thinking X-Men for that. Kevin Smith when his first comics came out.

    For a bit, Warren Ellis was like that for me, but after a while, I was pretty disappointed in what he was putting out.

    If Neil Gaiman did a series, limited or otherwise, I would put him on the list.

  • Gareth Wilson says:

    Thanks for the answer. I have a little more respect for Karate Kid, now that I know he actually came before the big US martial arts fad.

  • ScienceGiant says:

    “Are martial arts interesting enough to be the basis of a modern superhero?”

    CERTAINLY! I got into reading comics because of Denny O’Neil, Denys Cowan, and Rick Magyar’s take on Ditko’s “The Question”. I remember when it first came out, there was a hullabaloo about why didn’t they use “Peacemaker” if they wanted a martial artist. A hullabaloo, I tell you! But to this day, I wish DC had kept publishing “The Question Quarterly.”