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“Overly talky” versus a book that had Chris Claremont writing for it.

§ May 16th, 2022 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, dc comics, marvel § 9 Comments

So back in Ye Olden Dayes of this blog, when I wrote about specific comics, all I had to do was dip into the Vast Mikester Comic Archives and pull out a copy of the book I wanted to discuss. “Ah, yes, fetch me that copy of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106, would you Jeeves, that’s a good chap,” as I reclined into my Marc Newson Lockheed Lounge Chair, quill in hand, ready to pen the latest enthralling installment of Progressive Fancypants dot com.

Well, that changed when all thoughts of fancypantsness went out the window as I opened up my own comic book store, and the Vast Mikester Comic Archives became The Dismal Dregs once I gave over my personal stock to shop stock. Now when I want to discuss a particular book, it’s either one that I came across at my store, one I can pull images from, or I can bum pics off a pal, usually Bully.

It’s particularly frustrating when the books I want to discuss are definitely ones I bought off the stands at the time of release, and long since given up to the shop, such as 1985’s Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men from Marvel Comics:

and Heroes Against Hunger from DC Comics:

Produced during that time pop culture remembered that Africa was having some problems, these were fundraising comics to aid the fight against starvation. Honestly, I don’t know how much money was raised by these projects, given each had a price tag of $1.50, so the wholesale price was about half that (unless there was a different discount structure in place for these particular books, which is possible), and unless those distributors also donated their share of the profits…well, that wasn’t much per issue going to charity. It’s a little better once you multiply that portion of the cover price by however many copies were sold to retailers (for which I have no info, so I’m gonna make the rough estimate of about 300,000 for the X-Men book, and half that for the DC one), then maybe you’re talking some real money. Maybe not “We Are the World” money, but not nuthin’, either.

I’m sure some enterprising person out there already crunched all those numbers and I’ll hear about it shortly, but that would take some kind of “internet search engine” to locate something like that. I’ll have to ask my man Jeeves to look into it. Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

No, what I’m here to talk about is the impact these books had on me, and possibly also on cultural awareness overall (as far as “comic book fandom cultural awareness” goes on something like this). And all this came about because I was processing a collection the other day that had a copy of the Marvel benefit book. That in itself isn’t terribly unusual…copies of this title show up in collections all the time, far more frequently than the DC counterpart, which is why I presumed earlier the vast disparity in printruns.

But whenever I get a copy, I poke through it and marvel (so to speak) at the creative teams they put together for the short vignettes within…usually only two or three pages long by a specific creative team. There is a bare thread of a storyline connecting everything, but the real meat are the small character bits each short provides, as the various X-Men face personal, emotional challenges. Harlan Ellison and Frank Miller presents Wolverine rising above his savage instincts, Chris Claremont and Brian Bolland have Storm confronting her various self-images, Stephen King(!) and Bernie Wrightson have Kitty face off against…well, hunger (there’s more to it than that, didn’t flip through it agin to refresh my memory, but boy that “Good God, let’s eat!” still sticks with me). And then there’s this, which I took an askew shot of at the shop to post onto Twitter:

…contrasting Magneto’s Holocaust survivor background with the future he may bring about with his battle for mutant superiority over the common folk. I mean, Hitler shows up on this page to praise Magneto, it ain’t exactly subtle. It’s Alan Moore in a very rare bit of Marvel work (his only new post-UK work for the company, I believe), drawn by the underground comix legend Richard Corben. Not shown (except a bit in the last panel of that page there) are the great rotting corpses that only Corben could create. It may very well be one of my favorite bits of X-Men comics.

Here’s the thing about not having these comics readily accessible in my collection any more. I have to depend on my memories of having read the books. Yes, I said I get the Marvel book in collections all the time, but I’m not spending time to flip through each copy that shows up. It was only the other day where I thought “you know what’s good? this Moore/Corben sequence” and decided to take a picture of it so I could say so on the Twitterers. Many of the images and events of this comic stick in my mind clearly, nearly 40 years after I first saw them. That emaciated Kitty Pryde, Wolverine standing triumphant, Storm in her various guises, a guilt-ridden Magneto. I don’t remember a whole lot else from the comic, but those have been living in my brain a very long time.

Now let’s take the DC book. Similar in structure to the Marvel comic, it’s made up of short 2-3 page sequences each by a different creative team, strung together into a semblance of a story. I have two primary memories of this comic, which I definitely bought and read at the time.

The first memory is of a review I read of it in, well, probably has to be Amazing Heroes. Basically the complained about the inconsistency of the writing, specifically citing that Lex Luthor’s characterization would change from segment to segment. An inherent problem, I suppose, in having this many writing cooks in the kitchen.

The other memory was of Luthor weeping when put face to face with starving people. I mentioned that scene online, and it was Twitter pal BobH to the rescue, snapping a pic of that very moment:

As BobH pointed out, that’s by Barry Windsor-Smith and Catherine Jones, an impressive art team by any measure. He also mentions Bernie Wrightson inked by Mike Kaluta (wow!) and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez inked by Jerry Ordway (another shot from BobH):

A look at the credits shows lots of other impressive (and weird) combos. I mean, Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson! Curt Swan inked by John Byrne! Walt Simonson inked by Steve Leialoha! (That one’s gotta be weird!) C’mon, Kirby is in this! There’s a lot of what should be some spectacular work in here.

I just don’t remember any of it. Nothing from the book stuck, except that one image of Luthor. (Which I liked, by the way…I always preferred the “yes he’s a bad guy but not a complete monster” pre-Crisis Luthor to the nigh-irredeemable post-Crisis Luthor we’d get only a couple of years after this.) Otherwise my mental image of the book was that it was…cluttered and cramped, overly talky and not as visually memorable or striking as the X-Men comic. The DC one even had its own Big Name Horror Writer in Robert Bloch, for a sequence also drawn by Wrightson, and hand-to-God I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it.

Not to say the X-Men book totally ruled and the DC one drooled or anything. The former had a bit by Mike Baron/Steve Rude, a creative team I normally like, which I looked at briefly in the copy I had at the store and gosh darn if I could tell what was going on. And frankly the DC book sounds a lot better than I remember, but I still feel like it does just sound that way, that something in the execution made it a less memorable offering that the Marvel release.

Lot of words to throw at you to essentially say “I remember one book more fondly than the other” but this is just one of those things I go through as an older fan who’s had a lot of comics pass through my hands. Interesting in that both Jim Starlin and Wrightson were involved in creating the storylines for both.

Anyway, I put this here so that I can maybe get some feedback on the books, about what I’m not remembering, about what was outstanding about the DC book that should be remembered as well as those top-flight stories from the Marvel comic. But I have to be honest, it’s gonna be hard to beat that Magneto strip.

EDIT: Everything old is new again! I just reminded myself that I wrote about these books on the site before, because of course I have! Here I am talking about the Marvel one, and here’s DC…more images (and some linkrot) for your perusal!

I kept wanting to type "Heroes Against Hope," and that’s just depressing.

§ December 4th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on I kept wanting to type "Heroes Against Hope," and that’s just depressing.

Okay, just to follow up a bit on yesterday’s post…I thought I’d bust out my copy of Heroes Against Hunger, DC Comics’s African benefit book from 1986, out of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives.

First thing I noticed is that, unlike the X-Men book, there aren’t any particular sequences that immediately leap out and grab your attention. This may simply be a structural problem: the DC book features Superman, Batman and Luthor (or some combination thereof) on nearly every page, giving a visual sameness to everything despite the number of artists, and the narrative thread flows (more or less) smoothly from beginning to end. In comparison, the X-Men book is more episodic, with several sequences focusing on individual characters in a variety of settings, giving a little more opportunity for visual diversity.

Not to say that there isn’t some nice work in the DC book…some Curt Swan, some Walt Simonson, some Carmine Infantino, the Neal Adams/Dick Giordano cover, and the following:

Gerry Conway, Barry Windsor-Smith and Jeff Jones (as noted by reader Matthew)

Ed Hannigan, Jack Kirby & Al Milgrom

…and, as reader Matthew also mentioned, this Bill Sienkiewicz back cover.

Of particular note is a two page sequence with Batman running the gauntlet at Luthor’s hideout, before facing Luthor himself, written by Robert Bloch and drawn by Bernie Wrightson and Mike Kaluta:

If only we could have had a whole comic by that team. Especially if it were Batman versus Luthor.

But overall, like I said, not as visually distinctive or interesting or just plain weird as Marvel’s effort. The story’s on pretty much the same level, though (another alien feeding on the starving people’s misery), so there’s that.

I was pleased that I correctly remembered this comic featuring the not-completely-evil Luthor of the pre-1980s revamp era…who’s genuinely moved by the plight of the suffering Africans when he’s not, you know, ranting about how he wants to kill Superman. Always thought that Luthor, the one who was occasionally capable of acting like a human being, was infinitely more interesting than the current Pure Evil Luthor inhabiting comics today.

One final bit: reader Cej speaks of a fellow he encountered at a con, collecting autographs of every member of the creative team for Marvel’s Heroes for Hope. Actually, I think that’s a neat idea…it’s certainly more interesting than collecting them all into a plain ol’ autograph book. And Cej says the guy only needed two more autographs at the time…and one of those was Stephen King’s. I wonder who the other was? Did the guy get Alan Moore to sign it, or was he the other holdout? We may never know.

Okay, here’s a little bit about Heroes for Hope.

§ December 3rd, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Okay, here’s a little bit about Heroes for Hope.

A few reasons to check out Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men (1985):

This creepy Kitty Pryde segment written by Stephen King
and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson and Jeff Jones

This bit of business with Wolverine by Harlan Ellison, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz

This little twisted scene by Chris Claremont, Brian Bolland and P. Craig Russell

And this Magneto nightmare by Alan Moore and Richard Corben.

Not saying these are the only reasons…there’s some nice work by Steve Rude, some Howard Chaykin inked by Walt Simonson…but these are the four bits I think of when I’m reminded of this comic.

Overall, the story is…well, the X-Men are fighting some “living embodiment of their worst nightmares” or something, which is feeding off of the misery of the starving Africans, and…well, yeah, it’s a little tacky. But “helping Africa” was in the air at the time, and their hearts were in the right place. I suppose this comic did raise at least a little money for the relief fund, and you got a nice collection of art to boot, with at least four outstanding sequences as noted above.

There was a similar project from DC a little later, Heroes Against Hunger, in which the heroes fight against some alien creature that…um, feeds off the misery of the starving Africans. Or maybe not…it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I know some nasty alien critter is involved. And unlike the X-Men book, I really can’t recall any specific sequences or creative teams involved that really stand out. I do seem to remember that this was one of the last “hurrahs” for the pre-revamp Not-A-Complete-Asshole Lex Luthor, who does try to help out (occasionally grudgingly, depending on who’s writing what sequence).

Back to Heroes for Hope: in my post from the other day, where I put up a small image of the cover, reader Steve Canadian had a question:

“Holy iconic Art Adams Wolverine pose on the cover! Am I right in thinking that they singled him out, popped his claws and made a poster out of that?”

This was, as Steve says, quite the iconic pose, and I’m pretty sure variations on it, all drawn by Adams, popped up on shirts and buttons and who knows what else. Here’s a version of it that was on a promo poster I, coincidentally, just happened upon in the backroom last week:

For more reading about Heroes for Hope, here’s Dr. Polite Scott with a few words.