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Accent on the first “e.”

§ December 8th, 2021 § Filed under george perez § 7 Comments

Legendary comics artist George Pérez announced via his official Facebook page that he’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and likely only has months to live. This is of course incredibly awful news, but hopefully Mr. Pérez is seeing the enormous outpouring of love and appreciation that’s been exploding online since the news was revealed.

That Amazing Heroes up there from 1984 I posted because that’s a great cover that I don’t know has been seen enough online lately. That’s a scan from my personal copy that I bought off the stands way back when…a little beat up, but that’s a testament not just to my love of fanzines, but to how much I liked this particular issue, with its extensive interview with Pérez. I haven’t read it in years, but I’ve got it out, and you bet I’m going to go through it again. And that cover…every face is just filled with personality. No “generic hero face” on two-dimensional caricatures…those are people we’re looking at.

I was tweeting about this today, and it really is a favorite of mine. I was a more-often-than-not purchaser of DC Comics Presents, a series that had a variety of usually solid creators working on each issue. Every once in a while you’d get some surprises, like a Demon team-up drawn by Joe Kubert, or this wild Alex Toth/Jack Kirby Challengers of the Unknown tale.

But then there was this comic, an action-packed one-off teaming Superman up with Kirby’s OMAC, featuring lots of robots, punching of said robots, and plenty of destruction and rubble: all of which being Pérez’s specialties. I wrote an appreciation of about this issue a few years back, with some representative panels.

I’d just started picking up Justice League of America from the rack a few months prior (starting with the story, also drawn by Pérez, discussed in these two posts). Suddenly, here’s this amazing three-parter teaming up the Justice League with the Justice Society, versus a whole pile o’villains, with some if not all crammed into every tiny panel on every wonderful page. Note that includes the new version of ancient Superman villain the Ultra-Humanite in that giant white ape form that’s continued on through today, including in DC’s various animated series.

Anyway, it’s a great adventure, probably my favorite of the JLA/JSA crossovers. So many weird and unfamiliar characters from the Golden Age drawn with the same loving expression and detail as the more recognizable heroes.

What can be said about The New Teen Titans? Like Marvel fandom circled around the X-Men, the book you had to read, so did DC fandom revolve around the Titans. The sheer joy and excitement and innovation on each page seemed way out of proportion to the few coins you paid for every issue. And inside…seeing Pérez handle both alien invasions and soap opera with equal aplomb. What a pleasure this series is.

What a pleasure all of George Pérez’s comics are.

In which I finally reach some measure of self-awareness at the end, there.

§ October 29th, 2021 § Filed under george perez, justice league, publishing § 8 Comments

So I’ve been using the DC Universe Infinite digital comics service mostly to try to catch up on many of the comics I picked up but couldn’t read during the earlier and particularly bad months of my eyeball issues, when I wasn’t really able to read anything. I’ve also been using to dip a little farther back into DC’s publishing history, reading some Golden Age books, a lot of the earlier Silver Age Green Lantern (boy, does Hal call Tom that name a lot), and finally reading the entirety of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run (which I missed during its initial publication). And I keep hoping they’ll add more late ’70s/early ’80s Superman comics to the catalog.

Anther purpose to which I’ve put DC Universe is revisiting some old favorites from my youth, my own copies either buried deep in the remainder of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, or long since tattered into unreadability and discarded. One of those stories was the “Secret Origin of Red Tornado” two-parter that ran in Justice League of America #192 and #193 in 1981, when I was 12 years old.

I pointed out one short sequence in my last post, where I discussed the occasional brief focus of a team book on developing characters that had no other home on that stands. Now granted pretty much the entire focus of this story was on Red Tornado, but you know what I mean. Getting a little character development in for Reddy’s supporting cast because, you know, where else is that going to happen. (At least not until his own mini-series a few years later.)

Another bit of character development for someone who didn’t have his own title (but was featured in a back-up series in another comic at the time) was this, where the Flash admonishes Firestorm for prematurely (and loudly) giving up on a teammate for dead:

That sequence has stuck with me for a long, long time. Particularly this panel just before it, with Superman giving ol’ Flamehead the super side-eye:

You could just feel that burn of shame on Firestorm’s behalf. And in retrospect, it isn’t necessarily some tossed-away sequence to fill pages and create conflict between members of the team…this was written by Firestorm’s creator, who was also writing those back-ups over in The Flash. As such, it feels like an important part of the character’s development and not just something you could ignore because it didn’t happen in one of his “real” (i.e. solo) stories. I don’t think I appreciated this at the time, but now that I’m older (definitely) and wiser (jury’s still out) I certainly appreciate it now.

Another thing I appreciated about this comic, then and now, is just how much backstory got crammed into this comic. Well, “crammed,” relatively speaking, since this stories did run 52 pages over two issues (at only 50 cents a pop, even) so there felt like there was plenty of space. But there was a good chunk of the narrative given over to expository info needed for the reader to realize the importance of just what’s going on around here.

I mean, we get a retelling of Red Tornado’s beginnings:

We learn about the villain T.O. Morrow, his origin, and what he’s been up to since his last appearances:

There’s some bonus Adam Strange stuff, tying into the current story:

…and that’s not even all of what’s being shown and explained in this book. And it all reads very smoothly. As I said, I was 12 when this came out. I’d been reading comics for a bit, but I didn’t know much about characters like Firestorm and Red Tornado at the time, I certainly didn’t know T.O. Morrow, and while I knew Adam Strange mostly from being featured on the early Nickelodeon program Video Comics, I didn’t really know from the Tornado Tyrant.

It would seem like this is a lot to hit a kid relatively new to comics and some of these characters/concepts, but I do recall finding it absolutely fascinating. Finding out there was a history to these characters, still being referenced, still mattering, that happened long before I entered these worlds, gave the proceedings a depth that they would not have had otherwise. It’s a style of presentation that would shortly have me doing deep dives into Roy Thomas’s DC work, and its reverence for Golden Age tales.

I wasn’t put off…I was attracted by the idea that there was more to learn about all these characters and the worlds they lived in. I know, and I knew even then, that the shared universe at DC (and Marvel too) was built by Many Hands and inconsistencies abounded, but part of the fun was seeing what fit and what didn’t. It’s a feature, not a bug.

I’ve spoken about Crisis on Infinite Eaths before, and how its attempt at codifying and streamlining the DC Universe was compelling reading at the time…perhaps one of the very few times a comic book series had you genuinely concerned for the fate of those involved. It wasn’t until after patch after patch after patch was applied to that firmware upgrade that it began to sink in that the trip Wolfman and Perez took us on was, maybe, not really necessary. Reboots and relaunches began to pile on, and that long history for these characters began to evaporate.

The repeated relaunches of Legion of Super-Heroes threw away all their history in exchange for brief high bursts of first issue sales and slow declines. X-Men, a comic once read by, you know, everyone, splintered into endless spinoffs and relaunches, with no one easily able to follow the thread of stories and characters.

I know there are attempts to redress the shallowness of their fictional worlds. Nearly every crossover event at DC is about trying to make Crisis never-was, with the latest iteration being “every story matters,” however that’s going to work.

This whole post reads like “why aren’t comics like they were when I was a kid,” which comes awfully close to lumping me in with those “comics were never political!” people, and nobody wants that. Comics are always evolving and changing and trying to find their place in a world where they’ve been largely supplanted by, ironically enough, their own enormously popular TV and movie adaptations. There is still lots of good work being done with them, and I still love reading (and selling!) them.

But I do miss the feeling I had of dipping into some comic I hadn’t read before and realizing there’s a whole world here that I’m only barely experiencing in this one issue. Maybe I’ve read comics for too long to have that happen now. Or maybe I’m assuming too much, and that kids do have that same wonder, just not with the same types of comics I read. There’s someone out there whose first volume of Naruto is number 81 and being intrigued by what they’ve discovered, the same way I was 40 years ago, when I decided to pick a comic off the rack that promised secrets to be revealed about Red Tornado.

images from Justice League of America #192-193 (July & Augst 1981) by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and John Beatty

The best shrug in comics.

§ October 27th, 2021 § Filed under george perez, justice league § 9 Comments

I actually have a lot more to say about the Justice League of America story this sequence comes from, which I will get to next time. But, for today let’s just enjoy this small bit of domestic humor featuring the android superhero the Red Tornado, his partner Kathy, and their adopted daughter Traya as they deal with the little girl’s recalcitrance at mealtime:

That’s one of the best parts of superhero team books, particularly when it’s done well as in the above excerpt. They allow some brief moments with characters that otherwise have no other outlet. There was no Red Tornado ongoing series…if you were Reddy’s biggest fan, this is what you got. A few panels every month, if you were lucky.

Imagine being a big Wolverine fan at a time when his primary print endeavors were in a book he shared with other characters who also only appeared in that book. You waited a month between issues to get a few pages with the character. And that’s with one of the more popular members of the X-Men. Imagine being a big Bouncing Boy fan and waiting month-to-month for him to be featured in Legion of Super-Heroes. Sometimes all you got was a panel, and not even a speaking part.

The way comics publishing has been of late, things haven’t been quite so dire…lots of third/fourth/fifth/more-string characters eventually do get their own titles, even if just briefly. So, if you’re a fan of a member of a team book who just gets a small amount of attention there, eventually you’ll receive at least a little more quality time with your fave. Red Tornado got his own series. Wolverine certainly did. No Bouncing Boy solo title yet, but I still hold out hope.

images from Justice League of America #192 (July 1981) by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and John Beatty

“…But justice is always ready for you!”

§ June 11th, 2014 § Filed under george perez, superman § 8 Comments

Another thing I love from comics…this final battle between Superman and Murdermek from the pages of DC Comics Presents #61 (September 1983) by Len Wein, George Perez, Pablo Marcos and Rick Hoberg:

This issue teamed Superman with OMAC, the One Man Army Corps, so here’s a shot of him from earlier in the issue:

Man, that’s comics.