Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First Rant

So, as an example of what I talked about in the previous post, here is what happened when someone on the Batman boards asked me to rate the following writers. Diarrhea of the keyboard. Enjoy.

Hoo Boy. Well, I'll try. Seems more like a topic for the general forums though...

Alan Moore: As a pure writer and master of the medium of comics storytelling, I'd have to put Mr. Moore up top. His stories are engaging, thought-provoking, powerful, and relatively easy to follow while still containing layer after layer of subtext and meaning. He loses points on superhero stories using established characters, at least with me, because I rarely get the feeling that he really likes them. By his own admission, his superhero stories sometimes put dramatic stress and burdens on characters who were not designed to carry them.

Neil Gaiman: Gaiman is up there, and it was tough for me not to make him number one. Ultimately though, I decided that Watchmen was slightly better than Sandman, and called it with that. Close though. Sandman is the comic that people who aren't really comic book fans read and say, "Oh yeah, I like comics. I read Sandman, like, twice." Very broad appeal. By turns clever, profound, melancholy, mysterious, and triumphant, his work has a distinct voice without becoming a cliche or parody of itself. A very close #2.

Grant Morrison: I am conflicted about putting Morrison above Miller, as my opinion of which is better tends to fluctuate, but Morrison is currently waxing in my affections. Huge, ambitious ideas, metaphysical exploration, grandiose, definitive "comic book" moments, and an ever-present and genuine love of the characters he's writing pervades his work. His weakness, in my book, is that his lofty goals are at times subverted by the inaccessibility of his storytelling to those who just want to relax with a good yarn, sometimes only within reach of those dedicated to penetrating his layers of subterfuge, metaphor, and at times just garbled execution. But what he lacks in grace and style I feel he more than makes of for in enthusiasm and concepts.

Frank Miller: Ah, Miller. Definitely a seminal influence on modern comic books. Love him or hate him, he's inescapable in his influence. Personally, I love most of his early work, even Ronin, which weirded me the heck out as an 11 year old reading it for the first time (I read it because I'd heard my beloved Ninja Turtles started out partially as a parody of his work on Daredevil and Ronin). Sin City was groundbreaking. Dark Knight Returns and Year One, for good or for ill, have guided the creative direction of Batman in one way or another for over 20 years, with many works being measured by how much their Batman either resembles or breaks away from Miller's portrayals. Sadly, he loses points with me lately for a sameness, or even what approaches a self-deprecating over-the-topness in his latest works. I dunno, maybe I'll look back in 10 years and grasp that he was really doing stuff ahead of his time, but at the moment, my enthusiasm has waned.

Denny O'Neil (I hope this is who you meant by Neal Adams): Often credited with being one of the first writers to introduce mature themes and realistic influences to comics, I can't deny his influence, but I couldn't rank him above any of the preceding writers either. Still, a very direct influence on the modern takes on several characters, not the least of which would have to be his Green Arrow.

Chris Claremont: I just don't like this guy. To give credit where credit is due, I do feel his view of Wolverine as a failed Samurai, someone with a perfect, pure, unattainable ideal of self and a strong sense of personal honor, set at odds with a bestial temperament and a history of failure, was the best one. His idea to have Sabretooth be Logan's father, and exist as someone whom he'd never beaten and who would track him down and beat him up annually just to prove a point rang truer than later interpretations for me. I really feel though, that the rest of the X-Men suffered for the time he spent on Wolverine. Stan Lee's Cyclops was a confident, competent leader with iron self-discipline and problems relating to others because of his feelings of being an outsider. Easy for an awkward teenager dreaming of empowerment to sympathize with. Claremont turned him into a guy whose insecurity and fixation on self-restraint and leadership as a job rather than a calling left him socially crippled, leading to him using Jean and the Professor as emotional crutches and allowing many fans to think of him as an insecure wuss (who at one point ran out on his wife and newborn son to be with his resurrected girlfriend...ugh) rather than a good soldier who cared about the dream, doing his best to save his whole species. Not to mention his wacky ideas for Wolverine and Nightcrawler's origins (though one has to admit that strange and controversial as his Nightcrawler origin would have been, it was much better than the pathetic "The Draco" story by Chuck Austen, which Marvel actually made canon). Overall, he just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I've rambled too long already, but I would like to say Garth Ennis belongs somewhere on this list. He's a great writer, and yes he doesn't like superheroes, but he's honest about it, and at his best with stuff like Preacher.

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