Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rudderless 70's

Was just perusing a few of the Amazon reviews of Marvel Comics: the Untold Story when i ran across this bit:
The history of Marvel reads like a series of epic story arcs. There's the Big Bang of the 'sixties; the rudderless 'seventies; the Jim Shooter era, with an editor-in-chief seemingly dedicated to sabotaging Marvel's entire line of books; the boom and bust years of the early to mid 'nineties, in which the Heroes World distribution debacle and the mass defection of artists from Marvel to Image (who, once there, were incapable of releasing their books on time) helped to put thousands of comic shops out of business, just as Marvel, the former industry leader, declared bankruptcy.
And it caught me in that, as many bad '70's books as there were (and YES, there were some terrible 1970's Marvel Comics), there were a significant handful of truly amazing Marvel Comics that came out in that decade which may be glossed over by that simple phrase in the review above.

I've prepared a number of times, and scrapped, posts about using someone else's properties to make a meaningful personal comment, and just how difficult and, yes, strange it is to think of using someone else's character for that. And yet, with no other venues available, that is exactly what those 1970's arteurs did.

Shall we see the rudderless '70's as a company with no over arching vision? Of course, because if someone was really watching, and Jim Shooter would soon be, we would never have had Steve Englehart doing his own personal take on Watergate with his Secret Empire storyline in Captain America, or Jim Starlin exercising his personal Viet Nam and Catholic upbringings in Captain Marvel and Warlock. Don McGregor wouldn't have been able to make Jungle Action: Starring the Black Panther into a personal forum to battle racism and social injustice, nor made Killraven less a derivative science fiction story than a mediation on the rising and advancing of the last free people traversing North America. Would P. Craig Russell have had the chance to develop his singularly lyrical art elsewhere under a DC house style? Starlin wouldn't have given us Thanos. And Gerber, yes, Gerber would have never breathed life into the Man-Thing, let alone Howard the Duck.

Oh, and have we forgotten that, in 1975, a little book called the All New, All Different X-Man would come along and basically save the industry?

I can't wait to read more on this book.

Having my local bookseller, as always, order it for me, not on Amazon.

1 comment:

Alex Sheikman said...

I think that the review on amazon was an say the least. There are hundreds of comics coming out every year, and I believe that every "era" brought forth something awesome that inspired the next generation of writers and artists. You have already talked about some of the 70's gems (to which I would like to add Englehart/Rogers Batman, Mantlo/Golden Micronauts, Thomas/Smith Conan, Wein/Wrightson Swamp Thing, Corben's Bloodstar, Chaykin's IronWolf, O'Neil/Kaluta Shadow and the amazing work by Toth and Nino over at the DC horror titles...if anything the 70's was the continuation of individual expression in comics that was started by Adams and Steranko in the 60's), so I want to say a couple of words about the Jim Shooter era that was mentioned in the review. I believe that the 80's continued pushing comics in all kinds of interesting directions. Under Shooter, Marvel started the line of original graphic novels and produced "The Death of Captain Marvel", "StarSlammers", and "Dreadstar". In their regular line of comics John Byrne wrote and drew FF, West Coast Avengers, and Hulk. Simonson took over Thor and turned him into a frog...and who can forget Cloak and Dagger (Mantlo/Leonardi), Moon Knight (Moench/Sienkievicz/Nowlan), Daredevil (Miller/Janson). There were other little milestones along the way, such as a few issues drawn by Michael Golden that were going to inspire Todd McFarline, Jim Lee, and Ron Liefield in the next decade. Over at DC stuff like Teen Titans, Ronin, Watchmen, Swamp Thing (with Alan Moore this time around) and Dark Knight were being produced. It would almost appear that the 80' s could not have been toped...but of course the 90's came by and changed everything :)