I’d rather fight than switch!
Those with less than 40 years’ vintage (maybe older) may not recognize the phrase of a national cigarette brand that used to make this claim in a day when smoking was not only the norm but cool. The smoker would rather fight (he/she always had a black eye) before switching their loyalties to that brand.
And so I have felt for years, nay decades about being a Marvelite, a True Believer, a Quite ‘Nuff Sayer, a card carrying (still!) member of both the Merry Marvel Marching Society and FOOM (Friends of Old Marvel).
I began my young comics reading life as a DC reader; we in Frankfort, Ky., had never even heard of Marvel. But then came the Marvel cartoons each day (Cap, Hulk, Iron Man, Subby and Thor.) Thus I soon became a Marvelite, mostly on the strength of my love for the Thunder God and his mythic/space adventures.
So later it was: Me? Reading a book from the Distinguished Competition?! Bwahahahahaha! Ain’t gonna happen.
But it did, just last month, and Marvel Editorial is responsible.
When I first picked up a Marvel comic under the guidance those days of Stan, Jack, Roy, the Buscemas, et al, there were trips to other dimensions, outer space battles, fights with living planets, threats from world devourers and on and on.
But as a more mature realism was sought in some materials and as the 1960s and ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s (especially mid-1980s), folks like Frank Miller and Klaus Janson introduced us to darker worlds, a Daredevil who would rather depend on the word of a crime Kingpin than Law & Order, X-Men who wanted to live in NYC’s sewer systems (even one with claustrophobia!) and, slowly but surely, our powerful, shiny friends from the heavens seemed more and more distant until a half-generation did not know them at all.
During this time (1995-2005) I left comics reading and collecting for the simple fact that I was getting busier as a newspaper editor (going from one edition per week to three) and there were frankly too many X-books to follow a single world continuity anymore, much less the Marvel U. as a whole!
Upon my return in 2005, I went of course to Uncanny X-Men at first, thrilled to death Chris Claremont had returned. But as I continued the read from month to month, something was just missing. Haven’t we been to the Savage Land, to the Hellfire Club and all this before?
By the time I was ready to find an Avengers book, there weren’t any. Apparently Disassembled had already occurred and I did not catch onto the Bendis bandwagon until months after the first New Avengers hit the shelves.
But while rambling through titles at my LCS (which also changed twice, not to mention my bouts with migraines and seizures at the time – I had retired on disability), I happened upon something called Annihilation: Conquest, and noticed a number of books with this banner.
Blast off! My reassociation with Marvel Cosmic had begun.
It was months, maybe a year or more before I discovered the story behind the inspiration of the original Annihilation, a series I still have yet to read. Finding out that the seat once held by the great and imaginative Lee, Thomas and later Gruenwald (R.I.P., my friend) was now occupied by lovers of street-level characters and apparent science fiction non-fans was a tough pill to swallow.
But still …
But still in the pages of Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy and several “event” titles, writers the fans called DnA (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, as if you had to be told) were weaving some powerful tales in the wake of Annihilation and Conquest, quite imaginative (that word again) and exciting tales at that!
And with my first new personal computer, I heard about a dude name of Geoff Johns who was doing the same with one of my old friends – Green Lantern! But see, I was a Marvelite.
DnA did something I never thought I would see: In one panel of War of Kings (maybe it was in Guardians instead during the event) they brought Kirby cosmic characters together with Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne cosmic characters together with Starlin cosmic characters (plus a newbie or twain). There, in one story, on one panel – WAS Marvel Cosmic. I do not know if a comic book will ever make me that excited again!
And then … nothing. Literally.
Someone seemed to pull a plug out of the cosmic tube of tales. Nova and my beloved Guardians were “on hiatus,” Marvel Editorial said (a lie). All we had left were the tiny nuggets that did not make it down the drain: Thanos: Imperative, Rocket Raccoon & Groot and Annihilators. Most were good nuggets (TI supremely so), but nuggets nonetheless, breadcrumbs spread by a seemingly uncaring Bullpen. The House of Ideas?
In the words of Benjamin J. Grimm: “Wha’ hoppen?”
I wondered if this was what the Marvel Monster fans must’ve felt like when the saturation of comics and black-and-white magazines dwindled down to Tomb of Dracula, and then went dry in the 1970s?
While I was trying to face the situation with a glass half-full instead of half-empty, a good friend reminded me of Johns and his Green Lantern, now riding a high wave of popularity and soon to be accented (I hope) by a live action feature motion picture. (Anyone remember the high-selling Howard the Duck and what happened after that movie? Ugh!)
I avoided temptation, but not for long. Annihilators #1 was the straw that broke the camel’s (continuing with the cigarette theme, lol) back for me. Even though I enjoyed it, as with my return to Uncanny, something was just missing.
Then last month I bought and read Green Lantern. And Green Lantern Corps. And Emerald Warriors. And I am at the heart of the War of Green Lanterns event, remembering old concepts and learning new info, reuniting with old friends and finding many changes since the various refurbishing Crisis events, and even thinking of story ideas I might some day recommend to Johns.
For a 53-year-old comics fan, this is quite an experience. I feel young as when my world – my comics reading world -- was new.
Now, still with Marvel but focusing on the GL titles with perhaps more on the way, you might even say I feel more optimistic – even (dare I say) cosmic?