Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Hello, Planet Earth!"

I’ve been a fan of for some time and I’m honored to be a part of this great staff of writers and reviewers. Our esteemed editor, Louis, asked to me to introduce myself to the planet, so here goes!

My first introduction to comic books was from my brother’s collection of early to mid-1960s twelve-cent Marvels. I was easily indoctrinated as a Keeper of the Flame early on given my brother’s penchant for Lee-Kirby and Lee-Ditko books such as Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. He also had a few smatterings of The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, Silver Surfer and Marvel Two-in-One (I believe). My brother’s taste in artists and their body of work easily enthralled me. He loved Don Heck’s Avengers and Steve Ditko’s Dr. Strange. He also had a near complete run of the Stan Lee and Gene Colan Daredevil as well as the Romita Silver Surfer.

From there it was a matter of going to the neighborhood 7-11 and buying comic books with my brother, sister and her future husband each afternoon after Sunday church. I was pretty much a Marvel zombie during my early years. When I was in high school, I’d travel downtown to the cigarette and magazine shop that sold comics. I’d also go to the neighborhood drugstore and haunt the spinner rack and whirl it around to get my regular comics as well as flip through each rack to find any hidden gems I may be interested in.

During college, I gained some independence and a greater amount of cash flow while attending UC Berkeley. I was fortunate enough to have had some disposable income while attending Cal and purchased comics during the early to mid-eighties, which was our most recent renaissance in the medium. This period was heaven on earth with the publications of Miller’s Dark Knight and seminal Daredevil, which colored the comic landscape in violent, blood red. Of course, Byrne and Claremont’s Wolverine came out during this period and was also noted for his quick-triggered and animalistic temper. I remember hearing and reading the complaints of the press claiming that the newfound brutality of Daredevil and the short-fused Wolverine were labeled as “gruesome” and “gratuitous.” Of course, Miller’s portrayal of the aged Batman in a dystopian future didn’t help to quell their outcries.

This was an incredible period for the comic book medium and their fans as the “British Invasion” brought talents such as John Bolton, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore to name a few. Moreover, independent comic book companies decided to enter the market and flex their creative muscles to compete against the mainstream big two of Marvel and DC. This decades-long creative outburst introduced independent classics such as Allred’s Madman, Baron and Allred’s Nexus (initially done in magazine format from Capitol Comics. Anyone remember the Nexus theme song included one of these mags?). This influx of creativity challenged the big two and inspired even more creativity throughout the industry.

Wagner’s Mage and Grendel entered the fray through Comico. Who could forget Eclipse Comics snapping up Englehart and Rogers for Detective, Inc. or Michael T. Gilbert’s albino warrior, Elric? This was also a great time for comic mags about comics to enter some of the best-written commentary and interviews. My favorites included The Comics Journal, CBG, Hero, and David Anthony Kraft’s The Comics Interview.

We experienced death in comics for the first time in magnum opus fashion in the forms of the deaths of Captain Marvel and Jean Grey. Humor was in vogue with Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew. Innocent but dopey-looking characters such as ‘Mazing Man always challenged us to look at the heart and not at the outside appearance while giving us a few chuckles along the way. Who could ever forget the wildly manic Ambush Bug and the occasional appearance of the Impossible Man? I remember the Marvel imprint Star Comics aimed at the younger generation of comic goers. One of my favorite books of all time came out during this time, William Messner-Loeb’s, Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlister. Scott McCloud’s open artwork on Zot! introduced us to a world of good, clean entertainment. Who needed muscle-bound oafs when you had a teenaged kid with a good heart flying around armed with a futuristic popgun and a ton of courage, walking back and forth between time and space?

Soon after college I moved to the Philippines. While in the Philippines, there were only a handful of comic book shops. Additionally, American or English-based comic books were the realm of yuppies and the wealthy given the Philippines’ poverty and the fact that, at the time, books sold for two to three times more than what they cost in the US given the inflated international rates and shipping and handling charges. I would rebuild my comic collection by thumbing through stacks and stacks of boxes at used bookstores and often purchasing comics for pennies. Sometimes I’d buy translated versions of US-based books such as the X-Men or Spider-Man, but it just felt strange seeing books I grew up reading in English in a different language.

Upon returning to the US, I reclaimed my weekly Wednesday habit much to the chagrin of my wife and wallet. My tastes are mostly from the newly-formed big three of Marvel, DC, and Image. I get the occasional indie here and there if my local comic shop carries them. I was a reviewer for the now defunct That was my first writing-for-comics gig and now I can add the distinguished to my portfolio. Over the next few weeks or months I plan to embellish further some of the topics I briefly touched upon in the previous paragraphs. I’d like to do a few interviews with distinguished or up-and-coming creators in the business in addition to the occasional comic review.

So, “Hello, planet Earth!” A new pulse-pounding pundit has just arrived!

(Originally published in Published: 2007-07-09)

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