The 80's-Comic Books

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Byrne Years

The best art team on "X-Men" always was composed of John Byrne and Terry Austin. Not only did they have a crisp dynamic style, but they have defined the look of the X-Men. Their probably greatest achievement (apart from contributing to the best run the series ever had) was making Wolverine cool.

John Byrne took over from Dave Cockrum in 1977 at the end of the star spanning saga of Phoenix and the X-Men visiting the Shiar empire. Already in the first issue the tight and exact pencils with a really cool looking Colossus. Terry Austin embued those pencils with a great line-dynamic and hatching that gave Byrnes art texture and gravitas.

Byrne and Austin would stay on the series for a whopping 35 issues. During this time (together with writer/scripter Chris Claremont) they sent the X-Men to the savage land, to Japan, to fight the the seamingly omnipotent Proteus, through the pangalactic but still intimate Dark Phoenix saga, to top it all off they helped create the days of the future past with an alternate future history of the world.

In 1981 Byrne and Austin left the book. John Byrne went on to revolutionize the "Fantastic Four" by taking them back to their roots. LAter he would revamp Superman.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Byrne does the Superman - Fantastic Four # 249

Man, that Byrne dude was a great comic book creator! In the Eighties he really was at the top of his game. In the second year of his tenure on the "Fantastic Four", he proved that he can also tell a great Superman tale.
Looks like Byrne's warm up for Superman
"Fantastic Four" #249 (cover date December 1982) "Man and Super-Man" starts out in deep space with Gladiator chasing
Skrull spaceship. Gladiator is a well known member of the Shiar imperial guard who possesses very Superman-like powers but a very non-Superman-like mohawk.

Another day in the Marvel Universe
The story continues with a typical day for the FF on Earth. Ben Grimm, the Thing, saves a girl on a wild horse (by grabbing the horse on the belly and lifting in the air nonetheless). But no rest for our ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing.
Soon as the job was done, the Fantastic Four emergency flare adorns the sky and Ben runs for it.
On the way to the Baxter Building Ben encounters Gladiator standing on a bunch of cars in the middle of traffic. This is the comic book version of saying "Dude! I wanna fight ya!", so the Thing complies and a battle ensues. Gladiator is quick to put the kibosh on the Thing first throwing a car on him and then punching our hero through a good dozen of parked cars. Since Ben is now completely wasted and the Gladiator is out of adversaries, he hurls Grimm's lifeless body to the Baxter Building throwing him right though the wall into the only room with the remaining Fantastic Four.
This is the comic book version of saying "Dude! I wanna fight ya!"

Okay, in times gone by a silk glove to the face is a sufficient challenge for a duel. This being a superhero comic, it has to be more extreme. The FF get poised to battle the alien.
Now we get to the more weird part: before the FF can pursue Gladiator, he lifts! The! Whole! Baxter Building! (By the way a sky-scraper).

Blow Job
Now for some reason Johnny Storm aka "Human Torch" believes, he is capable of stopping the alien powerhouse by surrounding him with ridiculously small bars of flame. This does not stop Gladdy. He punches the bejeesus out of Johnny hurling him high above the city. Still not taken aback enough, Johnny launches a full scale flame assault on Gladiator, which proves to be futile. Gladiator simply blows out Johnny Storms flame with his super breath (I wonder what it smells like).
Now it's time for Reed gadget time! With his universal translator Reed makes an attempt at communication. This confuses our alien antagonist and he takes the fight to the next level taking out Reed and Sue.
Once done, he turns around and he is confronted with what appears to be the X-Men. Except that they talk really weird...
The stage is set for issue 250!

Art and Story
John Byrne is a master of the medium. Admittedly he is not revolutionary or visionary, but he is dependable, proficient and very competent. His story telling is clear, his renditions cool and appealing.
That is not enough: when he was at the top of his game, Byrne could tell interesting stories with the characters without them being off character.
Byrne at his best!
More on Gladiator
More on John Byrne

John Byrne's website: Byrnerobotics

Marin Balabanov's personal website: MarinComics (German)

Disclaimer: All characters are property of their respective copyright holders. This blog post is purely for review purposes and does not infringe on the rights of others.
So please don't sue me!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Eighties are the greatest Period in Comic-Book-Creation (and I do mean period!)

This is the first entry of the 80's-Comic-Book-Blog. In a vain attempt to capture the magic of my youth I will recount some of the weird and wacky comic books that I read when I was a wee lad.

In today's Episode I will discuss Arthur Adams. For a long time, I believed that Arthur Adams was an amalgamation of british Scifi-Writer Douglas Adams and his creation Arthur Dent (whatever happened to Douglas Dent?) - just kidding, checking whether you're still with me.

Arhtur Adams' art has the dynamics of John Byrne and the details of George Perez, but there was something else in his lines... yes, something crazy, but in a nice kind of way.

Longshot - rumor has it, that Arthur Adams styled him after himself!This extraordinary (and notably slow) penciller blasted onto the comic scene with the 6 issue limited series "Longshot". I remember buying the last issue (double-size) at a used books market in Vienna. Adams' artwork was amazing. The details! The action! The weird grimasses! I don't think I actually read the story until much later (being the last issue, it just did not make sense to my feable little mind) - I only tried to absorb the pictures. But there was simply too much to absorb. Adams' art has the dynamics of John Byrne and the details of George Perez, but there was something else in his lines... yes, something crazy, but in a nice kind of way. If you know what I mean...

My next encounter with Adams' Artwork was in the "X-Men" Annual #10, another Longshot-story featuring Mojo the villain from the Mini-series pitted against the X-Men. At the time this was my single most favorite comic book. In addition to the amazing artwork of Arthur Adams I actually understood what the hell the story was about. On top of it all the climax featured the absolutely best picture of Wolverine ever and since!

A short recap of the story: While the X-Men are working out in the danger room trying to kick Magnetos butt (he was a good guy then - don't ask how or why), Longshot falls from a teleportal in the ceiling, covering everyone with magical foam (pretty gross!). On the next day - after having taken good care of their new arrival - it turns out the X-Men are devolving in age. Apparently the magic foam had properties that made our heroes younger. It only takes a few pages for them to be reduced to baby-age. Then they are in the power of Mojo the entertainment tycoon from another dimension who invented reality-TV before the term was first coined.

After a lot of soul searching the junior-team of the school the ever annoying New Mutants decide to don new costumes, call themselves the New X-Men and charge in for the rescue. They teleport int Mojos Dimension and have to fight their elder friends. You see the reason for the devolving of the X-Men was, so that Mojo could re-age them in his image. He brain washed them. This is best illustrated by their really risqué costumes.

Storm's costume is pink! With a mini-ballerina-skirt!

Wolverine is actually naked! Except for his extreme body hair-growth! And the fishbowl over his head!

And what the hell happened to Magneto! He's running around in a Nazi-uniform with a german army helmet on! Wasn't it kinda established, that he's jewish? Isn't that kinda tasteless making him a f--king Nazi? Okay, they were trying to illustrate the drastic change through Mojos brainwashing, but that went too far!

The battle commences! So of course the X-Men are on the brink handing the New Mutants their collective asses. At the turning point of the battle, Wolverine turns berserk and attacks one of the more fragile members of the younger non-brainwashed team called Karma. Just as he is on the brink of putting the kibbosh on her, something snaps. Apparently beating up on a chick goes against all of his instincts so Wolverine turns the wall around Karma into shreds but... leaves her unscathed. This releases him from Mojo's hold. In one dramatic panel Wolverine tears apart the fishbowl on his head and yells Mojo's name.

Wolverine! F--ck Yeah!
This was a classic F--k Yeah!-moment. When my gaze fell upon this Arthur Adams-rendered panel with Wolverine freaking out, a shiver crept up my spine and nested itself into the back of my brain threating to turn me into a bibbering vegetable. This was coolness incarnate. Arthur Adams you have shown me, what it means to be alive!

So to make a short story long: The X-Men all turn back into their old selves and they join forces with the New Muties to defeat Mojo and his evil six-armed lackey Spiral. Unbeknownst to out heroes Mojo is filming every second of the battle and using the footage to entertain his viewers! This sure beats "Big Brother"!

Nonetheless: The X-Men and their buddies return home and reflect upon the lesson learned in this battle (I totally forgot, what that stupid lesson was and I definitely will not get up out of bed to check up on this!).

X-Men Annual # 10 - Total Arthur Adams bliss. Featuring script by Chris Claremont and inks by Terry Austin (the best inker on this and any other planet!).
(Also available in the tradepaperback "Marvel Legends: Arthur Adams X-Men". Don't be fooled by the "X-Men" in the title, one third of the book is about the "Fantastic Four").

As an aside:
Many hold Arthur Adams responsible for being an "inspiration" to Rob Liefeld (aka "the-man-who-thought-he-could-draw-but-couldn't") and many of the other Image-"artist" (for want of a better term). This may be true to a certain extent, but couldn't those Adams-wannabes at least get some their swipes of Adams' right!?!