The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 55: Marvel Comics – Spider-Man Part 1!

The greatest superhero of all time.

It’s taken me a while to get back to my culling project, mostly because I’m sick to death of my culling project. The problem is that I read so far ahead of what I was writing about, that I actually lost interest in it by the time I had to write about it. Plus, me not so interested in superhero comics anymore, and it’s still going to be a while before we get to the indie and creator owned stuff that I really enjoy. Still, I’d like to finish what I started, and so I give to you this:

Spider-Man is the greatest superhero of all time.

Yep, I said it. No take backsies. I’d fight anybody (well, not ANYBODY. If you’re a UFC fighter, or a professional soldier I just don’t think that would be very fair. Or if you ever took a self-defence course. Or watched a lot of martial arts movies. Or if you own a baseball bat) who says differently. Why, you ask? It’s not because of the suit, though the design and look of Spider-Man is a huge part of the character’s success. And it’s not because of the powers, though again, awesome.

It’s because of his origin. It’s the greatest in comics. Better than Superman (illegal immigrant becomes neo-messiah), better than Green Lantern (thrill-seeking diva is given magic jewlery by alien Chamber Of Commerce), and yes, I dare say it’s even better than Batman (spoiled rich kid sees his parents killed, becomes spoiled rich adult who also is absolutely crazy). Batman’s may be the most tragic, but Spider-Man’s is better. Why? Because it’s his fault. When people think of Spider-Man’s origin they usually think of the spider biting him after class, but me? I think of Uncle Ben.

After Peter Parker figures out he has godlike spider powers, he does what any of us would do: He robs a bank and bangs hookers. No actually, he becomes a professional wrestler. He wears a mask while he does so because Aunt May was hoping that he would grow up to rob banks and bang hookers, and he’s embarrassed that he didn’t live up to her expectations. One day, a thief makes his way into the arena that Parker is working at, and although Parker has plenty of opportunity to stop the villain, he lets him go. And so of course in the middle of a city full of 9 million people, the bad guy just happens to stumble into Peter’s Uncle Ben immediately afterward, and kills him dead.

It’s Parker’s own fault. That’s the whole crux of this guy. He was given a great gift, he didn’t use it properly, and he paid the ultimate price. It’s so simple, and yet it’s almost never used in superhero comics anymore. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he has the perfect motivation for doing what he does, and without motivation, you just have a guy who likes to dress in fetish gear and likes to get punched in the face.

That’s why he’s stuck around so long. More than any other hero, he truly understands what a responsibility he has, and as such, is probably the only true hero in a universe full of pretenders.

Spider-Man: Essential Spider-Man 1-6

I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout this project that I’ve gotten rid of most of my Marvel Essentials, and although the actual quality of the comics these are reprinting are unmistakable, the quality of the reprints themselves just doesn’t do these comics justice. These collect the run of Amazing Spider-Man from the early 1960’s to the early 1970’s, and are as close to the Holy Grail as you’re going to get in superhero comics: Stan Lee. Steve Ditko. John Buscema. Roy Thomas. The first appearance of Spider-Man. Flash Thompson. The Kingpin. The Green Goblin. The Death of Uncle Ben. Glory Grant. J. Jonah Jameson. The death of Gwen Stacy. And so on.

When it comes to the Silver Age of superhero comics, it doesn’t get better than this. And yet, I’m getting rid of them. The Essential line are basically cheap, black and white reprints of classic comics, and while they are eminently affordable, you do get what you pay for, and sadly reading these digitally and in colour on my iPad is a more fulfilling experience than these black and white cheapies.

CULL

Spider-Man: Greatest Villains

This was a collection of some of the greatest stories involving some Spider-Man’s greatest villains (Green Goblin, Mysterio, Sandman, Venom, etc). Like the Essential line, the quality of the stories themselves are not in doubt, but the quality of the presentation sadly is. LIke many Marvel trades from the late 90’s, the glue on has deteriorated to the point that it’s unreadable, and therefore not worth owning.

CULL

Spider-Man & Black Cat – The Evil That Men Do

This was from the brief period in the late 90’s/early 2000’s in which Kevin Smith was considered to be a good comic book writer. Thankfully, that time seems to be over now, and it’s rare that any of the major comic book companies will let Smith near their characters. But the comics from this period are still around, and this one might be one of the worst. Smith reimagines long time Spider-Man supporting character Black Cat as a bisexual vamp whose previously unmentioned rape was a big motivator for her beating up bad guys. It’s turgid, over-the-top, and barely readable. In short, it’s Kevin Smith. Terry Dodgson’s art is fun, and as one would expect, his Black Cat is about as sexy as is legally allowed in comic books. But it’s not enough to save this turkey.

CULL

Next up: More Spider-Man!

 

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The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 10: DC Comics – Green Arrow

Green Arrow is a character I’ve always liked, because for a long time he was of of the fewDC heros that I would say had any real character depth. He’s abrasive, passionate, and has numerous flaws. In short, he should have been published by Marvel. He’s never taken off from a sales perspective, and DC finally decided to smother their grandma with a pillow and killed him off in 1995.

5 years later, they brought him back . They enlisted Kevin Smith, who had a bit of a rep as a character saver due to his work on Daredevil, to do the deed. He concocted an extremely convoluted, yet entertaining epic that brought Oliver Queen back from the grave. It was a huge hit, and since then GA has been a prominent part of the DCU.

Green Arrow The Longbow Hunters

This is often considered one of the great DC stories of the 1980’s. Keep in mind the context of the time. Year One, Watchmen, and Dark Knight had been huge successes, and so DC did numerous reboots that brought some of their characters back to their grim and gritty roots, even those that had never had grim and gritty roots. This brings us to Green Arrow, and The Longbow Hunters. GA and Black Canary move to Seattle, and even though she used to be a member of a group that saves planets on a regular basis, Canary gets kidnapped by drug dealers and GA has to save her, which isn’t so good for Black Canary, but did turn out to be pretty good for Gail Simone, who ended up making her career on fixing the damage done to Canary in this story. Arrow goes a little nuts, and there’s a lot of complicated spy stuff that isn’t very interesting, and this sets the tone for Green Arrow stories for the next 7 or 8 years.

When I compare this to some of the more recent Arrow stories, I can’t say that this is a very good book, though Mike Grell’s artwork here is stunning. For me, I prefer fun and cocky Green Arrow to angry and brooding Green Arrow. Not that I don’t want emotional conflict in my superhero books, but the GA stories around this time seemed to fit Batman much better than they did the Emerald Archer. Again, this might be more of a personal taste thing than anything else, but this incarnation of Green Arrow just leaves me cold.

KEEP, just barely due to the great art and the importance of the series.

Green Arrow –  The Kevin Smith Trades (Quiver/Sounds Of Violence)

So now GA has been dead for 5 years, and his son has been wearing the mantle of GA in his absence. Only problem is, he’s extremely boring. So DC decided to bring back the original, and got Kevin Smith and Phil Hester to do it.

To my surprise, there’s still a LOT to love about these trades. They require a pretty serious love of obscure DC continuity, and Kevin Smith uses every single DC character he’s ever heard of in an attempt to really bring Ollie back in style. Smith really had a knack for this character, and this arc would be the basis for Ollie Queen’s characterization for most of the next decade. There’s also plenty to hate here. Kevin Smith never met a word balloon he didn’t love to fill, and his inexperience with the medium is apparent time and time again. Every page is crammed with text and art, and the story is so busy that sometimes you forget to breathe. That being said it’s still a good “back from the dead” story, and Phil Hester’s art is what I’ll always think of when I think of Green Arrow, mostly due to his stellar work here.

KEEP

Green Arrow –  The Archer’s Quest

For the follow-up to Quiver, DC enlisted well-known novelist Brad Meltzer, to write his very first DC story. Since then he’s written numerous arcs for DC, but this may still be his best. It’s essentially a love letter to Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams famous “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” Green Arrow/Green Lantern stories of the 1970’s, and remains one of my all time favourite Green Arrow arcs. It’s a story that really shows off how many shades of grey that the character has, and is must reading for any DC fan. Phil Hester is still doing the pencils here, and still knocking it out of the park.

KEEP.

 

Green ArrowThe Judd Winick trades (Straight Shooter, City Walls, Moving Targets, Heading Into The Light, Crawling From The Wreckage, Road To Jericho)

So having guys like Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer write your books is great when you’re trying to create interest in a character relaunch, but when it came time to finally get a permanent writer for Green Arrow, DC went to Judd Winick. Winick seems to be one of the most hated writers in comics. Now, you should take that with a grain of salt, as the same people who call for a writer’s death are also the same people who are buying every book that writer is involved with. It makes no sense, but that zombie-like habitual buyer is part of the reason why comics is in such a state of flux right now.

Now, I happen to like Winick’s writing for the most part. I find him to be an extremely character focused writer, and as such he comes up with occasionally unconventional scenarios for his characters, and his story arcs tend to focus on the emotional after effects of superheroics, rather than the actual superheroics themselves. To that end, Winick created a rich supporting cast for Ollie here (His son Connor, the new Speedy, a great new villain in Brick), and spent several years building up the notion that Ollie Queen had an extended family in the truest sense of the word.

Now, if you went to an average comic book message forum, you’d probably get a lot of people who disagree with me. Why? Because Winick puts his grown up characters in grown up situations. That’s it. It’s that simple, and the fact is that many superhero comics fans are only fans of a certain type of comic, which means that anything that challenges their narrow definition of what comic books are must be hated and feared. Probably the biggest controversy of his arc was that he gave Green Arrow’s young sidekick the HIV virus. This was an extremely gutsy move on Winick’s part, and to this day it’s stands out for me as a great example of character development. It added a lot of layers to both that character and to Green Arrow proper,

Now, that’s not to say the run is perfect. It loses steam near the end of the series, and the art is very inconsistent in places (though seemed to get better when Scott McDaniel took over the penciling duties. But all in all this was a good run for a mainstream superhero book.

KEEP

Green ArrowYear One.

Although GA is one of the most interesting characters in the DCU, he also has one of the least interesting origins in the DCU: He was rich, got stranded on an island, and then when he got off the island he became a superhero. So by that logic the cast of survivor could apply to be in the Justice League. Andy Diggle and Jock attempt to salvage something interesting out of it, but to no avail.

CULL.

 

 

Green Arrow & Black CanaryRoad To The Altar, The Wedding Album, Family Business, A League Of Their Own, Enemies List

So imagine you are an editor at DC comics. You have lots of popular characters, but lots of those characters can’t actually sustain their own books. Two of your writers have spent the last several years rebuilding two of these characters from scratch, and brought them to the point where they both have successful books that are also critically acclaimed. So what do you do? If your answer is “Cancel both books and completely fly in the face of the last 5 years of characterization and have those characters marry each other and then start a new book with the two of them that isn’t remotely as interesting as the books you cancelled?” then you should be in charge of DC Comics. Yep, they married Green Arrow and Black Canary (yes, technically they didn’t cancel Birds of Prey until later, but the removal of that character from the series was the first real nail in the coffin of that book), the two characters least likely to actually settle down in a monogamous relationship in the DCU. Batman and Superman would make a better couple. But they did it, and so it was Judd Winick’s job to salvage the baby from the bath water. While I’ve read MUCH worse, and this wasn’t a horrible series by any means, it also wasn’t great, and from the beginning of the arc the whole thing screamed “EDITORIAL MANDATE”.  I’m keeping the first arc that features the wedding, but getting rid of the rest.

The Wedding Album: KEEP. All others. CULL

Next up: Green Lantern!