Sunday, March 04, 2007

Speaking of Superheros....

Like all people who aspire to make comics, I started out by being being a fan. I had boxes full of every kind of comic you can imagine, from Star Wars and Superman to Casper and Richie Rich. They were well read, drawn on and in some cases cut up for the neat Spiderman pictures in 'em.

One day while perusing the spinner rack at Zellers I saw this neat looking comic with a really cool cover. X-men #207, July 1986.
And that slowly brought me into the world of serious comic collecting at the tender age of 13. I started to buy bags and boards and scour back issue bins to have complete collections. I ordered comics through the mail as we didn't have any comic shops on the Island. Every month a fat pack of comics would arrive from The Sorcerers' Stone in St John N.B. full of Cloak & Dagger, Power Pack and Groo comics to name a few.

Like any form of collecting, it became an obsession. In 1991 Marvel comics released the "New" X-men comic, I believe written by Chris Claremont. I was so hooked on the junk that when at the end of the story arc they "kill" Magneto once and for all I could hardly believe it!

I can remember it clearly; I was in 1st year college (Technical Illustration class) excitedly telling my friend Nick about what happened. He (in typical Nick fashion) dismissed the whole thing as rubbish. "They'll bring him back, who cares". I protested; how could they??? It would be impossible, he is so thoroughly dead! But a small glimmer of doubt was lit in my mind now.

Well, Nick was right. It took me until 1996 (10 years!), X-Men #337 to give up the junk. This is the last issue I ever bought or ever will by of that mess.

I have more or less sworn off superhero comics since then. I was so soured by all the Death of Superman/multiple gimmick/glow-in-the-dark/die-cut covers and endless, pointless story lines. I admit to picking up the occasional collected volume of "Powers" or "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" without feeling any remorse, but that was it.

I recall back in '02 Jeff Smith saying he'd be doing a Shazam comic for DC after Bone wrapped up. Interesting to me in that I was really into the whole self publishing thing at the time and here's one of the most successful guys at it going the way of the main stream superhero comics. Well, it's Jeff Smith I thought. If anyone can pull it off it's him.

The Internet is howling the praise of it, so much so that I decided to pick it up and see for myself if it lives up to the hype. (This is the first comic I've picked up in over a year, maybe more).

I've discovered that reading only graphic novels for the last while has made serial books feel very rushed. Too much happens without the time needed to build the characters. It takes all the drama and wonder out of the story when it's a constant BANGBANGBANG on every page. Hit me enough times and I become numb to it all. It's like reading a Roger Ramjet cartoon.

Jeff feels a bit out of his element drawing Shazam. His drawings feel a bit awkward at times and the bright colours (handled very well mind you by Steve Hamaker who is doing the colour Bone books for Scholastic) take some getting use to.

That being said, this isn't your typical "modern" superhero comic. To it's great credit, it's not another gloomy, angst ridden and introspective revenge tale as you can see here:


Any super hero stopping the action to eat a hotdog is a good sign to me! This book has a kind of charm to it that is sorely lacking in almost every comic on the shelf. I imagine the book will flow better collected (as is the case generally), but it was an interesting start none the less.

I don't think this will have me leaping back into the world of superhero comics anytime soon, but it's nice to see a comic for all ages that isn't a nightmare to read and enjoy on a few levels.

Comics are a medium that is doing a piss poor job of doing anything to attract NEW readers, it doesn't take a genius to see how well that bodes for the future. So kudos to Jeff for doing something good for comics and trying to make them fun again.

...Give it a month and DC will try to pull a Dark Knight on Shazam, so enjoy it while you can.