Monday, 15 October 2007

Jim Shoots Again

In the early 1960s I was a passably normal sort of a child and read ‘The Eagle’ every week to see how Dan Dare was getting along like many other young boys (and girls for all I know). I loved British comics and would read as many as I could from ‘Beano’ to ‘TV Comic’ and beyond – usually at the barbers whilst waiting for a haircut in the days before appointments. Note - Why don’t barbers supply comics to read any more?

By the late 1960s I chanced to meet the elder brother of a school friend and he introduced me to American comic books, as they like to be known. He was a fan of the DC stable of acts (Superman, Batman etc) and I became addicted to them as well as they seemed terribly grown up compared to the Beano. My particular favourite was a team of teenage heroes known as the Legion of Superheroes whose escapades were printed under the banner of ‘Adventure’ comics between 1958 and 1969.

At about the time I started reading The Legion, the brilliant stories were being written by a precocious upstart, Jim Shooter who unbeknownst to DC was only 14 at the time he was sending in his scripts from home. Predictably, he rose rapidly through comicdom and eventually went on to be President of Marvel Comics. In 1969 the Legion lost their slot in ‘Adventure’ to Supergirl and languished as a back-up feature in ‘Action’ comics for about a year before they were cancelled. I gave up reading American comics at around that time.

However, a few years back, I noticed that all those comics I bought and subsequently trashed in the 1960s have been reprinted in hardback form by DC Archives and that has got me interested in buying comics again. And boy, have times changed. In fact it is a whole new world. For starters, they cost £2.25 per copy instead of 2 shillings and you can’t buy them in newsagents from those circular wire framed racks, you have to go to specialist comic shops which make you feel like even more of a nerd than you would’ve done anyway.

Also, the quality of the pages has changed out of all recognition. Today’s comics have an almost photo-like quality of block colouring on glossy paper rather than the dot matrix style colour on cheap paper of the 1960s. This makes the pages somehow darker and drabber and I’m not sure I really like it that much. I think I prefer the lighter texture of the old colour system that gives a brighter page. However the stories are quite good and I still love the comic format. Interestingly, most of my favourites titles are still going forty years later – Superman, Supergirl, Flash, Green Lantern, even the Legion has been re-booted (meaning all past continuity swept away and the story ‘re-imagined’).

Unlike the British comic industry, which with the exception of the Beano, seems to have died a death, the American comic book lives on, albeit as a specialist commodity. But what has really got me excited is that from the December 2007 issue, the Legion of Superheroes comic book is to be written again by none other than… Jim Shooter. This can’t be coincidence and sadly, I can’t wait!


Perplexio said...

I started collecting comics in the late 80s. One of my older brothers had started collecting and it was right around the time the Tim Burton Batman movie had been announced (about a year or so before its release). So I started with Batman related titles and started collecting The New Titans when I learned the original Robin, Dick Grayson, was their leader (although at that point he was Nightwing, and now HE'S Batman, but I digress). In 1990 when CBS started airing The Flash I started collecting those as well. Initially I was annoyed as The Flash on the show was Barry Allen but the Flash in the comics was Wally West as Barry had been killed off about 5 years earlier in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Eventually Mark Waid won me over and I became a much bigger fan of Wally than I ever had been of Barry-- but that was long after the show got cancelled. Oh well. Due to parenthood and going from 2 incomes to 1 I've had to put the kibosh on my comic collecting for the time being... I did pick up The Flash #1 (the new ongoing with the resurrected Barry Allen) but that will likely be my last comic purchase for quite awhile.

musicobsessive said...

That's a shame. I'm finding that comic collecting, in moderation, is my only hobby these days with, as you say, a young family to provide for. Still, glad to see that the Legion are back this month, with none other than Paul Levitz as writer!