Friday, February 25, 2011

One of the things that has bothered me about the recent depictions of Captain America was not the sudden shift in how Captain America's costume was drawn (with the mail armor being on the outside and covering just his chest and shoulders, and pouches on his belt), but the depictions became retroactive. And the costume underwent other changes. The boots, the pouches on the belt, the mask, and the "A" on the mask differed depending on which "realistic" artist was drawing. Since no one seems willing to call the artists to task on keeping the character actually on model, there's no consensus on just what constitutes Cap costume. For decades, artists had no problem with each drawing Captain America in keeping to his actual costume and still being true to their artistic vision. Now as shown in issue #616, the artist on the cover and the artists doing the interiors cannot even agree what Captain America's costume looks like.

Issue 616 is meant to be an artistic tour-de-force, yet the artists all are drawing different costumes. It's not merely artistic license, some of the artists are being more detailed than others, some depict his mask as a cowl another as a helmet, some are drawing plain leather belts vs the belt with pouches. One artist gets a pass in that at least the costume he's drawing is a variation of his first appearance with the triangular shield, but the others should all be the "same" costume and they clearly are not. I'm not saying we should go back to the days of having Neal Adams redrawing Kirby's faces of Superman, an artist should be able to express his style providing it's in keeping with the appropriate tone of the book, but the character should at least look "correct". Can you imagine a similar book starring Superman and each artist drew him with different belts and boots and chest emblems, but with all the stories taking place around the same time in his history (and none of them close to being accurate to how he was depicted during that time period).

Dwayne McDuffie Still a bit stunned by the death of Dwayne McDuffie. As a fan of golden-age comics, I'm not shocked when hearing of creators from the forties passing away. Heck, even many of the greats that came to prominence in the Silver-Age are at least in their late 50s now.

That his death came just as a big project of his was garnering press and about to come out makes it doubly tragic.

I won't say I was a huge fan. He was a name I recognized. And, I looked forward to his taking over the JLA book as his work on the JLU cartoon as writer and story editor showed a man that knew how to tell complete stories while layering in themes and subplots, so each story was enjoyable on its own but regular watchers/readers would be rewarded with more subtext and richness overall. But, otherwise, I cannot say I followed his writing with any great faithfulness.

Sadly, it didn't translate well to his work with the JLA book. A big part of that was that he was hampered first with subplots that the previous writer introduced but had no intention of staying on the book long enough to follow through on. And, when that was not dictating the shape of his stories, editorial fiat of who and who could not be on the team, of doing stories that would be continued in other books, and other crossover tie-ins (something he obviously disagreed with as he wrote a manifesto arguing against that very thing among others). He was sadly dumped from the book unceremoniously after he spoke out against editorial practices. This didn't seem to hurt his relationship with DC too much as he still worked on their animation projects such as the upcoming All-Star Superman animation video.

Reading his views on continuity and how it should probably be used is wonderfully insightful and funny. I have thought a similar thing myself in the last couple of years, but he was apparently arguing about it some time before even I came to that conclusion (though my buying was already reflecting it, as I was bailing on "family" books since it was impossible to get just one without a storyline suddenly arising that required buying the whole family of books).

One of the things I respect him for was his work on bringing more minority characters to comics, especially when he and a couple of other creators created the critically acclaimed Milestone Universe of characters published by DC Comics, being a showcase for various all-new non-cliche minority heroes as well as a place for minority creators to have a voice with characters that weren't mainly white heterosexual males. He and Milestone didn't merely champion minorities of their own cultural background, either, but worked for a better presence of minorities in general. He co-created Shadow Cabinet, a superhero group made up of multiple ethnicities and sexual persuasions. Milestone also published Xombi, created by John Rozum, featured an Asian American, one of the very few in comics, much less one in his own book. McDuffie would later use him in his Justice League book where in an alternate reality the character became Green Lantern, and a cool one at that. It's another one of the sad ironies, when he was doing the Justice League book, DC was talking about bringing the Milestone characters into the DCU continuity and back to prominence. But, other than a crossover with the League title and a mini, it's only now that several of the books are being solicited. Looking forward to Xombi myself. 

An outspoken passion for the medium, always striving to move it forward and expanding the readership. Helping to open the way for creators and minority characters (mostly by creating NEW characters and riding the coat-tails of talent NOT the corpses of previous characters). And reaching out to kids and potential new readers though helping create hours of entertainment with superhero cartoons with solid quality writing. He died young, but what a legacy and challenge he leaves for the rest of us.

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