Monday, April 28, 2008

Nostalgia In The New Millenium

When you get it right, you get it right.

Above is the cover to the upcoming Marvel: 1985 mini by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards.

If cover artist Jim Cheung's intent was to put you in the place of the kid in the foreground, job well done then.

Geez, I remember the year 1985 well. I'm a sophomore in junior high and absolutely hating it. I was going through a growth spurt and was literally having growing pains. My once high voice was on the way to becoming the rich, silken smooth thing it is today. Before that happened though, I and everyone else had to contend with a voice that alternated between rabid chipmunk and garbage disposal.

Through it all there was one thing that I could count on...

Marvel.

Marvel Comics had a freshness at that time and at this point, the comics they were producing were aimed right at my over-large head.

Whether it was Marvel's first mega-crossover Secret Wars, Roger Stern's truly Amazing Spider-Man run, John Byrne's Fantastic Four or The Uncanny X-Men (Believe it or not kids, there was only ONE "X" book once upon a time), for me, Marvel Comics was it and for nearly 15 years after, I almost exclusively made mine Marvel.

And Marvel: 1985 seems to want to cash in on that.

I don't know if you can do that, cash in on a time and place, a feeling. This, to me, was my Golden Age of comics discovery. Of caring so much about who was under The Hobgoblin's mask that I risked suspension to smuggle the comic into school.

It was where I developed a huge love for the character She-Hulk.

It was where I learned to appreciate a writer/artist operating at the height of his abilities with Walt Simonson on Thor.

This was where I really started to appreciate art and storytelling. Where I learned that Marvel Comics truly shared a complete universe and felt utter incredulity at Daredevil's exclusion in the Secret War.

Most importantly, it was where I learned to collect comics in sequence thanks to Larry Hama's gateway comic for a whole generation, G.I. Joe.

At this time, Marvel truly seemed like a "House of Ideas."

It was my favorite time, comics-wise and I don't know if it can be recreated.

That said, I will be picking up, at least, the first issue of Marvel: 1985, simply for the above cover alone.

As much as I love that era, I believe it's one best left behind. I honestly believe today's publishers increasingly gear everything towards those of us who stuck around. In today's comics market, the focus is way too much on what came before and nothing fresh seems to be emerging.

I don't know if it can be 1985 again.

So, my question is two-fold (Feel free to answer one or both) :

1. "WHAT WAS YOUR GATEWAY INTO COMICS?" and...

2. "DO YOU THINK SOMETHING LIKE MARVEL:1985 HELPS OR HINDERS COMICS?"

15 comments:

Yonatan said...

while th actual first comics that I red were random issues of Spawn and Jim Lee era X-men, th first comic tat I really loved was this hardcover DC trade that I found at a used bookstore I was working at.
I loved that trade and red it so mny times ck in lat elementary/early middle school.

The only thing I remember about it was that it was sort of mottled greyish hardcover and had Flash of Two Worlds and possibly the "why dont you do anything for black people" issue of GL/GA in it.

Beyond that it has faded into memory.

After that, what ever was on the spinner rack at the book store close to my house sustained me through the 90's. Then in 2001, Kevin Smiths Green Arrow, followed by Action 775, Officer Down and the Terror Incognita arc on JLA dragged me back into comics full time.x

Harvey Jerkwater said...

My "gateway" comic was the original "Secret Wars." I loved comics since I was a toddler, but couldn't do much about it, due to youth. Then, in the fall of 1984, I heard about a shop that specialized in comic books not too far from my father's house.

I wandered into the shop, saw the garish covers and the "everybody fights everybody" covers, and that was it. Throw in the Spidey's Black Costume and the Cap/Red Skull showdown that ran for a year, and hoo-hah!

For me, Marvel's Golden Age was about 1984-1988 or so. DC's Golden Age was the early post-Crisis period, when the comedy Justice League and the Suicide Squad roamed the Earth, about 1986-1990. Such great stuff.

Comics usually peak when you're twelve, whatever year that is.

Mining nostalgia directly? I don't know if it's so much dangerous as bowing to the obvious. Nostalgia sells in the DM. Marvel's attempts to reach new readers aren't hitting comic shops so much, nor should they. "Spider-Man Magazine" and "Marvel Adventures Magazine" are in bookstores and 7-11s, a parallel publishing operation without much DM contact.

Were "1985" an isolated case of nostalgia run wild, it'd be harmless. At least "1985" is open about its nostalgia factor. A kid approaching "1985" knows he's in for a lot of "back in my day, blah, blah, blah." A kid approaching a "Green Lantern" comic will get the same thing, but he won't see it coming.

Matt Worzala said...

The J.C. Penny's catalogue. I don't think they do it any more, but in the Christmas catalogue they used to offer a 30(?) pack of comics. One of the first comics out of the group that I absolutely adored was X-Factor 69, part 3 of 4 of the Muir Island saga.

I think '85 could be good, if it's a story along the lines of Earth X, or 1602. If it's not, well, then it could suck.

ChrisM said...

My earliest comics memories were of the first George Perez Avengers run..between the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme..the ones with George Perez, drawing them going toe to toe on the cover with the little "Roll Call" on the front cover.

X-Men, between 115-137, also became a regular favorite.

1985. Secret Wars, etc. Bleah. by that time I was already getting sick of big cross-overs!

Gyuss Baaltar said...

I loved comics when I could get em, but I first started buying them myself? Assistant Editors Month. My mom handed me an Avengers as a treat that month and it cracked me up so much (the Avengers went on David Letterman) I went out and got a few more issues that had the "AEM" tag stamped on the front at 7-11. From that moment on, I was hooked.

yeah, I got hooked on comics in 1984 by one of the first attempts at a theme month by one of the big two.

I'm looking forward to 1985. That was a year that shaped my comics reading forever too.

Jon said...

There is an egregious lack of Rom on that cover.

lou said...

The X-Men cartoon was there when I was a wee lad. I was so into the X-Men that I saved together some lunch money and bought an issue of Jim Lee-era X-Men. It was the second half of some crazy story with Mojo II. There were X-Men fighting X-Men with crazy wings. I had no idea what was going on but it was so cool.

darknessatnoon said...

Secret Wars was what hooked me. I wandered into a comic shop and the owner offered me a torn copy of #1 for a quarter. I was intrigued!

But you're so right about G.I. Joe being a Gateway comic. That series confirmed the habit.

the HZA said...

Adventure Comics #500.

Available at your local drug store with the unread copies of Guns and Ammo and Tiger Beat, this plucky little digest contained ALL LEGION STORIES to commemorate the anniversary issue of this long-running series. Mon-El joins the Legion, as Legionnaire Lemon, the Mystery Lad! The Subs are formed! The Legion searches for a way to raise the dead! Proty I sacrifices himself to bring Lightning Lad back to life! Supergirl fights both herself and all the girl Legionnaires after Red Kryptonite splits her into two beings, one good, one evil!

Heady stuff.

Continuing to read Adventure, there were Captain Marvel stories, Aquaman stories, Zatanna stories, Jimmy Olsen stories... a lot of hooks to a lot of books. The stuff I loved best came from the early 1960's, but the year was about 1982, and I was eight.

Jim Shooter is currently running an experiment to see if nostalgia can be marketed over in LSH right now. Keith Giffen may or may not be running a similar pattern in Dreamwar. I think the ultimate answer is up to the individual reader: I may not want to read 1980s comics again today, because I can see now that they were mawkish, overwrought drama-fests that only served to keep Claremont and Byrne in snacks. Or, I may rejoice that someone is finally getting that overwroughtness back to comics where it belongs, so we can have that fine balance between the campy 1960s comix and the gritty realistic crap of the 1990s.

--which kind of reader are you? find out next issue!
hza

The Kid from Jersey said...

I think you're missing something with a generation gap here or something. Cause my gateway into the wacky worlds that absorb all of us each Wednesday was the Ultimate books, sold to me by your's truly, Devon Sanders.

That's your next post Devon: how many people have you introduced to comics? Especially because you guys keep talking about the stagnation of the industry.

BIG MIKE said...

The first comic I can remember owning was a random issue of Batman from the middle of the Lonely Place of Dying arc. I knew vaguely who Batman and Robin were, but I was like 'who's the dude with the disco collar?'

The Thing said...

(I apologize in advance for the length. I never get to talk about this stuff, and I'm feeling chatty.)

My comic hobby came about in a rather roundabout way, all things considered.

Born in '73, I grew up immersed in all things superhero thanks to--or, more accurately, blamed on--parents who let me watch WAYYYY too much TV. I have vivid memories of programs from when I was just a toddler, including the syndicated joys of 1960s programming (Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Space Ghost, the live-action Batman, the Filmation DC cartoons, the not-so-animated Marvel shows) and the more spandex-y 70s fare(Superfriends, Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, the live-action Monster Squad and Spectreman programs, Donner's Superman movie).

I ate, breathed, and slept super-heroes, but we didn't have comic books in the house; in fact, my first exposure to comics proper was in 1977. I got dumped at some creepy cat-lady/professional babysitter lady's house one Saturday night, and she had some Richie Rich and Archies lying around. Those didn't interest me at all, but then I found a buried copy of Batman Family #13, which combined my childhood loves--all things Batman and all things monster--by featuring Man-Bat and the Outsider.

I didn't even see any other comics until a year later, when, in 1978, I got sick and my dad brought home some funnybooks. Those issues are forever burned into my brain: Detective #478 (the classic Marshall Rogers grody-melty Clayface III cover), Green Lantern/Green Arrow #106 (the one with the dung-colored tentacle monster)--man, what was it with the icky covers of July '78?--and a pre-packaged bundle of Kubert 100-Page Giant Tarzans. I devoured those comics, but not only did I not ask where he got them, but it never crossed my mind to hunt down/beg for more. Weird.

At around the same time, a kid brought a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #181 to school, and it was a "flashback" issue detailing Spidey's adventures and famous foes. I begged to buy it from him, because I'd never seen a Spidey comic before, but he wasn't swayed by my groveling (nor the princely sum of $5.00).

It wasn't until five years later, in 1983 at the age of 10, where I was able to satisfy my comics cravings. A fellow classmate used to bring in comics with the covers ripped off (his grandmother owned an authentic, honest-to-goodness newsstand), but they were mostly Archies (because of his uber-religious bringing); however, one fateful day, he was able to sneak a copy of 'Tec #526--with its cover still intact, even!--and he covertly shared it with me. My little mind was blown, as that striking cover with Batman and all his villains mesmerized me...AND it had what seemed to be a new Robin?! I was agog, and must've read and re-read that book about twenty times over several days worth of recesses and lunches.

At about the exact same time, my mother started taking a ceramics class at a nearby fleamarket, and I was dragged one Saturday and left to prowl around by my lonesome. It was there I discovered a shady, shifty vendor that had dozens of rusty metal filing cabinets and milkcrates OVERFLOWING with comics--all in alpha/chronological order, too!--going back decades. I spent all day just going through funnies, one after another in sequence, and got a crash-course in comics history and continuity. From that point on, I went with my mother to that market every chance I could, and not only did I fork over every spare penny of allowance to that Comic Book Guy, but I also filled notebook after notebook with scribbles about issue numbers, character appearances, writers, etc. I was forever hooked, and I started amassing quite the collection on the cheap.

I've followed monthly titles ever since, transitioning to picking them up at the grocery store or spinner racks (Ahhhh--so THAT'S where my dad got them!) every month, to mail-order subs when the spinners vanished, to weekly comic-shop jaunts (remember when new books came out on Fridays, then Thursdays, and now Wednesdays?) upon being able to drive. (Most of my back-issue buying came to an end in 1989, when Burton's Batman movie exploded. All across town, at fleamarkets and comic shops (all our local stores used to have significant back-issue collections--like Silver Age Infantino Flash comics in the $1.00 range), all those cheap books vanished in a flurry of speculation, and the Overstreet crowd became even more deadly in their earnestness.)

As for the question, "Does 1985 Hurt Or Hinder?", I can't/don't see any problem at all. What's the harm? Stripmining nostalgia is a long and (ig)noble tradition, so more power to it if it sells.

PJ said...

Much like Lou, my entry into the spandex and capes millieu was the X-Men cartoon. I remember making sure my TV was tuned to Fox Kids at 11:00 on Saturdays so I wouldn't miss it. Added to that were the the Batman and Spider-Man cartoons, which came on after I got home from school.

I can still hear those theme songs in my head.

I had a couple comics of my own from the Funeral for a Friend era, and I'm pretty sure I had an issue of Uncanny X-Men where Gambit and (I think) Psylocke stood around in a storm drain and chatted about... something.

As for the book that got me back into comics, it was Gail Simone's All-New Atom, after reading about it on blogs and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

As for Marvel:1985, it only appeals to nostalgia, which means that the only people who are going to buy are the people who were going to buy it anyway. It's not going to do anything to grow the media. This is fine in isolation, but definitely contributes to the unmitigated navel-gazing of which this industry is so fond.

That said, the art is pretty rad and I'm totally gonna buy it.

Anthony Strand said...

Interesting stories everyone. I heartily enjoyed reading them.

My own story isn't nearly as interesting. I read Archie a lot as a kid, with some Disney stuff thrown in occasionally. I never read a superhero comic until I was 19 (2004).

While re-watching Spider-Man in my dorm room, I decided I should probably read some comic books, since I liked superhero movies so much. I started with Essential FF V1 and Superman: From the 30s to the 70s.

So yeah, no good "Flash #54 was my first comic and I was blown away when they fell out of the airplane and Wally saved her and I was hooked for life" story.

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